How I Make My Grocery List & Menu

How I Make My Grocery List & Menu

How I Make My Grocery List & Menu


A grocery list and menu plan is something I’ve been doing pretty much every week since I became a full-time homemaker 30 years ago.  And I’ve pretty much done it the same way the whole time.  In case you’re curious . . . here’s how I do it.

  1. Retrieve my list from the refrigerator. As soon as I get home from grocery shopping, I put a new list on the refrigerator.  I’ve been using the Franklin Planner grocery list forms as long as I can remember.  I keep it on the refrigerator during the week, adding to it as I notice we need things, and then finalizing it when I plan meals for the next week.
  1. Get a stack of magazines to look through for new recipes. I get some recipes from on-line, but I get most of them from magazines.  Looking on-line isn’t as fun for me as looking through a magazine.  I usually get recipes on-line when I’m looking for something specific.  Otherwise I just look through the magazines until something catches my eye.  We’re currently eating primarily low FODMAP which rules out a lot of recipes, but I still look because many recipes can easily be modified.

How I Make My Grocery List & Menu

  1. Check my calendar to see what’s going on for the next week.

How I Make My Grocery List & Menu

  1. Date the menu plan and note what’s going on. What I prepare depends on who’s coming over and how much time I’ll have.  My son and daughter-in-law usually come over once a week so I write that down.  David teaches at the gym twice so he eats dinner later that night.  If I have the kids all day, I choose something easy because I won’t have much time to cook.  Recording what’s going on helps me plan appropriate meals.

How I Make My Grocery List & Menu

  1. Look through the magazines and choose recipes that look good. Then I fill in with tried and true recipes.  I usually plan five meals instead of seven since we go out sometimes or have leftovers.

How I Make My Grocery List & Menu

  1. Add meal ingredients to the shopping list.

How I Make My Grocery List & Menu

  1. Then I take photos of the recipes with my iPhone (I pull them out of the magazines) just in case the recipe goes missing before I can make it.

How I Make My Grocery List & Menu

  1. Next I put the magazines away and then head to the kitchen and put the recipes on the refrigerator so they’ll be easy to find when I’m ready to make them.

How I Make My Grocery List & Menu

  1. I look through the cabinets and pantry to see what I need to add to the list.
  1. I put prices by all the items on the list and add it up. If it’s too much, I make adjustments until it works.

How I Make My Grocery List & Menu

That’s how I do it.  It sounds like a lot of work but it really only takes about 30 minutes.  Let me know if you have any questions.  And I’d love to hear how you make your grocery list and menu.

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Born in Kentucky, I am a wife and mom to 1 son and 2 daughters . I have an ink pen obsession, as well as a love for all things planner. I have been married for 10 years to my high school crush. I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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20 thoughts on “How I Make My Grocery List & Menu

  1. We’re not nearly as creative with our menu 🙂

    For our shopping list, I’ve created a one-sheet of all the things we commonly buy at the ALDI and Wegman’s. It also contains a section for Target (paper and hygiene items are cheaper there), and notes about any birthdays/events we may need to bring gifts to. Also, common items like batteries.

    This list lives on a clipboard in the kitchen. As the week goes on, we circle items that we’re out of, or running low. Then on shopping day I go through the whole list, and look in every cupboard. I circle what we need, and sometimes cross out items we don’t need, or that I don’t want to repeat (we had pork chops this week – we’ll skip them next week).

    It also a section for meals – I cross out meals we won’t be eating at home., and highlight meals that will be special (guests usually). I also try to note a few ideas for the lunches we take to work. Some days we have leftovers, but rarely enough for both of us everyday.

    Whole process takes about 20 mins, 30 if I have a guest meal to plan.

