The key to healthy eating, of course, is to actually go grocery shopping and buy healthy foods.  I used to be the type of person that walked into the grocery store, spent 45 minutes wandering around aimlessly, and then left $100 poorer.  And then I still couldn’t figure out what to make for dinner.


I’ve tried to use grocery lists many times in the past.  But every method backfired.  Either it was too time-intensive or I ended up spending more money.  And regardless of how ‘well’ I thought I had done at the store, I still struggled to create meals throughout the week because I’d always be missing a few key ingredients. 


I realized that I needed to combine the practicality of grocery lists with the philosophy of meal planning


Instead of just randomly jotting down things I think I’ll need, I first identify four or five meals that I want to cook throughout the week.


Then, I list out the four general sections of Trader Joe’s:




Dry goods

Cheese (if you love goat cheese as much as I do, cheese is a section)


And list out the ingredients for each meal idea.  I also add in other miscellaneous things that we’ll need, like cereal, produce, and milk.


The list comes with me to the store and I go through each section, selecting everything on my list, plus a few more items depending what’s on sale.


I’m currently doing cooking prep work for the week.  It’s going to be really busy, so I’m making a casserole and cooking some grains. 


I also made this wonderful dinner:


If you’re looking for a meal to double (or even triple) and eat off of all work week long, definitely try Megan’s pineapple quinoa.


Every time I make this, I feel like I’m eating takeout from some fancy Asian fusion restaurant.


Do you use grocery lists or meal plan?  How do you make it work for you?



  • Samantha September 18, 2011, 5:09 pm

    That Veganomican recipe is amazing, we’ve made it many times the last few years!

    I have two different printables I use that work well for planning/shopping purposes. We’re actually pretty easy in our house because dinner is often the only meal I need to ‘plan’ for, the boys always eat lunch at school or carry bento lunches from home, the husband either takes leftovers to work or eats with the staff, and I usually do a green juice/smoothie or leftovers for lunch. And morning is so crazy that breakfast is often a free for all! (this home is definitely not a Martha house!)

    The printables are great, the have 7 says w/ B, L, D, Snacks on half, and a grocery list on half. I just take the list with me to the store, then slip it in a plastic sleeve on a magnet on the fridge. Any recipes that we get from a printed source (computer, magazine, etc) go in the sleeve with the meal plan. Any from a cookbook have the cookbook name and page noted on the meal block, and any from the web there’s a notation where on the web it is (ie: Peas and Thank you, etc). Any on the web I stick in one block of my google calendar online for the week and just go click on it when it’s time to meal prep. Works wonderfully! We ALWAYS end up with at least one meal we didn’t make due to an impromptu dinner out or the husband works late so the kids and I do something different, etc. But then I roll that meal over to the next week since I likely have all the ingredients ready and waiting.

    • CaitlinHTP September 19, 2011, 11:37 am

      I love your organizational skills. SO admirable!

  • Kathryn @ Flopoodle September 18, 2011, 5:24 pm

    I’ve tried to just “wing it” at the grocery store with tentative meals in mind for the week, but I always wind up forgetting some key ingredients, so I started using lists to stay more organized. It certainly doesn’t mean that I won’t buy things that are off the list but look tasty! 🙂

  • Stacy @ Every Little Thing September 18, 2011, 5:26 pm

    I meal plan weekly based on what’s available at my farmer’s market and what’s in season. I plan 3-4 meals (we eat out for the others, or eat leftovers) and shop at the market, then the grocery store. Works great and we waste very little. I use a Google document to keep track of recipes I want to try, then make a list Thursday or Friday, so I’m ready for the market on Saturday morning.

    Currently though, I’m participating in the Hunger Challenge, so things are a bit different (living off a food stamp budget for one week).

  • Army Amy* September 18, 2011, 5:27 pm

    I’d go crazy if I didn’t meal plan. I jot down the days of the week and list a meal next to each day. Then I list the ingredients I need for each meal. It used to take a while, but now I can do it in about five minutes.*

    • Chrissy (The New Me) September 19, 2011, 9:34 am

      Yes, I’m the same way. Except it still takes me about an hour of combing through cookbooks and blogs to find things I want to make. I also figure out what I have going on each night and tailor my meals to those constraints (IE, late class = quick and easy dinner).

  • Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga September 18, 2011, 5:29 pm

    I read this as I am on my way….to the groc store and TJs as part of my stock up for the week, expedition.

    I go by what looks fresh, good, is on sale, and a bit of whatever strikes me.

