Meal Planning/Grocery Shopping Tip

Here's an idea for anyone who's in charge of meal planning and grocery shopping. Think about all the meals you usually cook, and write each one on an index card. For example, you'd have a card that says "spaghetti" or "meatloaf." Then, fill in all the ingredients you need to make that meal, like "pasta, tomatoes, onions, oil, basil, meat, garlic bread." Brainstorm everything you need to make that dish. Do you usually serve a salad with your spaghetti? Put it on there too.

Then, when you're planning your grocery shopping, shuffle through your cards and pick out the meals you're going to cook that week. Scan the card and check through your refrigerator and pantry to see which elements you need to add to your grocery list. I also made myself a card of our "staples" -- the things we need on hand every week, like bread, milk, etc. I scan it as I make my list to make sure we have everything.

I don't know about you, but I often find myself in the middle of cooking something and find out that I don't have an essential ingredient. Hopefully this new system will help me avoid those times.


Joe said...

This works because it is the way that I shop. I print out my "every trip" list and double check that against whatever I want to make by printing out recipes and highlighting the ingredients that I don't have.

I am still forming a strong list of items I love to cook. Some of it is from recipes from TV/internet, some are from friends, some are from memory from growing up with my grandmother and others that I have created myself.

The hardest thing I have to do is make sure I group the ingredients together by the section of the grocery stores.

Also, something that Alton Brown of Good Eats pointed out that you should do your shopping first with the non-perishables first (items in the main center of most grocery stores), frozen next and finally temperature sensitive perishables such as butter, eggs, milk, produce red meat, seafood and last but not least, poultry. If nothing else, let chicken be the last thing that goes into your basket before going to the checkout so you ensure that it has no chance of its temperature dropping into the danger zone.

On that note, I am going to pop in the soundtrack for Top Gun, crank it up to 11 and break the knob off.

Good mornin' to ya.

Jennifer said...

Thanks Joe! I especially agree with your point about grouping ingredients according to where they are in the store. If I don't remember to do that, I end up wandering around the store aimlessly, continually returning to an aisle I've already visited because I've forgotten something.

Joe said...

You wrote:
"If I don't remember to do that, I end up wandering around the store aimlessly, continually returning to an aisle I've already visited because I've forgotten something."

Oh my. I had a recent grocery shopping session where I bounced back and forth between aisles like 5 times. By the end, I have gone completely mad.

Anonymous said...

Grocery shopping and cooking are probably the only things in this world that I am actually organized about, and there are some tools that are indispensable for me.
I use "Now You're Cooking" software ( to store all of my recipes and menus. It automatically spits out a shopping list for every menu that I make. I currently have 7 weeks of menus with no duplication of main courses. I keep each week's menu in a pocket of a three-ring binder, along with printed copies of the recipes and the associated shopping list. On menu-planning day, I just pull out the shopping list for that menu and do inventory, checking what I need against what I have. I also keep a shopping list of "staples," things like peanut butter, bread, or shampoo that I always want to be sure to have on hand, but which might not show up on my menu's shopping list. I include that list in my inventorying, too.
The other indispensable tool is a program called HandyShopper for my PDA (Find it at ). It keeps a list of grocery items, and I click on the ones that I need or add them if necessary. It remembers on a per-store basis what aisle each item is on, and does a whole lot more. With my PDA in hand, sorting my list by aisle number, I can be in and out in no time, confident that I've got everything I'll need for the week.
I hope that helps someone!

Jennifer said...

Anonymous, I am awed by your grocery shopping prowess!

Anonymous said...

No, please don't be awed. Like I said, I'm basically a very disorganized person. That's why I shared about the software I use. If it can help ME be organized, it can help anyone!