Simplified Menu Planning: Day 19 – Organize Your Grocery Lists

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31 Easy Steps to Real Foods Planned, Purchased, & Prepared

31 Days to Simplify Your Menu Planning

This month Simple Pantry Cooking is focusing on practical, hands-on, and real-life organization and simplification posts! I’m joining up with The Nester’s “31 Days” meme with “31 Days to Simplified Menu Planning.” This series will outline the process I went through to cut back, simplify, and de-stress the meal preparation process, from pantry to grocery store to dinner-on-the-table, and everything in between. Of course, it took me 3 years, not 31 days, and I wasn’t nearly so methodical in figuring it out as this series will be. But it is oh so worth it!

So join me for the month of October as I explore how we can streamline our processes, declutter our food, and alleviate stress.

Now that you have identified your grocery shopping locations and compared prices between them on your finalized master pantry list, you’re ready to turn all that information into a handy, grab-and-go shopping list.

Grocery Shopping with No Planning Required

Simplifying grocery shopping is the true benefit of having a master pantry list that includes everything you need to prepare all the meals in your plan. You no longer have to coordinate menu planning and grocery-list making. You will have a much easier time buying what you need if you forget your list, because you have a standard set of items you usually buy and grocery shopping for those items will eventually become routine.

So, looking at your food sources, your chosen strategies for buying meat and vegetables, your master pantry list, and your price book, make a master grocery list for each store you patronize at least monthly.

kids grocery shopping

I have a master list for WinCo, Costco, WalMart (including household supplies), and then a blank list for Yoke’s, a more specialty grocery store that does often have good sale prices on vegetables, meat, and wine. Some items are on both lists. For example, we usually buy milk at Costco, but it’s the same price at WinCo, so if WinCo is where I’m headed and I need milk, it’s on that list too. Before heading out to WinCo or Costco, I’ll copy my master list into Simplenote (because I’m trying to go paperless, and Simplenote syncs most smoothly with my iPod Touch), then delete items I don’t need. For my Yoke’s list, I check their ads online and note if there are any amazing deals, then decide if it’s worth a stop that week.

At first, I tried only copying over what I did need, but then I found it was faster to copy the whole list and delete what I saw in the pantry and fridge than to look at what was there and notice what was missing. On paper, this would be printing your master list and crossing off what you don’t need (because you can see it in front of you in the pantry), leaving you with only a list of what you need to buy to replenish your stock.

This process drastically cuts down on the time and mental energy required to generate a grocery list.

Tomorrow, then, we’ll discuss different strategies for grocery shopping.


Mystie Winckler began menu planning at 11 years old when her mom delegated one dinner a week to her. Marrying at 19, she’s had a lot of practice over the years. But between growing and homeschooling her family, meal planning often requires brain power that just isn’t there any more. Simplified Dinners is her solution to take the effort and thought out of healthy, frugal cooking. And now it is available for you, too! During the month of October only, while this series is running, use discount code 31days and receive $4 off!

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