Meal Planning Guide:

Meal Planning for One Week

Part 2: Grocery Shopping

by Josh Day

In part 1 of this meal planning article series, we discussed the importance of having a plan for the whole week before making your shopping list and going to the grocery store.

Now that you've planned out your meals for the week, including your leftovers, you're ready to write a grocery list.

You can write a list on anything -- the back of a sales receipt, a torn piece of scrap paper, your Blackberry. However, you don't just want to scribble away as each food comes to mind.

You're going to need to learn how to write a grocery list efficiently.

Writing an efficient grocery list also saves money.

Okay, so how do you write an efficient list?

  1. First go through every recipe you plan to make for the week. Check your fridge and cabinets and write down what you don't have.
  2. If you're tight on money or particularly prone to organization, print out a template of your typical grocery items. Break the template up into sections: produce, meats, canned and packaged goods, frozen foods, household, etc. Under each section have a list of your usual food items with space for extras. When making a list, all you need to do is write the quantity next to an item or write in the food if it's not on the template.
  3. Now create a new list and organize the foods in order of where they are in the aisles of the grocery store.

I always begin in the produce section then make my way to the other end of the store, going down each aisle.

If you're on a budget, you'll find you save money by strictly adhering to the list.

You also want to emphasize fresh fruits and vegetables and minimize packaged and frozen goods.

Also try to visit a local butcher (find out if you have a farmer's market in your area -- you can often get eggs and meats there). Local meats are generally much healthier and cleaner and usually cheaper because you're not paying added shipping costs.

This is true for produce as well. You won't believe what you can save at a farmer's market, and local foods taste so much better too!

Even when you make a detailed list, you'll often find you've forgotten one or two items.

One of the reasons many people find it so hard to consistently make home-cooked dinners is the repeated trips to the grocery store.

If you have forgotten something, shuffle your meal plans around and make the meals that you have everything for first.

If something else was missed, you'll be able to add it to the new list and only have to make one more trip to the grocery store instead of several.

Here is my example meal guide again:

  • Monday: Red beans and rice
  • Tuesday: Chili with leftover red beans
  • Wednesday: Spaghetti (vegetarian or with leftover ground beef from chili)
  • Thursday: Crockpot Italian roast
  • Friday: Homemade pizza with leftover tomato sauce
  • Saturday: Free night*
  • Sunday: Leftover roast with fresh roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, and gravy

    Also include a large salad before every meal, rife with many diverse vegetables and herbs.

And here is the recipe for my red beans and rice:

Red Beans and Rice

3 Tbs olive oil
1 smoked ham hock
3 cans light red kidney beans
3-4 12 oz cans chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
3 bay leaves
1 Tbs garlic, minced
1 whole yellow onion, medium
1/2 green bale pepper
2 stalks of celery
2 tsp cayenne
2 Tbs dried thyme
Black pepper to taste
Cooked rice of your choice.

Pour 3 Tbs of olive oil in pot or deep cast iron pan (makes for much better flavor). Put the heat on medium low and slightly brown ham hock (the ham hock is crucial for this recipe -- it provides flavor).

Finely chop onion, celery, and green pepper. This is known as "the trinity" of Cajun cooking. Put all three in the pot and cook until translucent.

Season with parsley, bay leaves, thyme, cayenne, and black pepper. Add some additional crushed red pepper flakes if you want the red beans extra hot.

Add garlic, stirring, for about 1-2 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown.

Pour in chicken stock.

Drain red beans and rinse thoroughly in a colander before adding to pot.

Add water as needed to cover beans.

Cook for 3-6 hours, stirring occasionally, and adding more water as broth evaporates.

Before serving, use a potato masher to make the beans creamy.

Cook favorite rice and serve with beans (underneath or above or on the side). Garnish with green onion shoots and serve with croutons.

Red beans and rice taste even better after you've eaten a huge salad.

Check out our next meal planning article on making the perfect salad.

Disclaimer: Throughout this entire website, statements are made pertaining to the properties and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and these materials and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.