Grocery Shopping Efficiently Part 1 – How I Meal Plan

Way back in August, I did a brief overview of how I make my meal plan and grocery list. Here is an extended demonstration, read on to pick up a few tips for your own grocery shopping.

Our store publishes their flyers on Thursday morning for the upcoming week. It includes the week’s sales plus special Friday–Sunday deals. I get excited when I see the email with the new flyer in it in my email. Am I lame? Probably.

First, I read over the flyer and pick out everything that is on sale that we normally eat or want to try, and add it to my grocery list. At no point is the list final, not even at the store (more in the next part).

I use the app Out of Milk for my grocery list. It’s easy to use and I can categorize my items into the different parts of the store. Plus it remembers the prices that I set the items at before.

This week I checked the Aldi flyer first. Here is my list:


I added the beans and chickpeas because I already knew a dish I wanted to make next week. The milk is a much better deal at Aldi and so is the olive oil. Shrimp can be cheaper on sale at Shaw’s (our normal store) but this week it’s not. Produce is a much better deal at Aldi as well. Next is my second list:


I plan on checking for avocados at Aldi first, but I know that Shaw’s has them for $1.50. The english muffins are on sale B1G2, my favorite bread is on sale for $2.50 (as opposed to $4.50), and there is some deli ham on sale for $5.99. The tortillas and enchilada sauce are for the dish I want to make with chickpeas, and I have a coupon for both of them. I also have a coupon for half and half to bring it down to $0.50, to make ice cream.

Now, my next step is to find uses for everything in my meal plan. If I can’t, I remove it from the list. I also take into account what I have already, such as the 20 chicken thighs I deboned the other day. Sometimes I will take to Pinterest to find uses for new things, such as the salmon.

Since I have both salmon and asparagus on my list, I searched for that, and Pinterest gave me this recipe. It definitely sounds easy and delicious, right up my alley. So I added it to my meal planning app and put it on my calendar.


I use the app Pepperplate to hold all of my recipes. It syncs flawlessly from the internet to my phone and my iPad, which I use to cook. It’s pretty easy to use, and it has a cooking mode to keep the screen from going dark while I’m cooking. You can get a bookmarklet for the web browser so you can just click on it while viewing any recipe and it can pull it straight into your recipe collection. Once it’s in Pepperplate you can categorize it, add it to your meal plan, and even change the scale if you need to half or double it.

I try to keep my new-recipe-trying to once or twice a week, so I’ve met my quota for the week. So next is chicken. I can filter Pepperplate by category and just see dishes I’ve marked with ‘chicken’. I have spinach, mushrooms, green peppers and potatoes to work with from my list, plus my stock of frozen vegetables. This makes me think of a stir fry, especially considering the stir fry sauce I have on my list. So that’s my third dish.

I also have shrimp on my list. I chose a baked recipe with shrimp and orzo because I have all of the other ingredients I need. That leaves at least one more recipe to go to round out my ‘essential’ meals.

Even though I’ve been doing this for more than a year now, I still often get tripped up here. How do I add an extra meal without buying a lot of extra things? That’s when I take a trip to my kitchen and go ‘aha! I have ground turkey in the freezer!’ So I search in my ‘ground meat’ category on Pepperplate and look around on Pinterest a bit for ideas. And I found a delicious looking casserole on Pinterest with ground turkey, mushrooms, green pepper, and kale (or spinach). I might need to bend my new recipe thing a bit because I don’t need to buy anything but sour cream for it.

Alright, meal plan finished. Now to examine the recipes and make sure everything I need is either on my list or in my kitchen. While working on this, I remembered that I need more rice and garlic. I also realized I didn’t find a use for potatoes, so they’re getting bumped. A couple of my recipes call for feta cheese, but I already have mozzarella so I’m going to substitute.


I’m also going to substitute my salmon dish for tilapia, as the tilapia is $2.99 as opposed to $6.99. This is a great meal plan but it’s running on the expensive side. I’ll still be baking it in foil with asparagus and lemon.

I arrange my meal plan in a specific way as I make it, but I often switch up the days as I go along. I try to make something Sunday night that makes a lot of leftovers, and at the end of the week, food that makes fewer (or no) leftovers. I foresee a lot of leftovers this week.

I think my lists are complete.



The total for both shops is $72.68. That’s a bit over our usual budget of $60, but keeping it that low, we weren’t feeling well fed. A few dollars will also be knocked off once the coupons come off, and if I can find a couple things at Aldi from my Shaw’s list for cheaper. It’s important to stick to the list but be flexible, as I will go over more in part 2.


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