This post is part 5 of the series Taking Charge of Your Grocery Shopping. Check in here for the complete list.
Making a meal plan is the hardest part of this whole process, and you’re done! You’ve got a plan, all you have to do is implement it. First things first, in order to make dinner, you have to have the ingredients on hand. It’s time to make your list.
Taking a quick look back at the last post, this is the menu I created after checking to see what I already had on hand.
- Monday: Mojave Macaroni/Fruit
- Tuesday: Pancakes/Sausage Patties/Fruit
- Wednesday: Family Night
- Thursday: Chicken Picatta/Risotto/Salad
- Friday: Grilled Cheese/Cut Veggies
- Saturday: Honey Mustard Chicken/Rice/Salad
- Sunday: Red Robin
- Monday: Potato Salmon Chowder/Rolls
- Tuesday: BBQ Salmon/Asiago Potatoes/Broccoli
- Wednesday: Family Night
- Thursday: Shrimp Spaghetti/Garlic Bread/Carrots
- Friday: Burrito Soup/Cornbread/Fruit
- Saturday: Leftovers
- Sunday: Homemade Pizza/Whatever Fruits & Vegetables are left
What I do now is go item by item and make sure I have the ingredients already in my pantry, or on my list. For instance, Mojave Macaroni (one of my kids’ favorite meals) has four ingredients: elbow macaroni, ground beef, barbecue sauce, and shredded cheese. A quick pantry check reveals elbow macaroni, but no barbecue sauce. There is shredded cheese in the fridge, and I already know that I’m out of ground beef since I inventoried my freezer. I buy fruit every two weeks when I shop, but what exactly I purchase depends on what’s in season and on sale. Since I already have fruit (at least mentally) on the list, I add ground beef and barbecue sauce and move on to item 2.
A Word About Organizing Your List
Your grocery shopping trip will be faster and easier if your list is organized. You do not have to type it or color code it (although I have been known to do both from time to time). Simply add the things you need in sections. Make a section for meat, dairy, produce, canned goods, etc. That way, when you go to shop, the items you need are grouped together and you are not going back and forth across the store twenty times.
Once you are done adding the things you need from your dinner menu, you need to ask yourself, “What Else?” My family does not ONLY eat dinner, even though it’s the only thing I plan out. I go through a few categories to ensure that I’ve covered all my bases and will not have to return to the store again for two weeks.
- Breakfast: Do we need milk, bagels, cereal, waffles, granola bars, oatmeal, etc.?
- Lunch: Do the kids have things in the freezer/pantry to easily pack for lunch? Do we need fruit/vegetables for them to take? Does Fr. John have things for his lunches? What will Gregory and I eat at home during the week?
- Snacks: I do a lot of after school daycare, and it’s no fun to have eight kids hungry for an after-school snack and have nothing to give them. My three year old still snacks frequently. What do we have leftover from the last grocery trip, and what do I need to add to make sure we have enough to get through the next two weeks?
- Drinks: The kids like to take juice boxes/chocolate milk in their lunches. As stated in at least four dozen other places on this blog, I have a love affair with Dr. Pepper. My husband has been known to enjoy a beer some evenings, or we might share some wine together. Do any of these things need to go on my list?
- Baking: I love to bake, and I have two daughters who love to bake. Do we have flour/sugar/butter/chocolate chips/eggs etc.?
- Pets: We have a cat, and while he and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship, I still want to ensure that he has food. Same thing for the fish.
- Paper products: My prayers is, after having run out of toilet paper once, that it will never happen again as long as I live. I also check for paper towels, napkins, ziplock bags, tin foil, etc.
- Personal items: Are we out of shampoo, deodorant, contact solution, Kleenex?
- Baby: We are rapidly outgrowing this stage, but for those of you who are still in the trenches, do you need diapers, wipes, baby food, infant Tylenol, formula, etc.?
- Cleaning Supplies: I swear, every time I make a list, I forget dishwasher soap. I either have to make a second trip to the store or send my husband. One of these days, I’ll get it.
- All Those Extras: This is that category that includes things like birthday gifts, oil for the car, Valentine’s for class parties, socks, etc. Take a good look at your calendar and try to plan as much as you can. There are always going to be those unavoidable last-minute things, but I try to account for them as much as I can.
- Spouse: I try to always check in with my husband, just to see if I’m missing something that he needs me to pick up. He’s pretty good about telling me if he’s getting close to running out of something, but I like to double-check.
This seems like SO MANY QUESTIONS but if you ask yourself all of them before you go to the store, you’ll hopefully save yourself a few extra trips.
Ways To Save Time
If you can get in the habit of creating a list as you run out of things, you will save yourself a lot of time. Teach your family to always tell you when they’re using the last of something. This way, when you go to ask yourself all those extra questions, you’ll find that you already have some (or all) of the answers.
The last thing that I do actually takes more time now, but saves me time later, and it’s completely up to you whether or not you think it’s worth it. I rewrite my grocery list, once I am confident that it’s compete. I have a route I prefer to take in the store, and I rewrite my list in that order. This saves me tons of time once I’m there, especially if I have kids with me. I’m not walking back and forth all over the store, and I can avoid certain spots entirely (candy aisle, anyone?).
Your list is done, and you’re ready for the next step. It’s time to shop! Check in tomorrow for some tips and tricks to avoid spending your entire day (or your entire salary!) at the grocery store.