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How To Grocery Shop With a List: Weekly Meal Planning

Updated on October 1, 2008
Photo: TangoFroxtrot, Flickr
Photo: TangoFroxtrot, Flickr

The first step to taking control of your grocery budget and your schedule is making list. Shopping from a list also ensures you have healthy food on hand so that you don't resort to driving through the nearest grease pit in an effort to feed your hungry family. Using a list also gets you in and out of the grocery store faster, because we all have better things to do.

Weekly Menu Planning

In order to make a grocery shopping list you have to have a plan. Many people like the method of shopping one day a week, but whatever works for you is good. You just have to know the period of time you're shopping for.

If you plan to shop once a week, get out your calendar and some paper. Look at your week and identify everything that will affect meals.

  • Early morning sports practice
  • Field trips
  • After school activities
  • Date nights
  • Birthday parties

Once you know your family's schedule for the week, you're ready to plan the meals. Using dinner as an example, if you know you have a busy Tuesday night with soccer practice, play rehearsal, and a spouse with a late meeting, you might want to do a crock pot recipe that night. If you have grown up plans on a Friday night, you might plan a kids' favorite like ready-made pizzas that are easy for the babysitter to prepare.

When You're Stumped

Sometimes you're just plain uninspired. This is where having a collection of family favorite recipes comes in handy. If you're not there yet, use this simple formula or any variation:

Sunday - Beef

Monday - Fish

Tuedsay - Chicken

Wednesday - Pork

Thursday - Vegetarian

Friday - Fish

Saturday - Chicken

It's simple, but often having a system makes it easier to think of meals your family likes. Instead of sitting down and thinking - Ug, I have to come up with seven meals? - you just need a beef dish, two chickens, etc. Once you have dinner covered, take a peek into the fridge and pantry to see what you're lacking. I mentally go through breakfast and lunch, adding items to the list.

The Efficient List

There are software programs you can buy where you enter your recipes and get fancy print out grocery lists. That's fine, but don't think that because you're not that organized or computer savvy that you're doomed to shop without a list.

You can make a simple Word or Excel document with common items that you buy and space for more. You could even write out a list and photocopy it. I like to do my menu and my list on the same piece of scratch paper. I keep it all week to remind me what I'd planned for dinner.

Online Tools for Grocery List Making

Cozi - free tool, calendar too

Grocery Lists - everybody does it, funny found lists

HEB - includes a meal planner

Working Mom -

Global Grocery List - contribute to a growing database of knowledge, do your part for science


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