Well, it depends. Just like most homemaking tasks, there are lots of ways to do things and rarely a one size fits all approach. That’s definitely true regarding grocery lists and menus.
I used to go to the grocery store with a list and menu 99% of the time. Once in a while I went without the list and hoped for the best. I usually did that when I had run out of time or energy or I was just sick of doing it. It rarely worked out well. I usually ended up over budget and without the right ingredients to make anything.
These days I have three strategies I might use for any one week, depending on how things are going that week:
- No list. No menu.
- A partial list of grocery items but no menu.
- A detailed list and a menu.
My preference is #3 but I’ve learned to make it work with #1 or #2. But the only reason it works is because of our current way of eating. David has IBS so he’s gluten free and low FODMAP. As a result, our menus are very simple and I’m not making many breads or desserts like I used to. As long as I have four or five different kinds of meat (chicken, ground turkey, salmon, 93/7 beef), fresh vegetables, fruit and some quinoa or brown rice, I can come up with a good meal.
However, even though I’ve gotten pretty good at winging it, for me, having a grocery list/menu plan is better. It provides several benefits:
- I know what I’m cooking each night of the week so I don’t have to wing it.
- I have all the ingredients I need so I don’t have to make do or make an emergency run to the store.
- I stay on budget because I’ve already planned everything out.
- I’m prepared if we unexpectedly have company since I always try to plan one meal that will work for guests.
- I serve a variety of foods instead of the same things over and over again.
However, there are other situations where it might not be necessary. Like –
- You don’t have a strict budget.
- You’re cooking for one or two.
- You eat the same things over and over.
- You eat out a lot.
- You’re good at throwing something together based on what’s in your pantry.
- You like shopping the sales and having a stockpile you work from.
So are a grocery list and menu plan necessary? The answer is . . . .
Are they necessary for you or do you have a different strategy?