« my favorite cookbooks | Main | ballet bag »

the grocery list


I thought I'd spend a little time this week talking about food (a topic I usually leave to the food blogs). Particularly how to feed your family. I've realized over the years that I much prefer having a solid plan of action rather than opening the fridge at 5 PM trying to rustle up some dinner.

You can read about my approach to meal planning over on Design Mom today. You can even download my grocery list. It's a simple system that really works for me. You plan four meals a week, Monday through Thursday. (Friday is date night, and Saturdays we eat pizza during Movie Night.. Sundays are usually dinner with my extended family or friends and require their own shopping if we're hosting.) Because I buy different things at different stores, I have sections for 4 stores on my grocery list. The biggest section is our main grocery store (where we buy most of our packaged foods and cleaning items) and the other sections are Trader Joe's (we love their milk, their premade pizza dough and their healthy snacks), Costco (for fruit and some types of meat), and Henry's (where we buy most of our produce). If you frequent different stores, you can download this editable grocery list and type in the names of the stores you shop at.

We'll start with my approach to meal planning and later this week we'll talk about my favorite cookbooks (you can see a few in the pile above). And I'd love to hear about the things that work for you. How do you approach meal planning? How do you manage to eat dinner as a family despite busy schedules? Any tips for getting my 5 year old to start eating everything on her plate?

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

References (16)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (23)

My friends and I do a meal exchange 3 days a week. We each make 3X of our meal and deliver on appointed day. We plan our menus 2 months in advance. We eat really delicious fresh foods (no casseroles allowed!) We have been doing this for 3.5+ years and it is still going strong. For the other days of the week we plan our own dinners.

02.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarie

i also love to have a solid meal plan. i LOVE cooking new recipes but was starting to spend so much time doing the actual planning it was getting counter productive. so now i do 'themes'.i try different recips within an ethnic flavor.. a mexican, italian, indian, some sort of fish, homemade pizza, and 2 random nights for whatever i feel like. that way i am a little more focused with the recipes i am using but i also have room to mix things up. it has helped me not spend hours and hours pouring over all the delicious recipes i am dying to try. :)

02.2.2011 | Unregistered Commenterlauren

As far as getting your young ones to eat everything on their plate, I have found that when my children help me make dinner-- they usually tend to eat their dinner. I don't know what it is about having them chop up zucchini or peel carrots, but they are more adventurous when they have had a hand in cooking the meal.

02.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda Warren

I sometimes serve dinner in courses - "like at a fancy restaurant". Appetizers are veggies with toothpicks, next comes a salad course, then a main dish with rice or whatever side, and finally dessert (fruit). This way the kids haven't filled up on rice and chicken without touching their veggies.
Occasionally I will type up a menu and have the kids circle what they would like - a choice of three veggies, Lemon Chicken, French Chicken (cut up with toothpicks),or Indian Chicken (on a skewer)- they seem to eat better if they have "ordered" exactly what they want. Good luck!

02.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

It's going to be great to read everyone's approach and thoughts on this and it's sure to lead to a few "why didn't I think of thats!"

I also plan a week at a time and I've found that I buy less junk because I go into the store with a very specific plan and list.

Also, we have made eating dinner together our number one priority . It means that we eat later than a lot of people (6:30 and sometimes 7:00) but I believe it's what is best for our family. We simply don't plan activities that interfere with that time.

02.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

There is a great tip for getting kids to eat healthy on my favorite healthy food blog
good luck.

02.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

I think the key, as you've mentioned, is to be organized and have all the ingredients on hand. My husband is a TERRIFIC shopper, so we go as a family once a week and get everything we need. We've got it down pat now, and rarely miss anything! It makes life a lot less stressful. Because we're so busy, we tend to shop at just one major grocery store. I'll try to squeeze in a trip to Whole Foods to get fresher fruits and veggies etc., but until we have a little more time, this is working well enough.

02.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeather Zschock

You are so awesome. I love your method and I'm doing it! and I've been loving your dad's blog. My new favorite cookbook is Canyon Ranch Nourish - super easy, delicious and healthy!

