How To Make a Grocery List Like a Pro

My original title was “How to Make a Kick Ass Grocery List,” but then I remembered I don’t say “kick ass” in real life, so I probably shouldn’t do it on the internet either.

A few weeks ago, Joey was in charge of meal planning, grocery list-making and shopping.  Look, I love him dearly and there’s very few things he’s not good at, but he came home with 3 pounds of butter, not a single green vegetable and zero boxes of cereal (you know, the food HE eats every day for breakfast), so I think it’s safe to say groceries aren’t his forte.  Just being real over here!  But because I love him dearly, I’ve written this simple guide to making an amazing grocery list.


Step 1: Make a plan!

Not like which aisle you’re going to start on, but a meal plan.  If you’re food obsessed and neurotic like me, you have an endless amount of recipes saved.  And in a perfect world, where I’m not trying to make some unnecessary and unrealistic balance of ingredients, it’s simple to just pick a few good-looking recipes.  My magic recipe number is four.  Also, I double most recipes (that feed 4, at least) because we can’t be bothered with proper portion sizes and because lunch leftovers are a life saver.


Step 2: Divide and conquer!

As in divide your ingredients into like categories.  I’m simple and go “Produce” vs. “Other,” but when I’ve had way too much time on my hands or felt like not backtracking all over the store, I’ve added other categories like “Dairy,” “Meat” and “Freezer.”  My mom always wishes she had a map of the store so she could write ingredients in the order you would find them in the store but that sounds a little too involved for me.


Step 3: Check yourself before you wreck yourself!

Speaking of things I don’t say in real life…

In other words, cross off anything that you already have on hand.  I live week to week in terms of groceries, so I almost never have, say, an extra can of black beans hanging around, but maybe you do, so cross that one of your list.  Helpful Tip: When you make your list, write it all down.  Even if you think you already have it, you can just cross it off later.  I notoriously don’t do this, then forget Step 3 and come Wednesday, mid-cooking, I realize “oops, I don’t have the red beans for red beans and rice.”  P.S. If earlier you thought “Lauren made a great point about doubling recipes!” then don’t forget to double all your ingredients as you write them down.


Step 4: Fill in the gaps!

Thigh gaps.  Just kidding, I don’t know why I said that.  By gaps, I mean think of all the staples you’re running low on — eggs (often), milk (always), bread (occasionally) — then add snack foods, breakfast makings (because I only include dinner in my meal plan) and SIDE DISHES!  I hate when I forget sides.  Dinner just feels so incomplete without them.  And by “side dishes,” I clearly mean a simple bundle of asparagus or a couple heads of broccoli, because that’s as fancy as I get on sides.  Oh and don’t forget any non-food staples you’re running low on.  I hate that stuff because A) I can’t eat it so it doesn’t excite me and B) It’s always expensive.  Ugh, laundry detergent.


Et voila!  So easy, right?

5 Things That Are ALWAYS On My Grocery List

Bananas (organic because I swear they don’t go bad as fast)

Milk (where does it go?!)

Oranges (or whatever Joey happens to be into at the moment)

Snack Bars (because I’m seriously lazy about snacks)

Spinach (because green smoothies are a magic elixir I couldn’t live without)


Do you have any grocery list-making tips?



3 thoughts on “How To Make a Grocery List Like a Pro

  1. I have my grocery list by stores. Kroger for the main stuff, the local market for the fancy stuff, Target for the stuff that’s cheaper like Applegate lunch meat, and Sams Club for the bulk stuff. So I try to stock up since I can’t hit all four stores in a week. I also have an excel sheet I print out so I can write everything I need each week. I have a section for frequently bought items that are filled in already and I can just circle what I need. And I’m totally obsessed with snack bars too. I always have Larabars on hand. I know people make their own but it’s so much easier to just grab a packaged one and stuff it in my bag when I walk out the door.

    I’m not always the best about meal planning but I spend way too much when I don’t.

  2. I LOVE this! I am all about the meal planning, I would be so lost without it. I have been using an app called Grocery IQ for years which actually divides items into aisles/categories for you, which I totally love. I almost never run around in circles in the store anymore. Almost never.

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