Are a Grocery List and Menu Plan Really Necessary?!

Grocery List

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. Continue reading “Are a Grocery List and Menu Plan Really Necessary?!”

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.

Grocery IQ App: A New Way to Make a Grocery List

Grocery IQ

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I’ve joined the electronic planning bandwagon – at least as far as my grocery list.  My daughter told me about this great app called Grocery IQ and I decided to try it.  I was sure I would hate it and that my first grocery store trip using it would be a disaster but it worked perfectly and I didn’t have any trouble at all.

In case you’re wondering why I decided to mess with perfection (my old system has served me well for years and years and years) and try something new, there’s a very simple answer.

Several times lately I’ve gotten to the grocery store with my paper list and didn’t have a pen or pencil to mark off the items as I put them in the cart.  I don’t know about you, but I HAVE to mark them off as I go or I get confused about what I’ve purchased and what I haven’t and I don’t have the time or desire to look through my list to figure it out.

So out of frustration over not having a pen when I need one, I decided to give the app a try.

Here’s what I like about it:It’s convenient. I always have my phone with me so it’s easy to add an item when I think of it.

  1. It keeps all the items I’ve ever entered, so when I’m making my list I can go through the history to see if I forgot anything.
  2. It allows me to enter the prices and keeps a tally of my current grocery list.
  3. I don’t need a pen.
  4. I mark things off as I put them in my cart.
  5. It’s easy to move items from the “history” list to the “grocery” list so I don’t have to re-type them.You can print the list if you want to.
  6. You can have shopping lists based on the store where you’re shopping.
  7. It’s free.
  8. There’s a way to see what coupons are available, but I haven’t used that feature yet.
  9. Bar code scanning is also available but I haven’t used that feature yet, either.

Here’s what I don’t like:

  1. It’s a little bit tedious to add the prices.
  2. I wish I could create my own category list.
  3. Sometimes I just want to enter a simple product name, like Tums, but it adds the official product name which is longer and more specific.

Here’s what it looks like:

Grocery IQ

Grocery IQ

Grocery IQ

Grocery IQ

Grocery IQ

Grocery IQ

If you’re interested in taking a look at the app, you can see it here:

I still keep a paper list on the refrigerator so David can add items or I can add items if my phone isn’t handy.  When I’m finalizing my grocery list, I transfer those items to the app.

Grocery List on the refrigerator

I don’t use many apps – I’m still a pen and paper kind of girl – but I do love this one!  If you haven’t checked it out, take a look and see what you think.


DISCLAIMER:  I am not being compensated in any way for this post.  This is a product I like and I wanted to share it with my readers.


Evolution of a Grocery List

Grocery Shopping List

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I’m not sure about everyone else, but when it’s time to make a grocery list, I have a hard time remembering what I need.  Usually what happens is that I make a list and then get to the store and realize I forgot to put a bunch of stuff on the list or I didn’t check to see if I needed certain items.  Or I get home and realize I forgot some items I really need.

To make my grocery list more accurate, I adopted a practice years ago that has served me well.

  1. As soon as I get home from the store, I put a clean list on the refrigerator.  I’ve been using Franklin Covey’s classic size menu planner for years.
  2. I immediately put items on the list I know I’lll be buying next week.
  3. I add to the list as I think of things or when I notice we’re low on something.  I don’t wait until we’re out of something to buy more – as soon as I open a new jar or bag, I put the item on the list.
  4. The day before I grocery shop, I make my menu and finalize the list.  But except for the items needed for the meals I’m making, the rest of it is pretty much done.

To demonstrate, here are several photos of my list as it evolved during the week:

Grocery List

Grocery List

Grocery List

Grocery List

Grocery List

Grocery Shopping

This method works great for me and saves me time and frustration when I’m getting ready to go grocery shopping.  Do you use a list?  How do you be sure you remember everything?

No Time to Menu Plan But You Still Have to Buy Food?

Place Setting August

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Have you ever had one of those weeks where no matter how hard you tried, you just couldn’t find the time to make a grocery list and menu but you still had to go to the grocery store?  I have those weeks occasionally.  In fact, I had one of those weeks this week.  When it happens, I go to the store anyway and do the best I can.  I have three different approaches I choose from:

1.       Partial Plan.

  • I usually have at least a portion of my list already made because I’ve been writing stuff down all week.  Whenever I open a new container, I write it on the list.  When I notice something’s low, I write it on the list.  When I think of something we need, I write it on the list.  So by the time I finalize the list, quite a bit of it is already done.
  • I buy a lot of the same products every single week.  So when I shop without a list, I pick up those same products that I always buy.
  • I buy basics for simple meals, like:

spaghetti sauce, pasta & ground beef
frozen garlic bread
chicken & a bottle of marinade
frozen pizza or toppings for homemade pizza
breakfast stuff like pancake mix, eggs, bacon
frozen vegetables

2.       I shop the sales & then figure out what I can do with it when I get home.  I don’t prefer this method because I’m not very good at winging it.  But I do this occasionally.

3.       Pull out an old menu and repeat it.

What do you do when you have to shop without a menu plan and grocery list?

