Some people love meal planning and grocery shopping. Some hate it. If you hate it, making a plan is even more important. It makes every day less stressful. Making a food plan for the week and using it to shop, will give you peace of mind and wallet. You may laugh. Who would take the time to do this? It may seem like an old fashion idea. I’ve been approached many times at the market by people who are impressed by the fact that I’m actually using a shopping list. I learned this planning method when I was taking a home management course in college. We had to live in an apartment and manage our lives for a semester – for a grade! I have been using it ever since.
To begin with, choose a time period to plan and shop for. If you get paid on a regular basis – in this example, every week – plan for the time between pay periods.
Write in list form, the days of the week that you plan to shop for. Decide what will be for dinner each night and write it on the list next to a day. This does not need to be a detailed menu, just a dinner idea. As you do this, look at your calendar and make notes about events that are happening that week. Soccer on Tuesdays? Easy meal. Meeting on Wednesday. Note that you are supposed to bring refreshments this month. Let the family help. Ask for dinner ideas. Keep a note pad in the kitchen for everyone to write needed items on.
On your plan sheet also make some notes about what foods you will need for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, as well as toiletries and other nonfood items that you purchase at the supermarket.
Using your plan, make a shopping list on a separate sheet of paper. I find it most convenient to set up the shopping list based on the layout of the store. In my favorite store it goes like this: produce, deli/bakery, breads, condiments, baking supplies, fish, natural foods, frozen, cans, cereal, health, house, dairy. I write these categories on my list, leaving space under each to write the items needed.
Look at each meal on the plan, write the items you need to buy to make it under the corresponding category on your list. Add items like salad ingredients, and fresh, frozen or canned vegetables, to round out the meals. After you’ve gone through the meals, add the other items that you wrote on your plan sheet and the items on the kitchen list. Now you have a working list to take to the store.
You may object:
It takes too much time to plan: Not as much time as it takes to shop several times a week, and you can do it while watching television.
I like to shop at several stores and get the sales: When you consider the time and gas it takes to do this, it is not much of a savings. I go to one supermarket chain for the majority of my items. I sometimes go to one of the “discount groceries” for some sale items. However, I only started doing this when one opened in my neighborhood, meaning it didn’t take much time. If you have time in your schedule to go several stores, do it if the cost savings is worth the time spent. Use the sale flyer from your favorite store for your planning. Bring only the coupons for things on your shopping list to the store with you.
I don’t cook and/or my family doesn’t gather regularly for meals: You still will be better off with a plan. Knowing that there is food for each day in the house, still brings peace of mind. Just plan around the types of foods your family eats.
This seems awfully rigid: It’s flexible really. If you list a quick meal for Thursday, but find that you need to use it on Tuesday, no problem. Also, often the ingredients on hand for a planned meal can be tweaked into something different that fits your schedule or mood.
I encourage you to do a two week experiment. For the first week, keep track of your grocery receipts. Also track the cost of fast food, school and work lunches, unplanned meals out, and delivered. This will give you an idea of how much you spend on food. Also keep track of the number of trips to the store.
The next week make a plan. Keep track again. You will begin to see the benefits of planning. You will be spending less money. You will be happy to find yourself only shopping during the week for a few perishables like milk. You can even do that when you are buying gas! Remember, just like anything new, it won’t be perfect but it will get easier and better with practice.