Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The Most Efficient Way to Meal Plan and Grocery Shop

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One of the questions I get asked a lot is how I meal plan.  Meal planning was actually one of the first posts I ever published back in 2015 when I started my blog, and I’m still using the exact same process eight years later so it’s obviously something that works very, very well for me.  And once you find something that works well for you, there’s no need to change it, right? 

The only thing that has changed since then is that I no longer work at a full-time corporate job, so instead of going grocery shopping on my lunch break, I now go at 7:45 AM right after I drop the kids off at school.  And let me tell you, that is the best thing ever, having the whole grocery store to yourself!  I fly through that store now! 

Anyway, even though I’ve already posted about this once, I thought I’d go ahead and write a new post about it so I can freshen it up a little!

Here’s how I meal plan and grocery shop…

Every other Sunday, I plan out all of our meals for the next two weeks.  Yes, two weeks.  I only go grocery shopping once every two weeks.  I hate grocery shopping, so the less time I spend in a grocery store, the better.  Yes, I do occasionally have to make an extra trip here and there as there are some perishable items that won’t last two full weeks, but most of the time, I only shop every two weeks. 

To do this, I sit down with a magnetic notepad (these are the absolute cutest everrrr), my planner (this is the only one I ever use), my recipe binder, and my phone. 

The first thing I do is write down all of the days that I cook on the magnetic notepad.  I only cook Monday – Thursday each week.  On Fridays, we usually get takeout, on Saturdays, we go out to eat after church, and on Sundays, our moms cook for us because we are #spoiled.  Haha.  And I use a magnetic notepad to list the recipes so I can hang it on the side of the fridge.  That way it’s easy for anyone in the family to reference at any time.  That cuts back on hearing, “What’s for dinner?!” over and over.

Once all of the days are written out, I open my planner to see what all we have going on each afternoon and evening.  Most weeks, I’m able to cook every night Monday – Thursday, but on the rare occasion that I’m not, I’ll write “takeout” on those days when I can’t cook.  As I’m typing this, Jacob is starting golf, and naturally it fell on Monday when we already have dance for Olivia and piano lessons for Jacob, so Mondays are going to be crazy, so for today’s date, I wrote “takeout” down as Brian and Jacob are going to pick it up on the way home from golf since I won’t have time to cook.

Once that’s done, I open my recipe binder and select recipes to cook for all of the other days.  If you missed my recipe binder post, you should check it out!  I finally got all of my recipes organized last year, and I have every single one of them housed in this binder, so I no longer have to hunt through recipe books, Pinterest, and other social media to find my favorites.

When selecting recipes, I usually try to mix it up to ensure we’re getting a pretty good variety of things.  I’ll try not to cook beef more than once a week, I’ll try not to cook pasta more than once a week, etc.  I also make sure to schedule quicker recipes on nights when I’ll have less time due to extracurricular activities.  So, a sample menu for our two weeks might look like this:

Once that’s done, I open my List Master app on my phone, and I start making my grocery list.  If you don’t have the List Master app, then you are missing out, my friends!  I’ve had this app for about 10 years now, and it houses every single one of my lists – grocery lists, toiletry lists, my daily tasks list (check out this post if you missed it!), gift ideas, notes for each family member, shows we watch, movies we want to watch, and about a hundred more.  It. is. the. best.

Anyway, in my List Master app, I have a folder called “Shopping” and then in my shopping folder, I have a list for all of the places I shop.  I typically buy groceries at Publix, so I have a list called “Publix” and that list contains every single item that I purchase there, and it’s organized in store order.  And let me tell y’all, organizing your list in store order is a complete gamechanger for efficiency, y’all!  It makes for the fastest trip around the store ever.

I keep all of the boxes checked for all of the items on my list, and then when I need something, I uncheck the box to indicate that I need to purchase it.  So after my meal planning list is finalized, I go through the app and uncheck the boxes for all of the items that we’ll need to make those recipes. 

Then I go down the list one more time and uncheck the boxes for all of the other items that we need – milk, bread, eggs, snacks, etc. 

Once that is done, I’m left with a list of items that we need, and the list is in store order so I can zip right through the store and grab everything in a matter of minutes.  

I also love that this app will tell you how many items are unchecked in your list, so I’ll know if I’m going to be shopping for 30 items or 65 or whatever.  See that 252/260 in the bottom left corner?  That means there are 260 items total in the entire shopping list, and 252 are checked, which means I need to shop for 8 items today.

The whole meal-planning and grocery list process takes about 15 minutes every other Sunday and that’s it.  Then every other Monday morning, I go to Publix and do my shopping – and I just check the boxes off on the list in the app as I put the items in my cart.  The shopping part only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish, and then I’m done for two whole weeks!!

So we’re looking at a 35-ish minute time commitment (excluding driving time to get to the store) to plan and shop for meals just once every two weeks!  Yes, ma’am!  

Having this list enables me to focus on all of the things we actually need, and therefore, I'm not just browsing and throwing things we don't need into our cart.  This, as you probably already know, can save a lot of money.  And meal planning along with not purchasing things we don't need also cuts down on waste significantly so it is a win-win!

As I’ve said, I’ve been using this process for more than eight years, so it obviously works very well for me.  I know everyone’s situations are different, so maybe this process wouldn’t work for you.  The key is finding what does work best for you and sticking with it!

Happy Wednesday, y’all!


  1. I would love to only shop once every 2 weeks so I think I will try it. But, have you tried grocery pick up? It's life changing. Then, when I do have to run in for a few things, it's no big deal because I didn't have to actually go in to shop before.
    What is Cheesecake Factory bread? Are you making it from a mix or buying it in loaf form?

    1. I actually haven't tried grocery pickup because I don't want to pay for it, and I'm also a control freak and I like to pick out my own stuff. Hahahaha. I bet it is life-changing, though! Maybe I'll get to that point one day! And Cheesecake Factory sells their famous bread in loaves at Publix!! It's already fully baked, all you have to do is pop it in the oven for 5 minutes to warm it and it's divine! Tastes just like the bread that you get in the restaurants!

  2. I'm not very good at meal planning but I like the grocery list idea! I may have to get that app.

  3. I like your system for meal planning. I do meal plan for each week. It might change due to different things going on in the week. Thanks for sharing your meal planning.

  4. I love your system. Girl I wish I could only go to the grocery store every 2 weeks. With 2 teenagers, I never know who is coming or going or how many mouths I will feed each night! HA

  5. Yes! I love going grocery shopping first thing in the morning and having the store to myself. I meal plan for the month but still shop every week (heck, sometimes twice a week!) but no one eats out of the house more than once or so a month-- so that means enough food for all 3 meals for all 5 of us 7 days a week and since we eat so many fresh fruits and veggies I've resigned myself to shopping more often.

    1. Yes, y'all have all of those growing boys, so I'm sure you do have to shop multiple times per week! I'm sure we'll be at that point someday, too, but for now I'm enjoying not having to go very often!

  6. I always think how could I be anymore organized, and then you come up with another post like this! You are amazingly organized. I use the notes app on the iphone for random lists I think about when I don't have any paper. I'm going to try this process, thank you!

  7. Just saved this post on Pinterest for later! I am trying to get better at meal planning (I've come a long way, but still, haha!!) and love your method!!

    Make Life Marvelous


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