How To Organise Your Shopping List, Save Time and Money and Create a Menu Plan.
WHERE TO BEGIN?
Do you plan a menu before you go shopping and then make a shopping list only to find that by the middle of the week you have unused veg in the fridge and enormous amounts of an ingredient you are pretty sure you won't use again for at least a couple of months?
Or is your preferred method of shopping to go to the supermarket looking for the best bargains - may be a three for two offer on
bags of carrots, only to realise that by Wednesday you are sick of carrots and still have one and a half bags left?
I used to use a combination of both these haphazard ways of planning and shopping until I realised just how much food and money I was wasting. And.... How much money and time I could be saving!!!
So by doing a lot of research online and working out what works best for me and my family, I developed a system which saves money and waste - BUT - you do have to spend a little time setting it up.
The whole aim of my system is to ensure you use what you already have and only buy what you need. It is, ideally based on a weekly shop.
First of all I will show you the tools I use to create my shopping list - don't worry, it looks complicated but there is a method in the madness! - Then I will do a How to and go through each tool in detail.
The starting point is also the most time consuming but it doesn't have to be done every week and it definitely gets easier!
First of all it is an inventory of all the places where you store your food. I do a Fridge, Freezer and Cupboard inventory. You may have a Pantry or Garage Storage Inventory. The idea of performing an inventory is twofold. Firstly you have a complete list of all the foodstuff you own and secondly you now have an idea of where you don't need to spend money.
This is an example (page 1 of 2) of the Cupboard Inventory I use. In my Freebie Vault you can download this and all the other inventory lists.
Next there is a Meal or Menu Planner. This is broken down over seven days with three meals a day and a snack. Don't plan anything until you have an inventory.
This is the first page of my Meal Planner it also has space to list what is from your own food stocks and what is needed to complete a meal. Again this is available from my Freebie Vault to download.
Finally, we get to the Shopping List. This is the last step. The Shopping List is only created when the Inventory and Meal Plan have been done.
I have a couple of Shopping Lists, one is catagorised and quite detailed whilst the other is more general.
As it says at the top of each list: Have you Shopped at Home First? Have You Prepared Your Meal Plan?
The How To's...
So, we have the tools - how does it all go together and how do we save time, money and food?
First of all get your inventory lists. The first time you do this - I'm not going to lie - it will take time to set up. Decide which area you want to begin with, make sure you have some space - if i'm doing the freezer I like to be able to take out the drawers one at a time
go through them adding the contents to the inventory. I can give the drawers a quick wipe and check everything is still edible as I do this. Your inventories are catagorised, this is for two reasons. Firstly, you have a full packet of 8 burgers and two more in an opened packet, I enter either 8 burgers in the meat section of the freezer inventory or I enter 1 + 2 in that box. I understand this to mean a full packet plus two more. You will no doubt develop your own shorthand! Secondly, if you sort your freezer contents into catagories similar to those on the inventory it will make the next inventory a lot quicker! Go through every drawer or shelf in your freezer and make sure you write everything on your inventory. This job goes a lot quicker if you can recruit a helper!
Once the freezer is done - you are leaving it cleaner and healthier than when you began (BONUS!), it's time to move on to another area of food. I move on to the fridge. Following the same routine as before list all the contents of the fridge taking the opportunity to check dates and wipe down the shelves. If you keep jars of pickles, jams or olives etc in the fridge make sure you note them all down and whether they are nearly used up. This means you know if you need to replace them soon and, as you will see, once you have written these down you don't have to go through them every week - more on this later!
Go through all your food storage doing this until you have a full inventory.
That is STEP ONE done. Now, you don't have to do this every week - sometimes I can go three or four weeks without filling out a whole new inventory. As long as you can remember what has been used and cross them off the slit and add any purchases which have not been eaten, you have an ongoing list for at least a couple of weeks. When you do need to create a new inventory your freezer, fridge etc get another wipe down and everything should be grouped together making it a lot easier. I don't write a new list for each area every time unless it is needed.
We can now move onto the meal planner. After going through everything in the pantry, freezer , fridge etc it is easier to plan meals for the following week. First of all use your inventories like a supermarket. Shop your own aisles! Did you find some mince? Maybe you can combine it with the chopped tomatoes out of the pantry and those mixed beans and chilli powder to make a chilli? If you are missing an onion then add this to your list - 1 onion, and add the tin of tomatoes, beans and mince and chilli powder to the shop at home list, crossing them off the inventory.
Then you may decide to use the peppers and mushrooms in a stir fry with the sauce and noodles that were in the cupboard. Again there is no onion so change the list to 2 onions and add pepper and mushrooms and noodles to the shop at home list, crossing them off the inventory.
Are there some meals you can create without putting anything on the shopping list? Just remember to cross the ingredients off the inventory and add them to the shop at home list.
Why add them to the shop at home list when I have crossed them off the inventory anyway? Well - if you don't want to - don't do it! This step is useful to me because it gives me an overview of everything I'm using to create the meals in a week. It is also a visual representation of how much money and food I'm saving!!!
The final step is to add the items we need to buy to the shopping list. Simple!! You can use the categorised Shopping List or the simpler version - or just write them on your usual list!
The lists in the Freebie Vault also include household items - you can add to these as and when you notice you are running out of something.
I have a Master Copy of all the lists in my Shop at Home system and then photocopy a new sheet as and when I need it.
1. Do an initial thorough inventory of all your food storage areas
2. Use your inventory to plan as many meals as you can for the following week. Put these meals onto your Meal Planner for everyone to see.
3. Add all the items you are going to use and all the items you will need to buy to the Shop at Home Sheet. (You can skip this step - but it is useful for a visual idea of what will be used from your own food stores. It also gives me a boost to know that I can see where I am saving money and reducing waste.)
3. Transfer the items you need to buy to your Shopping List.
4. For the following weeks reuse your inventory until it is necessary to create a fresh one - too many crossings out and additions for example.