    I keep a well stocked pantry (Dry goods & grains) and a well stocked dessert-making pantry 🙂 and lots of fresh produce and from there…I can do a lot. Because I really don’t meal plan or pre-plan on paper…it’s just whatever inspires me in the moment.

  • Jen September 18, 2011, 5:43 pm

    I sometimes make grocery lists…and sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. I definitely don’t plan meals as well as I should. A lot of the time I wonder what to make for dinner as I stand in my kitchen and open/close the fridge for twenty minutes. You’ve inspired me to be more organized with marketing. I think I’ll start making meal plans! Your Santa Fe Casserole is already on my list of recipes to try.

  • Ashley September 18, 2011, 5:44 pm

    I’m such a planner when it comes to my meals. I usually make a list of the meals I’m planning for the week (usually just lunches and dinners), and then make a list of the ingredients I’ll need for those meals. I would be lost without a grocery list!

  • Lisa September 18, 2011, 5:45 pm

    I am 100% a meal planner and list writer!!!! I must do a week’s grocery shopping at once – or I go crazy lol!

  • Carla September 18, 2011, 5:48 pm

    I do this every weekend! I created a weekly meal plan and grocery list in Microsoft Word. The headings for the foods on my list are in the same order as the aisles in my grocery store (breads, produce, dairy, etc.) It makes shopping super easy. I just print out the list each week and head to the store. It’s great because I always have all the ingredients that I need for all of my meals and snacks!!! It’s a bit Type A, but it works for me:)

    • CaitlinHTP September 19, 2011, 11:36 am

      Aint no shame in the Type Aness!

  • katie @ KatieDid September 18, 2011, 5:50 pm

    I like the idea of loosley jotting down meal ideas as oppossed to strictly setting up which nights you plan to make what. Personally I like to make whatever strikes me in the moment, but if I go to the store with a few meal ideas in mind its easy to not forget those little key ingredients that pull a meal together. I only cook for myself so I don’t make too many “real” meals just yet, it’s mostly mish mosh salads, stir frys, and the like.

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) September 18, 2011, 5:51 pm

    I am a meal planner and my husband is a stocked pantry kind of guy. We shop completely differently. I hate getting home after being at the store and not having a few key ingredients. It’s so frustrating! The quinoa looks delicious.

  • Erin @ The Grass Skirt September 18, 2011, 5:53 pm

    I absolutely plan my meals. I used to be terrible about it and would end up hitting the grocery store several times a week. Not only was it a pain, but it was expensive. Since I started planning, we’ve saved a boatload of money! Not enough to buy me a new car…but getting there…slowly.

    • CaitlinHTP September 19, 2011, 11:34 am

      Ooo what kind do you want?

      • Erin @ The Grass Skirt September 19, 2011, 11:40 am

        I really want a Lexus ES or GS. My current car is almost 10 years old, so I am DYING for something new and fun. Of course, it will probably still be awhile before the new car is mine (Lexus or not). A girl can dream though, right? 🙂

        • Cindi September 19, 2011, 2:52 pm

          Erin, when are you going to post about your couponing / grocery expertise? Rumor is, you are the pro!

  • Abby @ Abz 'n' Oats September 18, 2011, 5:57 pm

    I usually try to have a general idea of a few things I would like to make the following week when I go grocery shopping. I also keep a magnetic notepad on my refrigerator so that I can write down items I run out of right away without wandering off and forgetting about it! Keeping a stocked pantry is also something I have been trying to be better about!

    Thanks for linking to that pineapple quinoa recipe! It sounds so good! 🙂

  • Jamie September 18, 2011, 5:58 pm

    I absolutely have to make a list when I grocery shop, and I try to incorporate meals I will make that week. Because I’m only cooking for one at the moment, I usually end up making enough to have left overs for a while, so I only plan out two or three meals for the week. Somehow I always feel like I don’t have anything in the house for dinner, though!

  • Sarah @ The Strength of Faith September 18, 2011, 6:01 pm

    I don’t currently, because I think it’s definitely a habit that you have to get into. My husband and I were in the habit for awhile, but fell out when we moved and started new jobs. We’re at a point where we would like to start again, though – I was always amazed at the money we did save while doing it!

  • Sana September 18, 2011, 6:06 pm

    My family is a grocery shopping disaster, all 5 of us go at different times and get random items this is why we never have bread or eggs at my house.

  • Ali @ Ali Runs September 18, 2011, 6:11 pm

    I love this idea– I still haven’t mastered the art of planning meals OR making grocery lists. Looks like this is a good place to start! Thanks for posting!

