I've tried many different ways of meal planning and grocery shopping over the years. I've finally figured out what works for me and I wanted to share that.
1. I start by listing the days that I need meals for and the meals I want to make. I try to incorporate food that I have on hand already and anything that is on sale in the Aldi ad. I plan for 2 weeks at a time.
2. I list the ingredients that I think I'll need to purchase to make the meals. For example, I'll need canned pineapple for the sweet and sour meatballs, I'm not sure if I have any or not so I put it down. I do know I have a couple pounds of ground chicken in the freezer which is why for the crockpot hamburger casserole, I don't have any meat on my list. The meals in green, I have all the inredients for. The ingredients in red are items I might need to buy.
Saturday - March 30th: Easter Party at Moms - ???
Sunday - March 31st: Ham with Baked Vegetables: Spiral Ham, Carrots, Onion, Green Pepper
Monday - April 1st: Crockpot Hamburger Casserole: carrots, onion, celery
Tuesday - April 2nd: Dinner at Mom's
Wednesday - April 3rd: Sweet & Sour Meatballs with Rice: Meatballs, brown rice, canned pineapple chunks, carrots
Thursday - April 4th: Crockpot Breakfast Casserole: eggs, cheddar, onion
Friday - April 5th: Baked Chicken: Frozen Chicken
Saturday - April 6th: Cheeseburger Muffins
Sunday April 7th: Coconut Shrimp
Monday - April 8th: Lasagna Cups: Ricotta, Mozzarella, 2 Jars Pasta Sauce, ground beef, green pepper, onion
Tuesday - April 9th: Ham and Broccoli Alfredo
Wednesday - April 10th: Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches with Tomato Soup
Thursday - April 11th: Frozen Dinner
Friday - April 12th: Pasta with leftover sauce from Lasagna Cups
I can guarantee we won't actually eat everyone one of these meals on the days that I planned to. The goal is to just make sure that I have all the ingredients on hand for when I'm ready to cook. I try to pick a couple new or more complicated recipes for the weekends. I save crockpot meals or easy to prepare meals for weeknights.
A lot of meals are green because I am using the same ingredients as other recipes. So basically I am buying ingredients that I can use for multiple meals. For example, I'll cook the spiral ham for dinner, then I put some of the leftovers in the fridge for ham sandwiches for lunch. I'll split up the rest of the ham in at least 2 freezer bags to use for other recipes.
3. Check the cupboards, refrigerator and freezer to double check if there's anything on my list that I already have. If so, I take it off the list.