How To Be An Expert At Meal Planning: 5 Fundamentals (Part 4 of 5)

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We’ve now gone through several fundamentals of meal planning and batch cooking.  In Part 1 of this article series, we talked about “Supplies and Accessories”.  In Part 2, “Recipes and On-The-Go Ideas” were discussed.  The previous article, Part 3, included content for the fundamental “Calendar With Weekly Menu.

I want to make creating this new wonderful healthy habit as less mind boggling for you as possible, so I am really breaking it down and providing in depth information for each fundamental.  This isn’t about going from what you do now to having a perfectly vetted out meal plan calendar that you make every meal and snack from scratch for every day of the week.  Yes, this is so essential for sustaining good nutrition, which leads to better health, so I am taking whatever time necessary for you to gain understanding and learn this essential activity so you incorporate it alongside your other healthy lifestyle habits. However, if you choose to go from one thing to a completely new concept and bigger investment habit overnight, you have the possibility of falling flat on your face.  You may end up wasting time and money because everything you planned for and bought is now going bad because you were too overwhelmed, and you are no longer motivated to take action.  So, transition into this new healthy habit slowly and remind yourself of these wonderful benefits

  • Results in eating healthier and sticking to your dietary plan
  • Avoids decision paralysis (what do I make or what can I have?) & free up your brain space for other things
  • Provides healthy “ready made” meals and snacks
  • Saves money
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves dietary variety for greater nutrition consumption
  • Reduces waste
  • Aids in weight loss

This article, Part 4 of this series, is going to focus on the fourth Fundamental, “Grocery List and Shopping


  1. Supplies and Accessories – click here for the details of this in Part 1 of this article series
  2. Recipes and “On-The-Go” Ideas – click here for the details of this in Part 2 of this article series
  3. Calendar With Weekly Menu – click here for the details of this in Part 3 of this article series
  4. Grocery List and Shopping
  5. Batch Cooking


I’ve broken it down into several key categories within each topic, grocery list and shopping. 

Grocery list

  • Categorize Your List:  Set up the list so that you group your items by category such as:  Produce, Meats, Seasonings, Frozen Food, etc.  This will also assist you when are doing the shopping.
  • Keep a Running List:  It is wise to keep a running list so when you run out of something or think of something you need, you write it on the list.  It will be a whole lot more time and trouble, and you have a high risk of missing something if you wait until you are ready to go shopping and making your entire list then.  So, title the categories on a blank sheet of paper or have a template you print out and start your list.
  • Quantity and Volume For Each Item:  In addition to adding the item name to your list, be sure to include the quantity or volume for each item.  You’ll be quite unhappy if you don’t have enough of particular items to cover what you need to prepare. 
  • Review Your Recipes For Ingredients Needed For Them and Other Foods You Need To Prepare:  To avoid getting items you don’t need, take inventory on what’s currently in your pantry, cabinets, fridge, and freezer and compare that to your needs.
  • Backup or Fallback Options:  Always plan for the unexpected.  For example, somehow the dinner you pulled out to defrost didn’t get put in the fridge while you were at work all day and you don’t want to be consuming chicken breast that has been sitting out for half the day at room temperature.  Yep, that’s ruined, but dinner is not.  Why?  Because you have backup options.  These may include healthier options of a frozen food already stocked in your freezer, already having in mind something that is pre-made at a local retailer’s deli that is a healthier option and you can make a quick trip to go get, or even having a healthier meal delivered.  Never be without healthier backup ideas. 
  • Packaged foods:  Include items that may not be part of the ingredient needs for recipes or foods you will be preparing; however, they are healthier packaged snacks you will have on hand or quick healthy back up packaged foods you keep in inventory as a fallback option.

Shopping trip

  • Plan for enough time to do all the shopping and unloading of the groceries. 
  • Plan your trip.  Are you going to just one store or maybe it is a good idea to hit 2 or even 3 stores that you shop for various items all in one trip?   That saves time and money if you can.  For example, we shop for specific items at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, yet they are further away.  So, since they are not far from each other, we make a plan to go to each of those stores on the same trip.    Since we also have an extra refrigerator (not big size like we have in our kitchen) and small freezer in our garage, we can buy in bulk.  So, we will get extras to add to inventory.  Because we do that, we only have to go to those particular stores every 3-6 weeks. 
  • Bring your reusable bags
  • When possible, go to the store that you have familiarity with the layout.  There is nothing more frustrating than going to a different location of even the same retailer and not being able to find things. 
  • Shop online for non-perishable items.  I also do this in bulk, which saves me tons of money as I buy only when I get special coupons.  I highly recommend checking out Vitacost.com.  Their prices are generally dollars less per item than local retailers (I said dollars less, not cents), and at least if not less expensive in many cases than Amazon or other online retailer.  The pricing is less even without the extra discount coupons so it is a big money saver.  I do get a couple things on Amazon but only when it is not available at Vitacost.  See below for a way to save even more money when shopping online.
  • As you can see, your shopping trip may actual be to various locations and you may even schedule them on different days.  You don’t have to try and fit all your shopping in one day.  If that works for you, great.  If not, do what works for you. 

Money Saving When Shopping Online

Rakuten (previously called Ebates.com):   This is a FREE service with no gimmicks; no scam.  It provides cash rebates on items purchased online.  This is for items you would purchase anyway, not special things you have to buy to get a rebate.  Most sites purchased from online are vendors of Rakuten (e.g. Amazon,  JCPenney, Home Depot, Walmart, Vitacost, to tons of others).  Before you buy online, it is always wise to see if the company is a part of Rakuten. 

Investing in our health is not cheap yet our health is priceless.  I am always happy to share how we save money doing so.  We have saved over $1800 over the last few years by going through Rakuten (previously Ebates) when we purchase online with participating retailers.  A lot of this is through our purchases at Vitacost.com

  • Sign Up – go to the following link.  No catches, it is free and cash rebates are accumulated from online purchases and sent to you as quarterly payouts:  https://www.rakuten.com/r/KELLYJ1108?eeid=28187
  • Referral Fee:  Anyone who has an account with Rakuten will receive a referral fee when others sign up based on their referral, as long as they provide their specific referral link.
  • Easy to use and ways to get cash back:  There is a button/icon they provide to put on your web browser so when you go to the online retailer and are ready to order, you click the button.  It automatically links your order to your Rakuten account so you get credit.  You can go the long way and go to the Rakuten site, find your online retailer and click to go to it and the link between Rakuten, the site, and your order will be automatic from there.  You can also get cash back when shopping in a brick and mortar store.  Check out the options.

We are nearing the finish line of this article series and the next and final article will cover batch cooking.  Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about meal planning and batch cooking. 

To YOU Being Confidently Healthy and Living a Joy Filled Life!

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Read previous post:
How To Be An Expert At Meal Planning: 5 Fundamentals (Part 3 of 5)

This post may contain affiliate links. Click here to go to the Affiliates section in my disclaimer. We’ve gone through a...