  • Brittney @ Brittney Breathing September 18, 2011, 6:12 pm

    This is exactly what I do for grocery shopping! I know some people dread meal planning but I’ve found it really does work for us. It helps us save money by using everything in the fridge and we can always be flexible with what day each meal is prepared.

  • Chelsea September 18, 2011, 6:21 pm

    I use grocery lists but I can’t meal plan for the life of me =/

  • Katie @ Peace Love and Oats September 18, 2011, 6:24 pm

    I’ve been trying this method for the past couple weeks and it has definitely worked! Although this week I seem to have a lot of left over food – so I’m skipping the meal planning and using what’s in my fridge!

  • Katheryn September 18, 2011, 6:27 pm

    I always make a meal plan on Sunday for the week, and then jot down what we’ll need. I also have a list in the kitchen so that if we run out of something we use most days I write it down right away so we don’t forget at the store. To save money I usually check to see what is on sale that week and will usually design our meals according to the sales. Grocery shopping is always done on Monday morning and a Thursday quick trip for more fruit.

  • Erin September 18, 2011, 6:32 pm

    I have always done what my mother did, which is plan out meals for the week (based on the day of the week and what’s going on, i.e. we’re eating late or something) and then plan out my grocery list based on what I need for those meals (including taking stock of what we already have), plus whatever else we need for breakfast, snacks, etc. I also divide my list into grocery store sections so it’s easier to make sure I have everything from that section before moving on. It doesn’t take me too long anymore, plus I actually kind of enjoy because I love lists! Sometimes plans change, sometimes we end up getting take-out because of unforseen events but for the most part it works great. My mother is proud. 🙂
    I could not live without this system. I have to bring my lunch every day to work because I’m a teacher and so I absolutely have to get a week’s worth of groceries at a time. It would drive me nuts any other way!

  • Molly @ RDexposed September 18, 2011, 6:48 pm

    I do about the same! Plan what I’m be cooking, what ingredients I need to buy, and then make 2 columns: produce and non produce. And then I try to remember to actually take ths list with me.

  • Liz September 18, 2011, 6:50 pm

    I plan out all 7 days of the week, including meals I’ll be making & a night for getting food out. Then, I make a grocery list based off that plan & include the incidentals from a dry erase board on my fridge. It works really well, helping me to save money, eat healthier, make sure I bring home everything I need and make less trips to a store. 🙂

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin September 18, 2011, 6:54 pm

    I’ve never really meal planned before because the idea of planning out 7 days of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners totally overwhelms me. That’s such a good idea to just pick out a few meals you want to make. I think that’s much more manageable!

  • Carol September 18, 2011, 7:03 pm

    I do a basic meal plan and make my list from there, I actually split my page into four areas: produce, dairy & meat, canned/packaged, non-food…it helps me to spend less time walking back and forth across the store

  • AmandaonMaui September 18, 2011, 7:10 pm

    Meal planning changed my life. We were spending 200 dollars a week on groceries for two people until I started meal planning. I had to start meal planning because of the gluten thing, and that knocked me down to 120 a week at most. I often spend under that. Eating more vegetarian meals also helps with the meal costs.

  • Kate (What Kate is Cooking) September 18, 2011, 7:11 pm

    I’m really bad at meal planning because I only cook for myself. I usually exist off leftovers, which isn’t too bad sometimes 🙂

  • Hillary September 18, 2011, 7:15 pm

    I do almost the exact same thing—decide (roughly) what I want to eat for breakfast/snacks/lunch/dinner for the week, and then see what’s on sale at the store and go from there. The only place where I really veer off of my “plan” is when I’m at Trader Joe’s. There are just too many new, fun novelty things that I can’t pull myself away from and NEED to try!

  • Kim September 18, 2011, 7:19 pm

    We use Evernote (you can download it on your computer, and also use it on a smart phone). I make the list on my computer, and put check-boxes next to everything. Then when I’m done, I sync it up to my iphone and check things off as I get them at the store. We do what you do: think of 3 dinners (expecting to get leftovers out of each meal) and 1 or 2 lunch recipes to eat off for the week. I try to plan meals that will use similar ingredients to avoid waste – like if I want to buy vegan sour cream – I’ll plan burritos and loaded baked potatoes or something in the same week. I love planning!

    • CaitlinHTP September 19, 2011, 11:33 am

      I love Evernote! I need to use it for grocery lists, too.

  • Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama} September 18, 2011, 7:23 pm

    Do you do your grocery shopping exclusively at TJ’s? I can’t imagine getting everything I need there.

    First I look in my pantry/fridge and make note of what ingredients/staples I have or need to use up. Then I plan out my meals and make my list at the same time. I break my list into categories like you. I hate the weeks when I don’t take the time to do this.

