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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


Submit a Comment

  • eatforcheaper profile image

    eatforcheaper 5 years ago from London

    I like the simple meal planner with a different main everyday. I never stick to a shopping list and I know it means I probably spend more - but I live alone! However, my site is helping me to share tips and ideas for eating good food for less but if you shop everyday, you spend more. Living in a busy city like London means it's easier to grab a few things everyday but I know that in the long run it's costing! Hope you like my articles too! :)

  • profile image

    Carla@Practical-Meal-Planning 7 years ago

    Very sound advice. I always shop with a list. But even then, I need to have discipline to buy only the things on the list. If I add an item to my shopping cart, I keep myself accountable by writing that item on the list and circling it. So that I see where I allow myself to deviate. If I'm over budget at the end of shopping I can see just how those extras "must haves" affected my shopping. Oh - and I know it may seem real obvious but I always go with a pen so that I can cross off items as I get them.

  • profile image

    Kristine 7 years ago

    Love the "when you're stumped" idea. I get in such a cooking rut sometimes... I think having a notebook with our favorite recipes handy and having a schedule will really help when I can't think of anything to cook for dinner. Great tip!

  • Research Analyst profile image

    Research Analyst 7 years ago

    I have got into the habit of writing a list for my grocery meals but I still buy other stuff, but at least it keeps me on track so I will buy mostly healthy food.

  • profile image

    scheng1 8 years ago

    It is good to have some tinned food and instant noodle to cope with emergency as well.

  • Betty Reid profile image

    Betty Reid 8 years ago from Texas

    I agree with MasonsMom. I bring a list but I still overspend. I think your menu planning idea will help. If I know specifically what meals I'll be making, I'll be less likely to buy the pre-cooked and frozen dinners.

  • MoniqueAttinger profile image

    MoniqueAttinger 8 years ago from Georgetown, ON

    Grocery shopping is actually a dangerous activity for me! LOL! I often end up with MUCH more stuff than I planned. I love the simple approach here. This gives me some great ideas to apply to our grocery budget.

  • Lela Davidson profile image

    Lela Davidson 9 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas

    You know, it is just that much more important in these uncertain economic times to learn to manage our food spending. Learning to cook on the cheap can only help your family's situation - even if you don't need help yet, you may in the future!

  • UnschoolingPDX profile image

    UnschoolingPDX 9 years ago from Portland, OR

    I grew up with such lists. My parents would do their grocery shopping every Saturday. The meals were planned for the entire week. And yes, I do the same now. There are very few things that I need to go back to the store for. Milk, eggs, orange juice... just stuff we run out of.

    I love skimming my cookbooks, checking for new and fun recipes to try. :)

  • Kat07 profile image

    Kat07 9 years ago from Tampa

    Great advice - I find when I do not plan ahead, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables spoil before they are used.

  • AnnaEstelle profile image

    AnnaEstelle 9 years ago from Boston

    Another tip: Never shop when you're hungry... you'll buy everything you see. Great advice, Thanks!

  • maham profile image

    maham 9 years ago

    Great info.

  • Lela Davidson profile image

    Lela Davidson 9 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas

    Jerey Girl is right. It seems difficult at first, but once you make it a habit you just do it without thinking and it improves your life immensely!

  • JerseyGirl profile image

    JerseyGirl 9 years ago from Jersey Shore

    Lela, a great Hub! I was a career woman who forgot to have children. Now, after 20 years, I'm still learning how to shop and prepare meals for the Meat and Potatoes Hubbie, and a growing 5 year old daughter!

    In the past (pre-child), I never made shopping lists, never planned meals, nor used coupons. We ate out a lot, and never really thought about healthy eating, nor cared what we had in the fridge for snacks (other than ice cream and pepperoni and cheese!!).

    A well planned grocery shop, as well as well planned meals IS hard to do. But, get into a routine, and its second nature.

    Your hub was great, and I have learned at lot. Thank you for sharing!!!

  • Stacie Naczelnik profile image

    Stacie Naczelnik 9 years ago from Seattle

    I try to only shop when I have a list. My best weeks are the ones when I also have meals planned.

    Great info.

  • MasonsMom profile image

    MasonsMom 9 years ago from U.S.A.

    This is something I need help with! I NEVER go to the store without a list, but I still seem to spend too much money and time and come home with lots of junk--not stuff to make meals with. I've really been getting frustrated latley, so maybe some of these tips will help me! Thanks Lela!