Nutrition Articles

Meal Planning Made Simple

4 Steps to Plan Meals and a Healthy Grocery List

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Step 4: Create your master grocery list. Next, sit down with your running list of staples (from Step 1), your weekly meal plan and your recipes to create one organized list that will help you navigate the store. You can avoid walking back and forth across the store by separating your list into grocery store departments: produce items, bulk foods, bakery, deli/meat/poultry, frozen foods, dry goods, dairy, beverages, home goods, and miscellaneous. Set up your list based on your preferences and the layout of your supermarket. Don't forget to attach your coupons to the list before you head to the store!

As you did for your recipes, creating one master shopping list template will save you time and keep your list organized. Include a section where you can list the meals you planned for the week and then the groceries you need, organized by department. Download SparkPeople's Weekly Grocery Shopping List template for list-making made easy!

When you arrive at the store, stick to your list and don't get distracted by the various supermarket promotions.

Once you’re home from the store, put your groceries away systematically to streamline cooking in the days ahead. Keep your pantry and refrigerator organized, storing similar items together. When every item has its place, cooking will become more efficient. Another way to organize foods is to group ingredients for each recipe together. I like to keep a couple of baskets in my pantry, in which I can place items for recipes. For example, if a white bean chili is on the menu for the next week, all dry storage items (cans of beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, etc.) fall into the basket. When I’m ready to cook, I can pull out the entire basket and rock-n-roll in the kitchen.

No more excuses about not being able to create healthy meals! Staying organized, saving money, and finding the time to cook healthful meals each night boils down to meal planning and a good shopping list. The time you spend in this planning phase will more than pay off when it's time to cook, so make it a habit to start each week with a plan.
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About The Author

Sarah Haan Sarah Haan
Sarah is a registered dietitian with a bachelor's degree in dietetics. She helps individuals adopt healthy lifestyles and manage their weight. An avid exerciser and cook, Sarah likes to run, lift weights and eat good food. See all of Sarah's articles.

Member Comments

  • We have a white board on the fridge and add items as we need them - then that becomes my grocery list. Occasionally i will pick up something else - but always have a plan on how to use.
    And I have a calendar that I use to plan at least a week in advance. Makes cooking so much easier to know in advance. - 5/17/2016 12:20:11 PM
  • I like to be well organized. My shopping list makes me stay away from items I shouldn't have in the house. - 2/1/2016 11:08:15 AM
  • I sometimes prefer going to the supermarket without a list, and depend on what I remember. I do this because, while I realize this is its disorganized, it affords me the opportunity to walk all over the store looking for the things I need. I target those I items I need usually in a different order, sometimes first the items for breakfast, then lunch, dinner, fluids, etc., so I may end up visiting produce 3 times, dairy 2 times, and I go down the aisles only where I need something. I usually get approaching double the amount of exercise I get by not just going through every aisle in order. In addition, I rarely get anything I don't need. - 1/18/2016 9:55:19 PM
  • I use an app called Shopping Cart on my phone. I set it up with all of the places where I shop. It teacks prices, so I can see when there's a good deal, plus it helps me to know how much I'm spending as I go along. I can also estimate what the cost is before I go into the store. Once you get your info programmed, it's so easy ! - 1/18/2016 3:00:07 PM
  • Good article. One suggestion for keeping a running list is on your phone. I use my notes app and I have a shopping tab that I set up and as I think of things I need, I type them in the list. That way any time I go to the store I have my phone with me and my list. I simply delete the items from my list as they go in my cart. - 1/18/2016 10:24:37 AM
  • I use lists, recipes and coupons but my problem is that I cannot be an extreme couponer as stores near me do not double coupons. Also, the stores usually do not run a sale on an item when a coupon is available. In other words, I cannot stack a coupon on a sale. I often look for clearance items, especially produce.

    Your article is very nice. I need to go through my recipes and toss. You'll laugh...Xerox copies of recipes that I do not use go toward being my "fancy" stationary for writing letters! - 1/17/2016 7:58:54 PM
  • Great article. As it happens I go shopping more than once a week because I use walking time to local shops as extra movement in my day. I'm very lucky to have the extra time that takes. However, it doesn't always work as well as I wish - often something I've forgotten - but the list templates are such a good and simple way to manage everything better. Thanks - 1/17/2016 5:21:40 AM
  • I have a list of my family's favorite meals. When I go shopping I buy what is seasonal and what I've run out of or is on sale for a great price. I cook for scratch so many ingredients go in most of my meals. I know I will use garlic for almost everything for example. My husband eats eggs several times a week so I know I need eggs. Do I forget things? Well sometimes but if you can substitute or tweak recipes you're not running to the store all the time. - 1/15/2016 10:53:32 AM
  • What makes eating more interesting for me is to change food intake from week to week. I plan fish and salad for one week and the next week I plan soup and sandwiches. In the third week I eat fruit salads and so on and so forth. - 12/31/2015 7:55:14 PM
  • I'm trying to eat less processed food, got some great ideas here. Now I just need to get the rest of my family to go along with it. - 12/30/2015 11:14:17 AM
  • my husband and I make it a habit to plan the week's meals ahead of time so we have our shopping lists all set and know who has to start dinner or get something out of the freezer ahead of time - it's a pleasure! - 12/4/2015 2:01:09 PM
  • HOTMAMAG3
    Ahhh, I just have to make a start - the first step is always the hardest! - 5/10/2015 3:19:44 PM
  • I'm single and I tend to make a huge pot of something, and then eat it for lunch and dinner the rest of the week. It's easy and cheap, but I tend to make the same 3 dishes over and over until I'm so burned out on it, I can't stand it. - 3/23/2015 1:08:51 PM
  • The Fresh 20 (thefresh20.com). Five recipes, 20 ingredients, 20 minutes each - broken down with prep for the week done in advance, cooked ingredients used in more than one recipe. Shopping lists and nutrition info included. No processed ingredients (other than basics like canned beans, tomato sauce, etc.). Vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free options. Not free, but definitely reasonable.

    I've been using them for a couple of years, and they have simplified my life greatly.

    Oh, and the recipes are pretty good too! - 2/17/2015 10:02:02 AM
  • LEEGYRL
    Our Recipes is a great (free) grocery list app that you can sync with other people who have that app. I have arranged the "categories* so that added items are in the order of the grocery store's aisles. Additionally, my husband and I have synced our apps, so either of can add needed items or delete purchase items and the changes appear on both phones. And, because it's on our phones, no forgotten lists! - 1/24/2015 8:50:23 AM

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