    • CaitlinHTP September 19, 2011, 11:32 am

      I do a run to EarthFare or Harris Teeter once every two weeks but I do most of the shopping at Tjs.

  • Shaya (Eye Girl Eats) September 18, 2011, 7:24 pm

    I’m definitely a ‘wing it’ kind of girl with grocery stores– but I hardly ever let food go to waste! The key for me is purchasing things that I know can be thrown together and taste good (if i buy avocado, I usually buy salsa, and then later eat both with beans in a tortilla or in an omelette).

    It helps to choose things that require less cook or prep-work, so I’m not staring into the fridge and ruling things out based on time required for cooking.

  • cyclist Kate September 18, 2011, 7:29 pm

    I’m trying to find that middle ground. Over the summer, I am much more laissez faire about meal planning because I don’t want to cook much. But now that it’s fall and I’m busy busy, it’s become a necessity. It gets so expensive, though! Even though I’m not buying much processed stuff, it would be so much cheaper to have pasta or yogurt every night like I was doing in the summer–not very healthy, though.

  • Rebecca September 18, 2011, 7:36 pm

    My parents plan meals and make lists. They order the list by sections–they go around the store in a certain order. It’s kind of funny, but it works!
    I’m sure that’s changed a little now–at least, what and how much they’re buying. Now that I’m out of the house and my sister’s rarely home…

  • Lauren September 18, 2011, 8:01 pm

    I love that recipe! I do a similar thing to you – plan 4-5 meals to make for dinners, then make a grocery list with that + extras for breakfast or snacks. My lunches are usually leftovers or quick meals.

  • Lauren September 18, 2011, 8:04 pm

    Good job with the shopping! I am the same way, the only way I can make a list and stick to it is if I combine it with meal planning.

  • Heather September 18, 2011, 8:09 pm

    Sounds like you would love Sarah’s ‘recipea’ for Thai Fried Quinoa too – I’ve made it twice in the last week and love it as much as the first time I tried it!

    • CaitlinHTP September 19, 2011, 11:29 am

      YUMMY! I do need to make this STAT.

  • mary lynne September 18, 2011, 8:11 pm

    I meal plan first. I write out each day and what I plan to have for B/L/D. Iusually eat the same things for B/L and dinner changes based on what I want. And I try out some new recipes once or twice a week. Based on that I make my grocery list for each store I need to go to. Only thing I seem to miss out on is sides. I’ve gotta do a better job of that!

  • Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife September 18, 2011, 8:12 pm

    I use both as well-I love doing that b/c it is cheaper, less time consuming and more fun to plan it out b/c I get EXCITED about the meals ahead: )

    I love goat cheese too!!!

  • Hayley September 18, 2011, 8:12 pm

    Hi! We love to use mac gourmet (and no, I’m not a rep, just a happy customer!). I’m nit sure if you have or need a Mac to use it, but it also works with my iPhone. The program stores all of our recipes, we pick the meals we make on a weekly basis, which creates a shopping list that is stored on my phone. If we have some ingredients at home, we just cross it off the list before shopping. It avoids uneccessary purchases and getting home and realizing we forgot an ingredient.

    • CaitlinHTP September 19, 2011, 11:24 am

      Cool program!

  • Kristi @ Sweet Cheeks September 18, 2011, 8:20 pm

    I definitely plan before I go shopping otherwise I get all the things I don’t need and forget everything i DO need. LOL.

  • mi-an d. September 18, 2011, 8:25 pm

    I use to do the same as you… spend too much money at the grocery store without a plan. then the bf comes along…and plans everything…which is good! bc now have meal plans for the week! he’s vegetarian and i’m vegetarian/pescatarian so we plan our vegetarian days and our “on-our-own” days! 🙂 but yes, meal planning totally helps!

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat September 18, 2011, 8:34 pm

    The pineapple quinoa looks amazing! I use lists when I grocery shop, and even though I don’t always follow them exactly, I like to think that they’re at least helping me to save money! I separate my paper out into sections too, but they’re a little different to yours:
    – Produce – by far the biggest part of my list and about 70% of my grocery cart space!
    – Protein – mostly fish, chickpeas, beans, edamame, and sometimes fish.
    – Dairy – I guess this would technically be a subset of the protein section because it usually only contains Greek yogurt and eggs
    – Aisles – probably the smallest category because I don’t buy a whole lot of packaged goods – mainly condiments like salsa, balsamic vinegar, etc.

