Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grocery Shopping and Menu Planning 101

I have talked with several ladies over the summer who wanted some ideas about menu planning and grocery shopping. I am basically going to restate my ideas, but it has been quite a while since I blogged about this subject.

There are numerous ways to menu plan, grocery shop, and save money. This is just what works for me.

Make a list of the items that you commonly buy at your local grocery store.
The next time you grocery shop, take a notebook with you and create a list of these items as you walk through the store. When you get home, type the list in columns, listing each item in the order that it appears as you walk through your store. You will have to use a tiny font to get it all on one page. Make sure you list everything that you buy, even if you do not buy the item every week. Print ten or more copies of this master grocery list and store all but one of them in your home management binder, a file, in your daily plan book, or somewhere that you can find the list each week. Tape one copy of your master grocery list inside your pantry door or on the front of your refrigerator.

Teach your family about the Master Grocery list.
Tell them to highlight (with a highlighter marker) any item that they use the last of or that they notice that is running low. You do the same.

Make a list of 15 or 20 Supper Menus.
Think of all of the meals that you serve for supper and put them on the list. You could do the same for breakfast and lunch if you want. I only list suppers, because we have the same type things for breakfast (cereal, oatmeal, toast, eggs, pancakes, waffles, etc.) and lunch (sandwiches, nachos, tortilla roll-ups, leftovers, etc) each week. Currently I have 21 suppers printed out and taped inside my pantry door. I make a new list four or five times a year.

On Sundays clip the coupons from the newspaper.
This takes me about an hour each week. I am definitely not a Coupon Queen. I have never bought a cart full of groceries for $7, but I do regularly save $20-28 each week by using coupons, and that is worth one hour of time to me. I do not shop at 15 different stores each week, and I do not clip coupons for products that my family does not use. I know that I would save more money by shopping each store's sale, and I could donate those items that I get for very little money or even free (by using coupons on things I don't use), but I just make time for one store, one visit a week. I buy groceries at Kroger one day each week, and I shop at Walmart for various toiletries and other things one day each month.

I store my coupons in alphabetical order (by the name of the product; like cereal, candy, and cleaners are all on the "C" page) in a 3-ring binder inside baseball card page protectors. I have to fold some of the coupons to fit inside the slots.

On Wednesdays study the grocery store's sale paper.
The sale paper is available either inside the newspaper or online. I note what is on sale, especially if I have a coupon for that item. I begin making my weekly shopping list. I stock up on staples when they are on sale, and I try to combine coupons with the sale when possible. So, if Rice Krispies are on sale for $1.97, and I have 3 coupons for $.50 off (which Kroger will double to $1.00) I will buy 3 boxes of Rice Krispies for $.97 each. I use Rice Krispies for Rice Krispie treats which I make about once a week. Now I have enough Rice Krispies for the next 3 weeks, and by that time they will be on sale again.

I have found that I can buy shampoo and toothpaste for under a dollar per item by buying when they are on sale and with a coupon. I stock up at those times.

Use your Master Supper Menu List to complete your shopping list.
After highlighting the on sale items that I will be buying that week (and writing the letter C beside each item that has a coupon), I then look at the calendar and see how many suppers I will need to prepare for the upcoming week. Next, I highlight all of the ingredients I will need to cook each supper, plus my regular breakfast and lunch items. Before highlighting the necessary items on the grocery list, I first check in my pantry, refrigerator and freezer to make sure I don't already have it on hand.

Since you and your family members have been highlighting items throughout the week, you shouldn't forget anything.

Pick a day, and go grocery shopping!
I usually go on Fridays or Saturdays. The earlier in the day, the better for me. If you get in a routine of going on the same day each week, it is easier to estimate how much of regular items to buy each week. Anything that becomes routine and you don't have to think about it, shortens your planning time. For example, I know that I buy 6 gallons of milk each week, so I just highlight milk without thinking about how much will we need this week.

This method works for me!
You can visit We Are That Family to find out what works for other families too!


  1. Great minds think alike - this is pretty much my method, too. But I haven't made the supper list...I have our favorites in my head, but I think I need to do a full list. If I have everyone tell me their personal favorites, we might resurrect a few meal ideas that I haven't used in a while!

  2. I never have been a list maker. I hate lists! I do forget things occasionally, but live about 2 minutes from a Walmart. We revamped our storage closet a year or so ago and turned it into a big pantry. Now I'm able to really stay stocked up on items I need to have on hand like flour, sugar, pasta, tomato sauce, canned goods, etc. I went through a coupon phase, but got tired of it. I do use those Target coupon books when they come out. I've found rather than trying to keep up with them and keep track of expiration dates, I just take it to the store immediately and use what we need from the booklet that day. I could probably save a lot more, but am happy with the little amount of time I put in. I've never been a Sam's shopper, either. Maybe one of these days. I wonder if after paying for the gas across town and back and the membership fee if I'd really save all that much.

  3. Hey Roan, great tips from you as usual.
    I am having a hard time reading your blog on this background. It may just be me reading in the early morning hours, but the busy background behind the words makes it a little difficult. Just wanted to throw that out there to you!!!

  4. Thanks so much for the tips!