How To Organise Your Shopping List, Save Time and Money and Create a Menu Plan.
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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 of the Fridge Inventory I use. In my Etsy Shop 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 my Meal Planner. It is split into Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snacks. There are no days of the week as I tend to want to switch things around depending on what crops up during the week! This is included with the Inventory Sheets in my Etsy Shop.
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.
This is the first page of the Shopping List.
The list is divided into categories with space for you to add to it once your Inventory and Meal Plan are completed.
This is also included with the Inventory Lists in my Etsy Shop.
The How To's...
So, we have the tools - how does it all go together and how do we save time,money,food and the planet?!
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 separated into: FRIDGE, FREEZER, CUPBOARD, PANTRY, BAKING, CONDIMENTS and HERBS&SPICES (with a blank for your own home). Each Inventory is headed PRODUCE / QUANTITY/ NOTES so you will have a record of WHAT you have, HOW MUCH you have and any other information you may want to remember. I note whether I want to add it to the shopping list, or if it needs eating soon in the NOTES column.
My preferred way of entering QUANTITY is to mark a '1' for each individual item and then cross them out as I use one or add when I buy more. This means an inventory can be kept up to date for a good few weeks before you need to write a new one.
For example, you have a full packet of 8 burgers and two more in an opened packet, I enter either '1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1' in 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! 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!
BONUS TIP:As you are emptying your freezer, fridge, cupboard etc keep like items together and put them back in categories. This makes it easier to find everything and your next inventory will be clear and categorised!
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! I print out 2 Condiments Inventories and have one for the fridge and one for the items I keep in the cupboard.
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 list and add any purchases which have not been eaten, you have an ongoing list for up to a month. 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. If you like to replace what are using add those to the list. Don't forget to cross items off your inventory as you use them.
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.
Are there some meals you can create without putting anything on the shopping list? Just remember to cross the ingredients off the inventory.
The final step is to add the items we need to buy to the shopping list. Simple!!
The Shopping List has space for household items so add these items to your list as and when you need them..
I have a Master Copy of all the lists in a folder 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 need to buy to your Shopping List. You will be amazed at how small your shopping list can be!!!
4. For the following weeks reuse your inventory until it is necessary to create a fresh one.
You can find my Inventory/ Meal Planner/ Shopping List by clicking on the ETSY shop tab above.