    Then either my husband or I shop. The list gives us enough flexibility that we can shop the sales and seasonal/special buys. And then I plan ideas for what we bought. He cooks weekdays, I cook weekends, but if I don’t map out what goes with what, no vegetables get cooked, or the potatoes go bad. 🙂

  2. Thanks Patty, I just started using this type of menu sheets, and your post couldn’t have come at a better time.
    I have made a running list of the pantry, and freezer items to use with my grocery list.
    Using a red pen to check off items used and green ink when items are replaced. I’m looking for this list to
    show me how often I need to buy items, and what items we don’t want to purchase again. These items are
    marked in purple. This is the first test month for this list so I’m excited, and looking for great results. I’m planning
    for this list to work for a month or more at a time. I hate digging in the freezer and finding items I thought were
    already used.
    And maybe it will save unexpected trips to the market for one item, and spending more cash. The market has become
    an expensive necessity in life, and I’m trying to work it smarter, not harder, we will see.
    Your tips are so helpful in my house, thanks so much!

    1. I really need to do a freezer inventory. I have some stuff in there I need to use up but it’s so hard to find anything. I used to have an inventory but I’ve gotten lazy. And I hate my freezer. I have a French door refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom and it doesn’t hold much at all. It has two drawers and they have to be packed flat or they won’t close. Hate . . . that . . . freezer! So I especially need an inventory.

      1. Ugh. I have that same freezer and I hate it too. I can’t find anything in mine unless it’s almost empty, which totally destroys the purpose of a freezer. Luckily we have a 25 year old Kenmore in the basement, but it’ so FAIL.

        1. So annoying!

          At our old house we had an extra refrigerator/freezer in the garage right off the kitchen. SO convenient! Here I don’t have the extra anymore and it wouldn’t be as convenient as before. David says when we move we’re leaving this refrigerator. He hates it, too.

  3. The last 6 weeks I have been purging my freezer and pantry. I was shocked at how much food I had stockpiled. I made a list of everything in the pantry and freezer so I could pair things up and use them up. These days I do a weekly menu and shop. In the long run it has saved money. More importantly there has been a huge decrease in wasting food. As the kids have gone their own way, it has been a huge challenge for me to cook for 2 people. Makes me kind of sad.

    My grocery list is set-up according to the aisle set–up at my store. I’ve been doing it that way for years and years, and it works for me. I have headings for Costco, Wal-Mart, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, etc. if I need/want to get something from there.

    I am curious, Patty, if you have what I call a “back-up” meal? Do you have ingredients on hand to make something different if say your plans to go out fell through, or you decided you were too tired to make whatever you planned? I am guessing your pantry is stocked for that? We don’t have a/c, and it’s been 102-104 this week. That means no oven cooking and a change of plans.

    Also, which magazines are your favorite for recipes? I love the allrecipes magazine (and the website before the format changed recently), Taste of Home, and sometimes the Food Network magazine. I admit to a cookbook weakness as well. Do you have go-to cookbooks?

    Sorry for the long post. My menu planning/cooking section is the biggest in my planner. I love, love to cook. I do not plan breakfast of lunches for the most part as no one is home to eat them.

    1. Jaina – Great questions.

      I always have a few back-up meals. I like keeping a brownie mix in the pantry and a couple of frozen pizzas in the freezer. I also always have extra meat including chicken, beef and salmon. That way I have several options. I also will sometimes whip up breakfast for dinner which I usually always have the ingredients for. It’s a rare week when I don’t deviate from the menu in some way.

      In the past, my kids were always inviting other kids for dinner so I never really knew how many people would be at the table. I got really good at adding quick dishes to stretch the meal. I do have a pretty well-stocked pantry. I buy things when we get low rather than when I specifically need them.

      My favorite magazines are similar to yours: Allrecipes (LOVE), Taste of Home, sometimes Food Network Magazine. Since we’ve been eaten gluten free, I’ve gotten to where I like Rachael Ray’s magazine. I sometimes get good recipes out of Good Housekeeping, Better Homes & Gardens or Family Circle – but not regularly enough to get subscriptions. I have a Betty Crocker cookbook that I got when I got married that’s my back-up but I don’t use it much anymore. Oh, I was buying a magazine called Go Gluten Free but I haven’t seen it lately. I got a lot of stuff out of that one.

      I don’t plan breakfast or lunch either because we just eat the same things for those meals.