    Still, even with the plan, there’s always a few things that I “absolutely need”. 😉 Grocery budgeting is a work in progress for me!

  • Holly @ The Runny Egg September 18, 2011, 8:38 pm

    I do what you do: plan out meals and then decide what I need to buy. I have to plan and make lists or else I forget things or I buy stuff we already have or really don’t want.

  • Gina @ Running to the Kitchen September 18, 2011, 9:04 pm

    I’m really bad at meal planning, mainly b/c I have a cheap, produce market not even 5 minutes away so it’s barely inconvenient to make a trip there. I try to stock up on 4 or 5 different vegetables on the weekends so come dinner time I have at least one main veg to work with. I’ve always got grains on hand so in a pinch I can throw something together. But, more often than not, it’s a game time decision around 5pm.

  • Diana @ frontyardfoodie September 18, 2011, 9:04 pm

    Oh yeah, making a meal plan makes grocery shopping SO much easier.

    I also love going to the farmers market first and writing a meal plan based on the items I got at the farmers market to make the rest of my grocery list on.

  • Vicki September 18, 2011, 9:08 pm

    I use the same method as you. When I’m really on top of things I have each meal planned out by day, for example, Mon/Tues/Weds are really busy with my kids’ extracurricular activities so those days are either very quick dinners or slow cooker meals. It really helps us cut back on take-out.

  • Michelle @ Crazy*Running*Legs September 18, 2011, 9:17 pm

    Ha! Your list looks just like mine.

    I only have time to go food shopping on Sundays – and if I don’t make a list, I make about 10 trips to Publix. So meal planning it is!

    • CaitlinHTP September 19, 2011, 11:21 am

      I love Publix.

  • Devonshire September 18, 2011, 9:31 pm

    i do that sometimes (probably should more often!). Making your lists around the recipes you want to make for the week is so much easier! and you’re right about not missing anything! I tend to bring the recipes with me (not making them into an actual ‘grocery list’). great post!

  • Emily September 18, 2011, 9:42 pm

    Great idea on combining grocery lists and meal planning. My current problem is that while I still live with my parents, my trips to the grocery store are less around meal planning and more around “what did they forget to buy that I want.” To remedy this I try to go with my mom each week so I grab what I need. More meal planning is a must, though!

  • Deva @ Deva by Definition September 18, 2011, 9:44 pm

    I have been a meal-planner and list-maker since my first week in an apartment on my own. It makes it so much easier to buy only what I need and not go over budget or forget a key ingredient. I used to write pen-and-paper grocery lists, but now that I have an iPhone, I use an app, and use the Notes app to record what I am making this week – for lunch AND dinner.

  • Mariel September 18, 2011, 10:03 pm

    I’m such a bad grocery shopper! Bad in that I do what you are guilty of, buy whatever strikes me and not really get anything at all! However I’m an even worse meal planner. My fiancé and I are so busy during the week it’s all I can do to get home on time to make dinner none the less plan it out ahead of time! Hmmm I smell a new October goal for myself! 🙂 keep us posted on how your list making goes for you/how you manage to plan your meals around your crazy schedule, I just don’t know how people do it!

  • kristen September 18, 2011, 10:10 pm

    I love grocery shopping! You do exactly what I do. Make a list of meals, then separate them into what part of the store the ingredients can be found.

  • Corrie September 18, 2011, 10:11 pm

    I absolutely meal plan, and then grocery list make. I also jot down things on my list through the week as I run out them, especially condiments which don’t get purchased as often, and spices. I also plan my list based on location in the store. I actually had a friend laugh at me the other day for that, but it seriously helps! I hate to be on the opposite side of the store and realize I need something.

    I would waste a TON of money if I just shopped without meal planning first. Of course, if I get to the store or the farmers market and they have some incredible deal, or something really fresh, I will buy a bunch of it and incorporate that into my meal plan.

  • Julia H. @ The Petite Spiel September 18, 2011, 10:28 pm

    Oooh, I like how you include the aisles on your lists–smart time-saver!

    I have to say, even if I do have a list, I still love to stroll through all the aisles of the supermarket. Grocery shopping is weirdly relaxing/enjoyable to me.

  • peacebeme September 18, 2011, 10:59 pm

    LOVE this post. i have been having so much success with combining meal planning and grocery lists, but I didn’t even think of dividing the list by category. Definitely going to try this next week, especially since I have a painful nerve disorder which makes double-packing on the same aisle for ingredients I forgot extra painful from all the extra walking around!

  • Sarah September 18, 2011, 11:16 pm

    We come up with 4-5 meals for the week, then write down what we need to make those meals + restock our pantry/freezer with staples. I’ve also started tracking what we buy/plan to make for the blog and it’s making me more accountable on what goes into the cart!

