Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Day 8 - Filling your shopping cart

Did you guys have fun yesterday browsing all those meal plans from other people at Organizing Junkie

Did it inspire you to write down your meal plan? 

I hope it did, because today we are going to talk about the second step in meal planning.... creating your shopping list. 

Before we start I have to give a shameless plug to Plan to Eat, because they solve the problem that is generally the most disheartening part of the whole menu planning chore. At some point you have to look through every recipe, figure out all of the ingredients, check this against what you already have, and then write it down on a list that you can actually use in the store, without forgetting something. Plan to Eat does all of this for you, and can be set up, so that it checks what you already have. It feels somewhat miraculous every time. 

If you have decided that Plan to Eat is simply not for you, then things will take a bit longer. But we can still work on ways to streamline things. While ensuring that nothing is forgotten. Because after getting home after shopping all morning, and finding out you either forgot something, or got more of something you really didn't need, is one of the worst feelings. Completely depressing. (Or maybe that's just me, and I am too dramatic.)

I find that the biggest time suck when creating a shopping list, is often from having to get out all the recipes and then go through them each. This creates a huge mess, and really does take lots of time. If you prefer to cook from your head, then you probably don't need to do this as much, but you also run the risk of getting a bit boring. And easily forgetting things such a condiments and spices that you are out of. 

Remember on Friday how we talked about the list of all your family favourite recipes? Well today you are going to do a bit more grunt work on that. Basically for each recipe you need a list of all the ingredients needed for it. You could choose to write this on paper, and store it in a binder, or you could make a spreadsheet like this one:

Click to Enlarge
Just keep it on a file on your computer, and then every time you make your menu plan, you simply need to write down the things you are missing. No more getting out all your recipes. This is will save lots of time for you when using these recipes (which you probably are using for most meals) and then you just need to spend a bit more time on special meals. 

I really really prefer a list on my computer because I like to organize my grocery list into categories. On paper I find I have to re-write the list because I am OCD about things being categorized correctly and still looking pretty. On the computer I am in love with the copy & paste function.  Otherwise I end up criss-crossing the grocery store, which is much more tiring and eventually I am just grabbing whatever, just so I can get out of there. I generally also do not take the time to do even a bit of comparison shopping, and so end up spending more money. 

I have seen recommendations from various websites about keeping a pantry inventory, and if that works for you, then that is great. I find that it does not work for me, because it changes to often and is a pain in the neck to keep up, and often led to me not buying something, without realizing that I don't have enough to finish the recipe I had in mind. 

So instead I just start fresh each week, with everything I need listed on my grocery list, and delete the items I already have. For me, this is simpler. 

Ok? So quick summary. 

1. Go get Plan to Eat, because it is the best way to plan menu's ever, and will seriously reduce the amount of time spent meal planning. 

2. If you don't want Plan to Eat, then write an ingredient list (include everything, even oil & salt) for each Favourite Family Meal, and keep somewhere safe. 

3. Each week, when writing your shopping list, refer to your ingredient lists and simply write down the items you are missing, organizing into categories. Make sure you actually check not only that you have the items, but how much of each item you have. 

4. Go to the grocery store and only go down the aisles that you need, and feel confident that your list is complete. 


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