      And it is definitely an adjustment cooking for two. I’ve had to do that, too. Plus we always had a stream of visitors through the house and we don’t have those too much anymore either. I miss those days!

  4. P.S. When my kids were small I would print out a monthly menu like we used to get from school as kids. Anyone recall those? They absolutely loved being able to see what was coming up for lunch/dinner. They didn’t necessarily like what was cooked sometimes, but they did like a schedule. They also gave me great feedback on why they liked a certain dish, why they didn’t, and what could be changed.

    1. That’s a great idea. I can see how they would like it.

      I never did that but I should have because the kids asked me pretty much every day. Even now if my daughter’s come over to eat she’ll ask me what we’re having. She just likes knowing so she knows what to look forward to.

  5. I use the application Paprika which I LOVE! It syncs with my mac iPhone and my iPad. It costs to purchase but is well worth it. They frequently have sales. They interact with so many sites.

    I go to some of my favorite sites and download the recipes and save them.

    They have a master pantry list as well as a grocery list.

    They have a weekly menu planner as well.

    You chose the recipes and it adds the recipes to the grocery list. If you need more of that item then it adds it to the master list. When finished the list you can send it over to reminders on your iPhone to make the entire grocery list. So easy peasy!

  6. Friends make fun of me, but I LOVE grocery shopping! I go every Sunday. There is a coffee shop next door to my local store so I stop for a latte before I go shopping. I take my time and enjoy myself. It usually takes me about an hour, just enough time to finish my coffee.

    The planning process happens just before I go. I go through my freezer and make a list of what’s in there. (I use what I have regularly so there isn’t much.) Then I go through the weekly sales from my grocery store and add sale items to my list. My list is the simple weekly compass that comes with Franklin Covey planners. They are the perfect size for carrying in the grocery store.

    When I am ready to make my menu, I check my calendar to see what is happening that week. There is only my husband and me so I really only plan to make dinner a couple of nights a week with big dinners on the weekend. We usually eat leftovers for lunch. I am not fancy with the actual menu. I draw lines on a legal pad. One column for each day and spaces for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

    We don’t always follow the menu, but it gives us options. I have to have a plan before I go to the store. Otherwise, I just kind of wander around and buy all kinds of crap that we didn’t really need.

    1. You LOVE going to the grocery store??? Are you crazy??? I guess I used to kind of like it but I don’t much anymore. It’s hard to find time and it’s so expensive. Plus since David’s on the gluten free diet, cooking isn’t as fun. Sounds like you have a great system!

      I’ve never used the weekly compass for my grocery list. I have used it for my menu, though.

  7. I think I’m going to stop planning the actual days. I’ll just plan five meals, star any that need to be done early in the week (because of expiring food or whatever), and just decide daily. I’m too into cravings lately. I’ll plan pasta and want steak. Or I’ll plan steak and want pasta.

    1. That’s how I do it. I write it on an actual day but I rarely make it on the actual day – EXCEPT if I’m having company. If it’s just us, I move meals around freely. But if I planned a company or family meal, I usually make it as scheduled.

  8. I’ve been thinking of going back to Dr. Gourmet and maybe some improvised cooking later in the week. We’ll see how that works out. Dr. Gourmet is a doctor who is also a gourmet chef, so he does recipes to meet with food issues . All the ingredients are what you’d ordinarily find in the grocery store, and he encourages experimenting with substitutions; whereas, some recipes don’t work at all if you change anything up.

    ‘I go through the recipes and find one, like a salad or a soup, then I base the other ones one that. He uses a lot of vegetables, so I try to find ones with the same vegetables so I don’t waste as much. Then I print the recipes and write down what I need on a blank piece of computer paper. Usually it’s just a list of vegetables and maybe one meat product, so I tend to stay on one side of the grocery store. The fruit is not on the list–I just pick up about 10 pieces of fruit that’s on sale.

    My backup meal is pasta with vegetables and sauce. I can throw the pasta and some frozen vegetables into a pot and boil. No work.

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