  • Lacey September 19, 2011, 1:04 am

    I find that when I get really busy, meal planning and actual grocery shopping goes by the wayside and we tend to eat out way more than we should. So, to try and prevent this from happening I created a 3 week meal plan that we rotate through (I don’t repeat the same meal twice within that 3 weeks). Then I created a corresponding grocery list to go with each week, with everything we need for that weeks meals along with all our regular buy items (milk, cereal etc.) Then all I have to do is grab the grocery list and cross off anything we have already have(maybe something I stocked up on because it was on sale); I find this way has saved me a lot of time and stress, we eat a lot more home cooked meals and has saved us money, because I always know what we’re eating for the following weeks I can buy those things when they are on sale. It took a bit of time to set up, but now its great. We haven’t found it too repetitive yet, but if it does I’ll just switch things up or add in a 4th week

  • Emily @ Write Twenty Eleven September 19, 2011, 1:59 am

    I made that quinoa recipe a couple nights ago- so good! And i must go to the grocery store with the list. Otherwise, i get so distracted by so many different choices and end up spending way to long at the store 🙂

  • Khushboo September 19, 2011, 2:07 am

    Sometimes I wonder whether I’m being anal with meal planning but it definitely works–> a few minutes of planning at the beginning of the week makes things so much for efficient, both cost and time wise!

  • Katie September 19, 2011, 2:10 am

    I am obsessed with list-making. Grocery lists might be my favorite part of grocery shopping. I always gleefully meal-plan, and make my list that way.

    • CaitlinHTP September 19, 2011, 11:14 am

      I heart lists, too!

  • Ashley @ Granola Grrl September 19, 2011, 2:38 am

    I’m working on both meal planning and grocery shopping in our lives – I’ll “plan” meals when I’m crazy-busy (this means veggie wraps, bean burritos, and Anne P’s bean burgers when I work 9+ hours a day!), but I’m hoping to plan more than a day in advance. Sure, I’ll prep one or two extra of everything, but it’s definitely not enough.

    I hope to eventually meals prepared when I walk in the door after a 10-hour day on my feet as opposed to 15-20 minutes after I walk in the door.

    • Ashley @ Granola Grrl September 19, 2011, 2:39 am

      eventually have* meals prepared

      Damn my lack of spell-check!

  • Hayley @ Oat Couture September 19, 2011, 3:53 am

    We tend to do one big monthly shop and then just keep going back for fresh produce as and when needed so obviously we need a (big!) list, I tend to have it down by now but it does mean we eat a lot of the same things. Next month i’m planning the meals first and then the ingredients… just to change things up a bit! 🙂

  • Sophie @ LoveLiveAndLearn September 19, 2011, 6:23 am

    Hey thank you so much for writing this post it’s really helpful 🙂
    I leave for uni on Wednesday and I’m going to going to be cooking for myself so I need to learn how to go grocery shopping in the most organised and money-saving way possible!
    I think I’m going to plan out the weeks meal in advance and leave the weekend because you never know how it’s going to turn out!

    • CaitlinHTP September 19, 2011, 11:13 am

      Youre welcome!

  • Jessica @ Fit Chick Wannabe September 19, 2011, 6:46 am

    I just started to try to get into meal planning. My problem is that I don’t cook often, so I don’t know what “meals” to plan for. I know I could look up recipes, but a lot of them are very long and complicated and I have no idea what I’m doing.

  • Meghan September 19, 2011, 6:57 am

    We meal plan then make a list. It helped us cut our bill down a lot. When we don’t wait until the last minute I scour for coupons too. We tend to stock up on BOGOs when we can and keep a shelf in our laundry room with random things like salad dressing, pickles, bbq sauce. We eat meat so we buy on sale and freeze even if we don’t use it that week or buy in bulk and freeze serving sizes in a bag to pull out when needed. My hardest part is figuring out what I want to take for lunch each day!

  • Jeanelle @ Glocal Girl September 19, 2011, 7:02 am

    God how I miss Trader Joes! Since I moved to Amsterdam, our neighborhood grocery store is within walking distance, so I’m usually at the grocery store 2 or 3x a week to pick up ingredients on my way home. I dont meal plan, but I imagine if I had to drive to the store I’d be better and efficient with my groceries.

