Meal Planning & List Making is Good for the Soul (& the Bank Account)

to-do-listI was an elementary teacher for 12 years before deciding to pursue a Ph.D. & transition to higher education. I’m not sure if my type-A planning, list-making & organizational skills are simply part of my DNA or developed as a result of my chosen occupation; either way, I’m the ultimate perfectionist when it comes to organizing & planning. I ALWAYS have several working lists on my desk (as well as to-do lists for the hubby–he’s actually a major list maker too 🙂 ). For me lists are security and safety; I feel as if I know what’s going on (even if I really don’t) as long as I have a list to guide my thinking.


My many working lists…

An organized list is most important to me when it’s time to tackle the weekly grocery trip. If I grocery shop without a list, I (1.) forget most of my needed items, (2.) come home with a random assortment of things I don’t really need & (3.) spend twice as much money as I intended. On those very few occasions when I shopped without a list, I ended up making multiple trips to the store in the same week to pick up necessities forgotten without the list. 

I believe creating a well organized, functional grocery list is truly an art form (I know, I’m a super weirdo 🙂 ). This may sound a little crazy, but I actually pen two rough drafts of my shopping list before revising them into a final draft according to the layout of my grocery store. This may seem like a lot of time & work on the front end, but for me this actually saves lots of time (and money) once I begin the shopping process. 

The first list I create each week includes all the meals I will make during the course of the upcoming week. The meal list includes all ingredients that must be purchased to create each meal. Here’s an example of the meal list I’m currently working on:

Working meal list

Working meal list

During the course of the week, I jot down items that will need to be purchased during the next grocery shopping trip. Here’s an example of this working list:


When it’s time to create the final grocery list, I refer back to both lists & mark off items as they are added to the list. I’ve shopped at the same grocery store for 14 years & know it like the back of my hand, so placing items in order according to the store layout is easy for me. 

One of the most significant grocery money savers my husband & I have found is making a monthly trip to our local Sam’s Club for meat & other bulk necessities. My husband loves crunching numbers (‘loves’ is actually an understatement here) & after calculating our typical grocery costs, he determined that we save over $100 a month by buying meat (and other necessities) at Sam’s Club. 

Each month we purchase pork chops, ground chuck, steaks, freshly ground hamburger patties, boneless/skinless chicken breast, chuck roasts, hotdogs & sausage at Sam’s. Once home, I separate the meat into 2-portion sized packets, package into freezer bags & pack into our freezer — we’re set for the month (such a good feeling) 😀 ! It’s easy for me to plan meals around the meats we already have waiting for us in the freezer; it helps me be more decisive with meal planning. 

A month's worth of meat, packaged for 2 & ready for the freezer :D

A month’s worth of meat, packaged for 2 & ready for the freezer 😀

In case you might be wondering … other items we routinely purchase at Sam’s Club includes: paper towels, laundry detergent, dishwashing tablets, liquid hand soap, bars of soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, tuna, Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing, cases of Sparkling Ice fruit flavored spring water, Ibuprofen, and (generic) Claritin. We don’t have to purchase any of those items on a monthly basis, some items last 2-6 months (a couple even over a year) before we have to replenish. 

If you share my type-A, uber-organized, perfectionist personality, you understand the satisfaction of crossing items of ‘the list’ & you know that feeling of nakedness when shopping unarmed with the precious list. 


 If I can help just one person become more organized & teach them what I know about list making, my job here is done (haha) 😉 . Have a FANTASTIC weekend!!! 😀





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