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How I make my grocery list

A reader (Molly, I think!) asked a while back if I could share how I make my grocery lists, and I am finally getting around to it. Thanks for your patience, Molly. 🙂 I don’t think my method is very earth-shaking, but here it is.

I make my grocery list in conjunction with my menu planning. I wrote a post before about how I plan my menu, so I won’t bore you with that. And there are more posts about menu planning in the menu planning category.

Since I shop at Aldi and Weis, I take a plain piece of paper (usually the back of some discarded artwork or the back of a junk mail letter, since I do love to re-use paper) and draw a line down the middle. One side of the paper is for a Weis list and one is for Aldi.

When I’m planning my menu, I’ve got my cookbooks and recipe pages out on the table, and I look over the ingredients for each of the meals I’m planning for the next two weeks. When I come across an ingredient I need, I just add it to the list. If I can get it at Aldi, I almost always do…and what I can’t buy at Aldi goes on the Weis side of the shopping list.

I write items on the lists in a way that reflects the way the store is arranged. For instance, the dried fruits and nuts are near the entrance of my Aldi, so I put those things first on the list. And the frozen fruit is almost at the end of the store, so that goes near the end of my list.

I usually look back over the meal plan twice just to make sure I didn’t forget to add anything to the list.

Of course, I also sometimes need to buy items that don’t appear on my menu plan. If I were more organized, I’d keep a running list on the fridge of those things (and sometimes I do, but not very faithfully!). Mostly I keep a running list in my head, but that’s not as reliable as a fridge list. Fortunately, I usually make my list a day before I actually go shopping, and over the course of that day, I tend to remember the things we need.

I don’t do a lot of deal shopping simply because Aldi’s everyday low prices are so good, but I do take a look at the sale flier for Weis, and if I see a good deal on something I don’t really need that week, I sometimes will add it to my list. Buying items when they’re cheap keeps me from having to buy them when they’re not on sale.

And I don’t do a lot of couponing either, but if I see a good sale price on an item like cereal, I usually check coupons.comto see if there’s a printable coupon to use with the sale (I am a affiliate, but I signed up because I already use more than any other printable coupon site, and so I feel comfortable recommending it).

My lists aren’t very detailed, and if I were sending Mr. FG to the store instead of myself, I’d definitely need to clean up my method a bit. But, I can read my chicken scratch (most of the time. There have been occasions where something on my list has stumped even me!), and my very unofficial looking list works for me.

That was kinda rambly, so here are my basic suggestions in a list form.

1. Plan a menu. Going to the store without a basic idea of what you’re going to be cooking is a recipe for over-spending and over-buying (which often leads to food waste)

2. Keep it simple. A pen and plain piece of paper can work quite well. If you make your system too elaborate, you might not get around to using it.

3. Use your menu plan to help you make a specific list. If you know your list is specific and comprehensive, you won’t be tempted to buy extra stuff “just in case”.

4. Keep a running list of items you need. I haven’t personally managed to apply this one very well, but I do keep trying! 😉

How do you make your shopping list? Any tips to add to mine?


Today’s 365 post: Remember when I didn’t snap the grain grinder lid on tightly?

Joshua’s 365 post: And now, a guest post from Lisey

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Thursday 27th of November 2014

Hi there, I have 194.00 a month for grocerys and 300 cookbooks. would like some more interesting tips on menus. I'm cooking for myself. Can I do this with variety. I prefer frozen veggys, like pasta and fish and chicken. beef is good too. Love soup and salads, but nothing too spicy. Eggs are good too! shelly PS. Thank You waiting for response

Allen @ Financial Train Ride

Friday 24th of January 2014

Although this is not an earth shaking list, it is very simple and great guide. I mentioned it as one of the most informative guide i've seen so far in my blog post .

Thanks for sharing :) Allen


Sunday 29th of July 2012

I want to make a grocery list on excel any good tips

Karen S.

Friday 1st of April 2011

I am in the process of getting a new system. I used to have a running list organized by aisle -- but then the store was redone and it all went down the tubes!

Lately I've been making the menu plan and then putting the list on the same page so I could take one last look at the menu before getting in the checkout line. I am experimenting with using different highlighters for different sections (produce, dry goods, etc) but last week it didn't work very well!


Friday 1st of April 2011

A few years ago I tried making a master list in Word and then checking off what I needed but I couldn't keep it up long term. So I write a fresh list every week which works for me. It is in the general order of how the store is arranged which does save time.

For me, it works best if I estimate the cost of items and write it next to each item on the list. Then I keep a running total while I shop on the same list. These two practices have done done wonders in helping me keep to my budget. If I am making my list and find that I am reaching my budget threshold before I am even close to writing down all of the ingredients I need, then I know it is time to reconsider the menu and maybe pick a dish or two with less expensive or already on hand ingredients.

I like to cook and subscribe to several cooking magazines. As I read through them, I tear out the pages of recipes I would like to try (or print them off the net) and then put them in a binder of recipes to try. If they are a hit, they go into a binder of "keepers." If I come across a recipe I would particularly like to try, I put it in a folder of recipes for the very next week and use these to build my menu.

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