February 1, 2012

How to Plan Your Menu and Grocery List

There is nothing new about menu planning and making a grocery list, however a lot of my friends and family think it's hilarious that nearly every Saturday or Sunday they'll see a facebook update from me that I'm menu planning.  Then, when I explain my process for planning and shopping they look at me like I am certifably insane.  What they don't realize is planning and preparing for the week makes EVERYTHING about the process so much easier.  Especially now with a baby that I'd rather cuddle with and watch "walk" then spend extra time at the store.

I realize everyone has their own way of doing things and it may take awhile to find an approach that works for you; I know it certainly took me awhile!  Once you establish a plan that works for you, trust me, you'll be so happy you stuck to the trials of finding a system.  Not only does it save you time in the end, it encourages creativity in the kitchen and, probably most important for many of us - it saves you money!  When you walk in to the grocery store with a set list you'll be much less inclined to just browse through the aisles and throwing random stuff in the cart, which certainly adds up.

I. Menu Planning
- First I like to list out any evening plans during the week, such as: tickets to a sporting event, plans with friends and family, etc.  This ensures that I plan accordingly for the amount of time we have to cook and eat, or that I'm not planning dinner on nights we won't even be home!

- Next I like to check out what I have in the fridge/freezer/pantry as well as what is on sale at my local grocery store.  If I notice I have a lot of chicken stock in the fridge that I opened 10 days ago I want to make sure to plan on making a soup that will use that up!  Also, say ground turkey is on sale for $1.50 a pound - you better believe I'm buying some!  Not only will I plan on using it during the week, I'll also buy some to keep on hand in the freezer.

- Now comes the fun part - planning the meals!  Once I know what I have to work with (weekly plans and what I already have in the house) I start looking for inspiration.  I like to check out blogs, cooking sites and cookbooks to get inspiration.  I also use this time to look over what we've eaten recently so that I can either avoid - or add -  a certain dish to the menu plan.  TIP: I also like to check out the forecast for the week as well - especially during the change of the seasons - to make sure I'm taking advantage of nice weather, or not planning a hot soup when it'll be unseasonably warm.

II. Creating Your Shopping List
- Once I list out all of the meals we'll plan on having that week, I need to start a shopping list.  I like to just go down the list of meals and start a running list underneath of what I'll need to buy for each meal.  If I need to buy things for multiple meals I just indicate that where I originally wrote the ingredient.

- Once everything is listed for dinners, we need to make sure not to skip out on the rest of the meals.  Next I like to add snacks, breakfast and lunch foods, plus sale items to stock up on to my list.

- Now that my shopping list is complete, I like to take it an extra step that only takes about 3 minutes at home, but without doing so I spend an extra 15 minutes at the grocery store.  On the other side of the page I list out everything I need to buy in a rough order of the store.  For example, I start the list with all of the produce I need to buy since that's at the front of the store.  From there I add the deli items as they're next, the butcher and so on.  Voila!

- Grab your reusable shopping bags and away we go!

Whew, now that I've shared my plan of action - share with me how you plan your meals and grocery list.  Are you as Type-A as I am?  Also, what are you planning on having this week?  Always looking for inspiration :)

Speaking of Type-A though, it's really only with lists that I'm this overbearing.  Usually I'm pretty chill, though I do develop routines that I stick with, just out of habit.


  1. So funny because I kind of do the same thing. I used to post my shopping lists and weekly meals on my blogs (if you look back to older posts or search for them on there). Even though I haven't posted my meals in a while, I ALWAYS right down all of the ingredients in order that they are in the store: Produce/Herbs, Deli, Bakery, Meat, Grocery, Seasonings, Dairy, Frozen I write the headers and underline them and then write everything I need under each header. It makes it so much easier once I get in the store and I don't forget anything this way!

    april@Party of Five

  2. I've got you beat. :) I have a Microsoft Word document saved in my computer with a list of each of the grocery aisles. To make my grocery list I just type what I need under each aisle and print it out.
    and...I have an Excel document with each of my recipes and the ingredients and amounts it calls for. I have it set up so that I can filter the recipes by ingredient. So if I have some green onion that I need to use I filter by "green onion" and it pulls up all of my recipes that use that ingredient. :)