Holiday Help – Menu and Groceries

Now that you have chosen who is going to be attending your dinner party, it is important to plan the menu.  Planning a menu revolves around a couple of main concepts: your theme and your guests.  We are going to use our Fall Dinner Party as an example of how to choose items that fit together and how to grocery shop for those items. 

As we planned our Fall Dinner Party, we wanted to find a common theme and seasonal items. We decided to use farmers market produce and Minnesota’s own Honeycrisp apples as a foundation that we could build on.  From incorporating apples into the starters and salad dressing to finishing with an apple pie, it is important think about how you can keep a consistent ingredient or two in your menu.
We went to the famers market to get an idea on where to begin, but I would suggest pulling a cookbook or two down from the shelf, searching a blog or two on the web, or browsing great food ideas from creative sites like Pinterest.  A great menu has little to do with coming up with your own recipes from scratch and much more to do with cooking things that you have had before and putting your own twist on things.  When trying something new, take three to four recipes and identify the common ingredients (those are there for a reason) and add some other flavors so you can make the dish your own.  Here is our menu for the Fall Dinner Party.
Getting your groceries
After deciding on your menu, it is time to go pick up the groceries.  Below is a breakdown on how we take a look at making a grocery list.  Layout all of your recipes (with ingredients) as a menu and go through your cabinets and refrigerator to determine what you already have on hand.  There are many times where you don’t need to buy the common items that you have on hand, but you also want to make sure that the food you are preparing is fresh.  
Next, break down your list by department in the store.  This is important for two reasons: you never leave an area of the store until you have checked everything off your list (saves you time) and buy your groceries at the best possible location.  For example, I prefer to shop the outer edges of high end grocery stores (Whole Foods) where the produce and specialty items are fresh and flavorful.  I then take the dry and frozen goods to a non-specialty store (Target) where they can be purchased at a reduced rate.  Here is what the BurbsFoodie grocery list looked like for the Fall Dinner Party.
Grocery List
Now that we have the guest list, the menu planned, and the groceries purchased, tomorrow we will focus on how we prepare that excellent meal everyone is excited about.  

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