What’s For Dinner (No. 127)

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I normally cook between three to five meals a week but lately I’ve been cooking meals that don’t stretch as far or that David’s been taking in his lunch the next day.  So this week I have SIX meals on the menu.  Oh, and they’re pretty much gluten free.

And just for kicks, at the end of this post, I’m including photos of my actual menu and my grocery list.

Foil-Packet Chicken Puttanesca (NEW)*

Foil-Packet Chicken Puttanesca

Salmon w/lemon pepper*
Zucchini Pasta (NEW)*

(frozen for me; cauliflower crust* for David)

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

NOTE:  I made this before and David liked it but I haven’t shared the recipe yet because I wanted to make it again first.  The first time I made it, I undercooked the crust so it was floppy.  I wanted to try it again and see if cooking it the proper amount of time would make it crispier.  I’ll keep you posted.

Grilled Hamburgers*
Green Beans*
Deviled Eggs*

Deviled Eggs

NOTE:  Since David’s eating gluten free, he won’t be having a bun with his burger.  Last time I made burgers he tried the gluten free buns but he wasn’t impressed.  This time he’ll probably just use regular gluten free bread or go without.  Also, my daughter-in-law was recently diagnosed with MS and needs to avoid beef.  I purchased Boca burgers for her and we’ll cook those on the grill.

Chicken Stir Fry over Rice*

NOTE:  This isn’t actually a true stir fry.  I sautéed about 1 pound of sliced chicken tenders in oil.  Then I added sliced red peppers, zucchini, green onion and broccoli along with about ¼ cup salad dressing. I served that over brown rice.  That’s it.

Roasted Rosemary Pork Chops & Potatoes*

Roasted Rosemary Pork Chops and Potatoes

 * recipes marked with asterisk are gluten free but do not require any special gluten-free products.  The only exception is that if you want a bun with your grilled hamburger, you will need to purchase gluten free buns.

Menu Plan

Grocery List More menu ideas are available here.
More great recipes are available here.


How to Go OVER Budget at the Grocery Store

Shopping List

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I spend a lot of money at the grocery store.  That’s because:

  1. We eat nearly all of our meals at home.
  2. My husband always takes his lunch and several snacks to work every day.
  3. My husband likes to eat and eat well.
  4. I feed other people frequently.
  5. My grocery budget includes household items like cleaners, pet food (for one large dog and a cat), diapers for the grandkids, makeup, etc.

I used to do a pretty good job at sticking to my budget but in the past several years, I haven’t tried as hard.  However, I want to do better.

When I went to the grocery store this past week, I made a detailed list complete with price estimates and it added up to $183.  I wanted to spend no more than $200 so that gave me a little leeway if I discovered that I forgot something.  By the way, I don’t add in tax because I estimate high on individual items to cover the tax.

Anyway, when I got to the checkout, my bill was $223.30.  Oops.  I went over my estimate by $40 and over my budget by $23.

grocery receipt

When I got home, I analyzed my grocery list to figure out where I went wrong.  Here’s where I messed up:

1.       My biggest problem resulted from the “leeway” I mentioned earlier.  Leeway seems like a good thing because I always forget an item or two or there’s a great sale.  But if leeway isn’t handled carefully, it can be very bad.  When I think I can add a few things because I have a little room in my budget, unless I carefully keep track, that extra $15 will easily turn into $30.  And when I grocery shopped this week, I added $36 worth of extra stuff.

2.      Not being realistic.  I always buy a 20 ounce coke at the checkout.  It’s my reward for shopping.  It costs about $1.60.  Sometimes I buy a second one to share with other members of my family.  Since I KNOW I’m going to buy one or two, I need to add that to my list.  If I KNOW I’m going to buy something, I need to put it on the list!!!

3.       Underestimating the cost of an item.  Most of the time I’m pretty accurate with my estimates but once in a while I miss the mark.  When that happens, rather than tossing the item in my cart anyway, if I’m really serious about staying on budget, I have to make a decision.  If I add the overpriced item, something else has to go.

My granddaughter loves those packages of breadsticks with dipping cheese.  Normally you can buy a pack of 5 for $1.15 but they were out of them.  I didn’t want to disappoint her again (I didn’t get them last week) so I ended up buying a bigger box and more expensive brand for $5 instead of the $1.25 I budgeted.   I also opted to buy a package of chicken cutlets instead of normal chicken breasts (for a recipe for chicken roll-ups that require thinner pieces of chicken) and it was $5 more than I budgeted.  I should have purchased the normal package of chicken breasts and cut them myself.  I just wasn’t thinking.

4.       Not being careful when I make my list.  When I made my list, I wasn’t as careful as I should have been.  I was in a hurry and threw it together.  As a result, I got to the store and realized there were several items I needed that weren’t on the list.  If I had been more careful in my planning, those items would have been on the list.

5.       Not being committed to staying on budget.  Even though I wanted to stay on budget, I wasn’t truly committed to it.  I went in with the attitude that it wasn’t a big deal if I went a little over.  That attitude DOES NOT WORK – at least not for me.  The only sure way I know to solve my attitude problem is to go to the store next week with the exact amount of cash I want to spend.

Grocery List

After analyzing my spending at the grocery store this week, I know what I need to do when I go shopping next week.  If you have problems staying on budget, what are your problem areas?