dinner list > grocery list

dinner list

Every week, I write two lists: a grocery list and a dinner list.

I know a dinner list seems a wee bit fussy, particularly from me and my Zero Tolerance For Fuss… BUT I’d say the half-hour I spend writing the dinner list saves me at least a couple hours a week and saves me money besides.

Here’s how I do mine:

Step 1: Assess the state of your pantry and jot down any meal idea based on what you can make with what you have on hand (or with the inclusion of one or two ingredients). For example, at the bottom of my list is an entry for tacos (because I found I had taco shells in one of the cabinets), so tacos went on the dinner list and sour cream and salsa went on the grocery list. I usually try to make this list after I hit the farmers’ market that week, but I’m in a kind of Greenmarket limbo since deciding I need to try shopping at a different one.

Step 2: Pick something new to make. I get bored really easily with the same foods over and over (to the point that I usually don’t even eat leftovers the next day if I don’t have to) so I try to include some new recipe every week. This week’s list is slightly unusual, due to the fact I bought a copy of Donna Klein’s Supermarket Vegan this weekend, and I’m going through a MAKE ALL THE THINGS! phase with it. My parenthetical page numbers on this week’s list are all from that book.

Step 3 (optional): Check out the grocery sales. I don’t always do this, but if I’m really hard-up for dinner ideas, I’ll go to the supermarket’s site and see what’s on sale that week. Otherwise, I just pick up some sale items while at the store and they end up as part of Step 1 in this process.

Step 4, possibly the most important step of all: PUT THE LIST ON THE FRIDGE. I don’t even want to discuss how many times I have made the dinner list and then failed to take it out of the notebook and put it somewhere. Seriously. It’s shameful.

With the dinner list on the fridge, I am saved my usual staring-blankly-into-cabinets-at-5pm-and-sighing time and can just get cooking without having to think about it (last night was the pasta puttanesca and it was crazy good) AND I know that the items that ended up on my grocery list have an actual use that week, which keeps me from buying perishable items on impulse and regretting it later (yeah, I’m looking at you, flaccid carrots).

What’s your shopping strategy? One list or two? 

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4 thoughts on “dinner list > grocery list

  1. two lists but mine are boring because I do just rotate through about 21 meals. It’s more a matter of assigning each meal to a specific day based on that day’s schedule & who is cooking. I’ve been really sloppy w/ it lately & I need to get the lists up again b/e I detest that 5 pm staring at the counter thing – esp. since I’m usually not hungry at all at that time of the day so it’s about cooking for others, and I don’t even like to cook…. My family gets an endless stream of boring pasta & tom sauce w/ a side salad on those days LOL

  2. Yay! I JUST 10 minutes ago finished making my dinner plan list & grocery list for the upcoming week after basically not doing it for the whole summer. Timely! I totally agree that the slightly pain-in-the-butt-ness of the creating the menu plan repays itself multiple times over in increased supper-time-easiness during the week.

    In regards to your steps, my pantry check also includes a basement freezer check for meat to use in the menu plan, but I find it of utmost importance to include a calendar check – that way I remember to do an easy or slowcooker supper the night we have dance class & don’t get home until 6!

    1. I usually try to include one or two really quick and easy meals for nights when one of us has something to do.

      When the seasons are changing (especially in the late spring, when it starts to get warm), I sometimes check the long-range weather forecast, too, rather than set myself up for a week full of kitchen-sweltering recipes.

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