    • CaitlinHTP September 19, 2011, 11:13 am

      But you live in Amsterdam! That’s so cool 🙂

  • Jessica @ Jess Go Bananas September 19, 2011, 7:22 am

    I make a grocery list every Sunday-it helps because then I know what I need and I usually don’t walk out of the store with items that were just mindless pick-ups…unless that mindless pickup just happens to be butternut squash puree! lol

  • Shrinking mommy of 2 September 19, 2011, 8:09 am

    I make a menu then shop for the things I need. I fing it helps me get in and out of the store without the unnecessary items (and with 2 kiddos it helps me get in and out!) I normally post my menus on my blog on Mondays. (Yet, I haven’t done it for today but hope to do it later! 🙂 ).

    • CaitlinHTP September 19, 2011, 11:11 am

      I love reading your menus, just an FYI!!!

  • Sarah September 19, 2011, 8:34 am

    I’ve recently started doing something similar to what you do. I take inventory of what we have and try to find healthy recipes that incorporate those ingredients. I write down what we still need for those recipes, get a few miscellaneous things, and go.

  • Lauren September 19, 2011, 8:50 am

    My goodness, you have no idea how this has helped me! I am planning to soon move out and live with my boyfriend of 6 years, and the thought of grocery shopping for the two of us was absolutely daunting! Maybe that’s silly, but my mom always just knew what to get, when to get it. When I was in college and living in an apartment by myself, we never planned meals and it was a rarity when I would actually cook a prepared full dinner. I was usually too busy with classes and rehearsals. (I went to a theater conservatory.) Your method is so easy and clear! This will help me so much. Thanks!

    • CaitlinHTP September 19, 2011, 11:09 am

      It is very hard to transition for cooking for one to cooking for two, especially for a man because they seem to eat so much! I hope this helps!

  • Megan @ Long Distance Relationship September 19, 2011, 9:01 am

    We have a template list that we use for grocery shopping that includes all of the things we consider staples and usually need each week like bananas, almond milk, bread, salad greens etc. We usually check the cabinets before we go in case we don’t need any of those items.

    We also do the same thing you do, plan a few meals and buy the ingredients needed for those meals to make the trips a lot easier.

    It has defintely made shopping trips go a lot faster and its a lot easier to stick to a budget!

  • Lauren September 19, 2011, 9:04 am

    I have the same process for grocery shopping/meal planning, with one addition – COUPONS! By planning my meals and combining store sales with coupons we are eating healthier and saving a ton! 🙂

  • Angela @ MyPinkyToes September 19, 2011, 9:14 am

    I’m definitely going to try this method when I go to the store this week. Currently I am just how you were in the beginning of this post…poorer each trip and still without dinners, lol! Thanks!

  • Jen September 19, 2011, 9:28 am

    I’ve got the meal planning/grocery list thing down pat – my problem is actually COOKING according to the plan! I’m often not in the mood to cook after a long day at work, and while I do utlize my slow cooker to try to lighten the cooking load, you can only eat crockpot food for so long! It’s a work in progress, lol.

    • CaitlinHTP September 19, 2011, 10:55 am

      Casseroles!!! Make two on Sunday and you’re set for several lunches and dinners.

      • Jen September 19, 2011, 12:17 pm

        ~running off to find some yummy casserole recipes… 🙂 ~

  • Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday September 19, 2011, 9:32 am

    I do this every week actually. My husband and I decide what we want to eat during the week and then we make a grocery list to make sure we have all the ingredients.
    I also try to work with what ingredients I already have at home so I donèt have to buy too much stuff.

  • Emily G. September 19, 2011, 9:46 am

    I do this and it helps so much! I usually went to the grocery store and spent $75-100/week but still couldn’t make a decent meal so I’d grab take-out and end up throwing a lot of stuff away. It really took a toll on my wallet so I started meal planning the same way you did above. I write down a list of possible breakfast, lunch, and dinners I’ll have throughout the week and stick the list on fridge. I feed two people, still have leftovers, and my average is $55/week.

  • CJ @ September 19, 2011, 10:10 am

    I have to meal plan because I pack lunches for my husband and I every day, we eat breakfast at home, and only get take-out or go to a restaurant once, maybe twice a week at most. Thats a lot of purchasing and planning, on a 100$ a week budget! On sundays I cut coupons and plan meals around that, as well as the weekly circular. I wrote out about 4-5 dinners, figure in left-overs and consider what we have in the pnatry/freezer to construct a budget friendly plan. It takes a little over an hour but is well worth it!

  • Carolina John September 19, 2011, 10:25 am

    After you do all that, search out coupons and you can start to see some real savings add up! Kelley does the same thing – plan the week’s dinners, go shopping once, and then she compiles enough coupons to normally only pay for about 45% of the total grocery bill. it’s fantastic.

