This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Straight Up™ Tea and Albertsons Companies. The opinions and text are all mine.
Do you sometimes find yourself dazed and confused in the aisles of a grocery store and wonder, “What am I even doing here? What am I getting? Why are there so many brands of pasta sauce? Who am I, even?” Then, you proceed to throw a bunch of stuff in your cart and, $230 later, return home, only to order take-out every night that week because you somehow have nothing to make?
Making an organized grocery list is one of the biggest ways I was able to take control of healthy eating and cooking at home, as well as save money (and, inevitably, precious, precious time). I’m methodical about making it, and I love my weekly ritual of sitting down with my cookbooks, sipping on a delicious cold beverage (like Sorta Sweet Straight Up™ Tea- yum!), and planning out my meals. It makes me feel prepared and relaxed for the next week.
So, I’m going to share with you my tips and routine for making an organized grocery list.
1. Always know what you have and what you need.
Easier said than done, right? Between work, being a mom, owning a house, trying to exercise consistently… I just don’t have space in my brain for all that! That’s why I keep two running lists at all times on my refrigerator: one with what I have (in the form of a weekly menu), and one with what I need.
The “what I have” menu is written on a magnetic whiteboard and lists all the meals I have. This includes everything from planned meals for the week to random extra freezer meals I have lurking about to – yes – shortcut meals in my pantry like boxed mac and cheese. This way, when I’m tired at the end of the day and don’t feel like thinking, I can look at the options that are available instead of ordering a pizza. After finishing a meal, it’s erased from the whiteboard.
The “what I need” list is where I write things – IMMEDIATELY – when they run out or are running low. Olive oil, milk, butter, spices… everything that I use on a regular basis I add to this list. It’s also where I put meals that I want to make for the next week if I have a sudden inspiration. I keep a pen right next to it in a magnetic wire box, which is where I keep my coupons, too.
You will use both of these lists when making your grocery list (keep reading to find out how).
2. Format your grocery list to reflect the sections of your grocery store and your menu for the week.
Ever try to go shopping and find yourself running back to sections you’ve already visited because you forgot things that you didn’t see on your list at first? If you write your list in the order you shop, it makes grocery shopping so much easier and SO much more efficient.
Every grocery store is slightly different, but I divide my list into categories related to general areas of the store: bulk foods, produce, bakery, meat/fish, dairy, and freezer. This (usually) ensures that I’m not running back and forth like a lunatic because I forgot almonds in the bulk foods and I’m already all the way across the store in dairy.
I have one other category on my list: “things to make.” OK I could just call it “meals,” but sometimes I like to do things like make hummus from scratch or pickle a bunch of jalapeños, which aren’t meals.
Usually, I just write these things on a plain white sheet of printer paper (I don’t like lines). But you can use whatever paper you want, and rename the sections to suit your particular store.
3. Gather all the things you need to write out your list.
Whiteboard and “what I need” list from the fridge? Check. Favorite cookbooks? Check. Laptop for Pinterest perusing? Check. Your favorite pen? Check. Paper? Check. Delicious beverage to kick back and relax with whilst you write your list? Check.
My beverage of choice: Straight Up Tea. Since moving down south, I’ve developed quite a taste for iced tea. I love the Sorta Sweet variety of Straight Up Tea- it doesn’t have quite as much sugar as regular sweet tea, and Straight Up Tea doesn’t have any artificial ingredients. There are other delicious varieties as well- Sweet, Unsweetened, Roobios, and Honey Green. I picked mine up at my local Randall’s, and GUESS WHAT? They’re having a buy one, get one deal. You know how I love a bargain :-)
4. Plan your “Things to Make” first.
I always like to have more meals ready to cook than I need for the week. This way, there are options. If the only thing left to cook is butternut squash soup, but I’m really in the mood for something that has meat, I’m probably just going to order takeout. I like to have about 8-10 meals ready to go in the beginning of the week (including freezer/pantry shortcut meals) for variety.
Grab that whiteboard from the fridge and see what you have left to make. Write them in the “things to make” section of your grocery list. Double check: do you still have the ingredients for all of these meals? If not, add the ingredients in the appropriate sections of your grocery list.
Then, decide on new meals for the week. Maybe you wrote some down on your “what I need” refrigerator list. Maybe you have a new cookbook or Pinterest board you’ve been meaning to go through. Or maybe you have some tomatoes growing in your garden that you need to use up, or some random salmon hanging out in your freezer, and you plan some meals around those ingredients. Or, your kids have been begging you to make their favorite spaghetti. Whatever your inspiration, fill out your “things to make” section with meals, snacks, etc. that you plan on preparing.
Don’t forget about lunches that need packing and easy breakfasts for busy mornings!
And don’t be afraid to add a boxed mac and cheese or frozen fish sticks meal on there. No judgement here!
5. Add your ingredients to the list.
Now, take a look at your “things to make” section and add the ingredients you don’t already have for each thing listed. This part is easy!
Also, grab your “things I need” list from the fridge and add those things in as well.
And don’t forget your buy one get one Straight Up Tea!
6. Go shopping! But put your blinders on.
Woo hoo! You’re done with your list! Now it’s time to go shopping with your super organized grocery list.
OK but here’s the hard part: you have to stick to the list. No, you don’t need those kettle cooked BBQ chips. Put them down. Hands off the ice cream. I don’t care if it’s on sale.
Stick to the list, and you’ll save money, eat healthier, and reduce food waste.
OK maybe just a small thing of ice cream. Life is short :-)