Nutrition Articles

Meal Planning Made Simple

4 Steps to Plan Meals and a Healthy Grocery List


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

    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 ( 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
    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
  • has made life so much easier. - 10/14/2014 1:11:25 PM
    I recently ordered a diabetic menu book to help make it easier. waiting for it to come in. however, in the mean time I will work independently. and enjoy and learn:) - 5/14/2014 4:45:36 PM
    My wife and I just recently built to search recipes and create organized grocery lists. Hopefully others find it useful as well:) - 5/1/2014 12:59:04 AM
    I like the idea for using to organize and find new recipes - 1/25/2014 4:16:18 PM
    One new idea for me was keeping a couple of baskets in the pantry, in which to place items for recipes. That's great! I never thought of that. I keep baskets under my sinks with cleaning supplies so it is easy for me to just grab a basket and not keep running back for forgotten items. Having MS, I am always looking for ways to save energy. THANKS for this wonderful article! - 1/20/2014 8:37:06 AM
  • DDB0416
    I thought I was pretty efficient with meal planning, but I learned about some great time saving tools offered by Sparkpeople. Thanks! - 1/5/2014 8:45:51 AM
    A great way to plan meals and save recipes is You can create a staples list so as you run out of regular items, you can add them to your list. I love using this website to help with meal planning and grocery shopping. - 1/4/2014 9:23:51 PM
  • Grear article and ideas. Now just to do them. - 10/16/2013 9:03:29 AM
  • I am all about fast and easy meals - I use my slow cooker often and sometimes I freeze food for later meals. I plan my meals two weeks out and shop - I also have at least one back up meal planned for emergencies (such as when I don't have time to fix what we had planned or when I forget to take the chicken out of the freezer). - 4/30/2013 9:30:16 AM
  • I was already doing some of this as I keep a running list on the fridge and collect recipes that look promising and plan my weeks meals accordingly. I need to work also on planning snacks - as a diabetic on insulin I can't just eat three times a day and need to concentrate on healthy snacks that also safisfy. - 3/16/2013 6:23:51 PM
  • I was already doing some of this as I keep a running list on the fridge and collect recipes that look promising and plan my weeks meals accordingly. I need to work also on planning snacks - as a diabetic on insulin I can't just eat three times a day and need to concentrate on healthy snacks that also safisfy. - 3/16/2013 6:21:31 PM

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