02.2.2011 | Unregistered Commenterjoelle

I try to plan meals for a week before I go to the store, before I did that I was at the grocery store every other day. (not practical) I made a giant list of all the meals we eat to make it easier to plan.

02.2.2011 | Unregistered Commenterbec

I plan 4 or 5 meals per week, though I don't specifically plan which days I'll cook which meals (I just decide on a whim). I keep the grocery list in my purse so I always have it on me (I also shop and a few different stores, so I don't often get every single item in one go). I keep a scrap of paper on the fridge with the meal names (cookbook locations, and any special instructions i.e. thaw the chicken) because I usually forget what I've planned to cook and don't like having to dig around in my purse for the list each day.

02.2.2011 | Unregistered Commentersarahjane

We plan our meals a month at a time and do a major grocery shopping at the start of the month. We buy fresh vegetables at the start of each week based on what our meals are; I try to only go to the store once a week, but often a second trip gets added. After reading this post (http://fimby.tougas.net/vegan-csa-menu-planning) I was inspired to follow many of Renee's ideas, even though we are not members of a CSA yet. Mondays are pasta, Tuesdays and Thursdays are beans/soups, Wednesdays potaotes, Fridays pizza, and the weekends are a lovely mish mash. I've found that organizing my meals this way helps stretch the dollar a little more.

02.2.2011 | Unregistered CommenterWendy

such a practical list, but you've made it pretty! thank you :)

02.3.2011 | Unregistered Commenterjane

this is wonderful - thankyou

02.3.2011 | Unregistered Commenterbeth

Great post! Love your grocery list -- I usually just jot it on scrap paper, but love the more organized approach. Looking forward to more postings on this topic. I started a master list of mid-week dinner ideas, grouped by warm or cool season since we tend to do grill & salad in the summer months, and more one pot meals & soups in the winter. My list is feeling really stale right now, so would love new ideas.

02.3.2011 | Unregistered CommenterGaynell

Thank you, thank you! With so many changes happening in my life in the next few months, this will be very valuable & practical information for me.

I plan 4 meals with fresh ingredients and 1 with pantry ingredients. That gives me some flexibility in case something comes up and we aren't home for dinner one night...nothing goes to waste. I have a weekly calendar on the fridge and write the probable menu for each night. At the end of the week, I rip off the sheet, turn it over, and do my planning for the next week. I usually shop on Sundays during the Packers football game b/c that's when the store is most empty!

02.3.2011 | Unregistered Commenteravimom

Love this!

I kind of do this in my head every week anyway....what a brilliant idea to actually have a sheet to work with. Thank you!!

02.4.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTulip and Turnip

Thank you so much for sharing this list! It may be a very simple list, but it's just what I needed to see to get a little organized here. I went back to work this year while my husband finishes his degree and I've been having the hardest time getting on top of being a mom/wife and working. I think this list will help me stay organized. Thanks again, what a great idea!

02.7.2011 | Unregistered Commentermeg

I like Gaynell's idea of a master list. I have a Google doc for keeping track of weeknight dinners that were fast and good, something to turn to when I'm feeling uninspired, but I'm not very good about updating it. For some time I've been meaning to set aside time once a week to do this kind of household record-keeping--I suppose when I make the meal plan would be best, but lately I've been making dinner on the fly. When I do plan--which makes me much happier!--I usually plan four or five days at a time. My go-to grocery store doesn't sell meat, but luckily there is a grocery store with a good butcher a pleasant 10 minute walk from my house.

My two and a half year old daughter ate EVERYTHING until about a year ago. Now I never know what she will agree to eat, since it changes all the time, so she gets whatever we're having and doesn't seem to mind going to bed with only a piece of fruit for dinner if nothing on the table appeals to her. I know things will get much more complicated when/if we have more children!

02.7.2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

This is so close to the way I do the meal planning too, it really works for me, and there's nothing worse (to me) than not knowing where your next meal is coming from!

My new favorite cookbook: The Family Dinner by Laurie David. Fabulous book full of great recipes, and also tips on: family dinner conversations, games, how to be more "green," saying grace, cooking together, I could go on. A really necessary addition to any family cookbook collection.

Also love Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn.

02.8.2011 | Unregistered CommenterCay

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>