Menu Planning and Food Shopping

Food. Can't live without it, but it sure can be frustrating to figure out how to live with it. My goal for our meals is healthy, simple food. That hasn't changed over the last 25 years, other than making them healthier than they used to be. As for simple, I used to joke that I wouldn't make any dish that had more than 5 ingredients!

As for food shopping, I couldn't grocery shop without first planning a menu; something I have done since college and have now taught our college-aged daughter to do as well. By planning a menu first, I buy only what we need, and usually only go to the store once a week. Yes, I do forget things, and yes someone might eat something I had planned for another day :) However, I usually get by going to the store only once each week. I also keep an ongoing list on the side of the fridge. As we run out of something, or are getting low, it is added to the list. To streamline my trip to the store, I created this list that has all the items I buy arranged by the isle they are in at the store. I made copies of the list and highlight what I need each week. This helps me get through the store more efficiently with hopefully less forgotten items.

Having a menu for the week not only drives my grocery shopping, it reduces a lot of stress cooking meals. I do a very loose plan for the week. Some days will have a set menu based on what we are doing that day; other days are interchangeable. I try to remember to take meat out of the freezer the night before, but I have learned to improvise when I forget.

This year, I have been working on a monthly master menu list. There are almost 30 different meals on there, organized by week of the month. I rotate meats, vegetables and sides so we have a variety. This is still a work in progress and I will share it when I am a little more confident in it. Right now, I am still adjusting some of the weeks. It was a little hard to find 30 meals that our family enjoys without too many blanks that said "try something new." Thus it is still a work in progress.

What tips do you have for menu planning and food shopping?