  • Adriana September 19, 2011, 11:47 am

    I hope you’re as keen on people republishing sections of your book and calling it their own as you are with rebranding a recipe from the Veganomicon as “Megan’s” pineapple quinoa. You food bloggers are so smart – you can type out other people’s recipes!

    • CaitlinHTP September 19, 2011, 11:50 am

      Megan links to the Veganomicon book in her post, I linked to the book the first time I made the recipe, and Megan made modifications to the recipe. And I wouldn’t mind if it people did that to me because it’s a great amount of free advertising for my book.

  • Nikky September 19, 2011, 12:28 pm

    For as disorganized as I usually am, meal planning has been surprisingly easy to get the hang of and it saves us a ton of money. We only plan details for dinners, just making sure that anything I can make a large batch of (soups, casseroles, pasta dishes) are on nights where I have work the next day so I can take leftovers for lunch. Lunches are leftovers or one or two things (I’ll buy sliced turkey and have sandwiches for a whole week, for instance). We usually get by with granola bars or smoothies for breakfast and we don’t buy drinks other than milk and really no snacks. We’re broke college students, so the lack of “extras” makes it pretty easy.

  • Paige @ Running Around Normal September 19, 2011, 12:45 pm

    I’ve actually been using Pinterest for meal planning. I wrote a post on the specifics, but I separate it out by my boards and then pin for next week’s meal plan…it works SO well for me!

  • Amber K September 19, 2011, 12:53 pm

    I plan out what meals we’re going to make and then we go grocery shopping. My biggest money-sucker is that I like a lot of expensive foods! So when we’re out of things I have to think really hard about whether or not I actually want to restock. Darn delicious $7 vegan-GF personal pizzas… 😉

  • Erin September 19, 2011, 2:12 pm

    I really like your idea and write out my own food shopping list in order of the store. So, I’ll start with my produce, move to my organic items, pastas/rice, cereals, etc…. that way I cross things off in order as I go and don’t need to walk back and forth throughout the store.

  • Julia September 19, 2011, 2:35 pm

    This is SUCH a good idea. Thank you!

  • Jolene (Homespun Heritage) September 19, 2011, 2:54 pm

    I make a list of 2 weeks (14 dinners) worth of meals. I then write my list off that. I take my calculator with me (budget budget budget) and I keep it on or under budget…now remember I have 4 going on 5 children so I definitely need things planned out. I am vegetarian (wanna-be vegan) and the rest of the fam. is not so I make sure to include some meaty foods, however, planning vegetarian meals for the whole is not so hard!

  • Emily September 19, 2011, 3:02 pm

    This is EXACTLY what I do!!

    I plan my dinners, and what I’m packing for lunch. And then I write all that down, plus staples – cereal, fruit, eggs – and snack foods. I stick to my shopping list and don’t buy any extras unless it is a good offer of something I know that a) I will use and b) will keep fresh.

    I save so much money this way. And I always eat the healthiest when I’ve planned it right. Though I do allow flexibility as to what days I eat what, and if I don’t want any of it I can have an omelette instead.

  • Krista September 20, 2011, 10:24 am

    I always take a list to the store with me. I have a whiteboard on the fridge and the kids and Jason know that if they finish something, or something is getting low, they have to write it down. I do the same, of course. This doesn’t include staples like milk, bread, eggs, etc b/c I always buy them anyways. For me, this is the easiest way to ensure that items don’t get missed…

  • Sophie @ threetimesf September 21, 2011, 5:52 pm

    Meal planning is so so important but I am so rubbish at it!

  • Jolene ( September 22, 2011, 7:56 pm

    I always meal plan and make grocery lists. I have no idea how I could do it any other way. I actually meal planned for the next 3 months, only because I am going to grad school full time, while working full time and need to be SUPER organized!

  • Hope September 9, 2012, 3:21 pm

    Please help. I know HOW to meal plan, just don’t want to every week. Where can I go to choose meals from a group with share ingredients (to save on waste) and print a grocery list. OR, even better, upload to PeaPod or another online food store. Again, please help my boyfriend’s high sodium, high fat cooking will surely kill me – and I’ll be fat and miserable on the way out.

  • Abbey January 8, 2013, 4:45 pm

    Hey Caitlin! You’ve now posted this over a year ago, buuut I just stumbled on it and the link for the recipe isn’t working — any chance you still have it? Pineapple is my favorite!

  • Sonya Hourihan February 28, 2014, 8:42 pm

    Any chance you could post that recipe for pineapple quinoa? That link doesn’t seem to work. Thanks!

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