Quick post. Simple really. This is just the way I shop for groceries - I'm not claiming it's the best way at all. First, let's ask - Why would you plan your meals out anyway? For me, it makes my life so much easier. I spend 20 minutes every week before going shopping and save probably 1.5 hours per week on shopping time, wondering what to eat, extra trips to the store, looking for ingredients, etc. Also, it cuts down on wasted food and wasted gas on extra grocery trips. And, it helps me plan my week so I know what I will be cooking ahead of time.
I have a Master List of about 40 meals, favorites of my husbands and mine, that I whip out every weekend as I begin making the grocery list. You may notice I tend to favor 1-pot meals(cuts down on doing dishes). We usually favor salads in the spring and summer, hearty soups in the fall and winter. A representative sample:
Texas 2 - Bean Chili
Black Bean Chili
Moroccan Root Veggie Stew
Roasted Veggies and Garlic dip
Brocolli Pine Nut Pasta
Sweet Potato Burritos
Rice n' Beans
Spicy Black Eye Pea Avocado Salad
Basmati Chickpea Masala
So, starting from the master list, I pick out 6 dinner meals. (The 7th meal is for eating out or take out).
1. I pick meals that are in-season - somewhat anyway. I've started to notice that a lot of recipes combine ingredients that totally do not grow during the same season!
2. I think about what's out in the garden that needs to be used up (right now that's easy because nothing much is yet available). But if my garden was really going, in a few weeks I would pick from brocolli, spinach, swiss chard, peas, and scallions. So I would pick recipes that used those veggies.
3. I think of any fresh produce in the crisper that needs to be used up.
4. I think of the needs of my week. For example, I work Wed and Fri until 6:30 pm. So on those days I either need leftovers from the day before, or something that will be ready in 15 minutes.
So I pick out my 4 - 6 dinners, add the needs of lunch and breakfast, and then I just write down the ingredients we don't already have. Sometimes I have to look up the recipe, but after a while I just know the ingredients that I need. Voila! Now, lately I have added shopping at the OK Food Co-op, which makes things a little more complicated, but not much. I usually order bulk items like honey, or eggs, and then I just don't have to buy those things week - to -week. Alternatively, I could just order fresh items from them and base my recipes around them for that week.
When we get home with the groceries, we grab our red Sharpie from the pantry and label any food that needs to be rotated. Canned veggies, oats, beans, rice, stuff like that. Then I'm done for the week!