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Meal Planning Tips 101: The Grocery List

Apr 20, 2017 | Meal Planning | 5 comments

Grocery list organized by section.
Sample Prep Dish grocery list organized by section of the store.

For some of you, meal planning can be super stressful. Where do you start? How do you stop the time suck of combing through all of your recipes (especially on Pinterest, which can be such a joyful rabbit hole!) to create a grocery list? How do you keep organized in the kitchen? And let's not even talk about the grocery store, right?! It's time to end the meal time stress.

The Prep Dish system contains 3 parts-

  • The Grocery List
  • Prep Day
  • Dish Day

Today, we're tackling the grocery list. This is the most important step in the meal planning process, because without your grocery list none of the other steps will fall into place.

Step 1: Week Overview

Start by grabbing your calendar and looking at the week's events. Do the kids have after school events or sports? Do you have a work meeting, networking event, church commitment, etc.? If so, you might want to add a slow cooker meal in that day or double up on a meal and plan to re-purpose – for example, a roast/brisket one day makes great tacos the next day! Once you have those days down, fill in the remaining with other meals for the week. I aim for variety in protein choices (chicken, seafood, beef, vegetarian, etc) and cuisine (Mexican, Italian, Thai, etc).

Step 2: Organize Your Recipes

In order to create a quick grocery list, you'll need an organized set of recipes. First, you'll need to decide where you want to store your recipes. There are lots of options- in a notebook, physical file folder, computer files (word docs or Google docs) or on your Pinterest boards. I like to then organize by protein type (chicken, beef, seafood, etc.) and also separate out breakfasts, lunches, snacks, salads, desserts, soups and slow cooker/ Instant Pot meals so I can quickly search by meal type, too. I would also keep a file, separate Pinterest board, etc of “go-to” recipes, tried and true recipes that you know you can turn to in a pinch.

Step 3: Grocery Store Ease

If you find yourself wandering the grocery store aisles or constantly circling back to get an item, I'm here to help! When I was a personal chef, I needed to make sure I was doing the most efficient grocery shopping possible, because time = money. I needed to get in and out, with all the items on my grocery list, and back to my client's house to cook. The more efficiently I did this, the more clients I could serve! My solution? An organized grocery list by food category in the grocery store. I know that the berries will greet me at the entrance of the store, so those go first on the list and after produce is the seafood aisle, so that goes next on the list, etc. If you are a Prep Dish customer, you are very familiar with our grocery list template. For those of you who are not, the Prep Dish grocery template is organized by Veggies, Herbs, Fruits, Meat, Seafood, Frozen, Dairy, Eggs, Nuts/Seeds, Pantry, Oils & Vinegars and Spices. You won't believe how much time is saved when you categorize your grocery list by grocery store departments!

Want to give it a try for yourself? We have created organized grocery list templates in both PDF and Microsoft Word formats for you to use.

Please click the button below to get your FREE Grocery List Template. You will also get signed up for our free newsletter as well.

I hope these tips help end grocery list chaos and get you to Step 2 of the Prep Dish System: Prep Day. We will be diving into that topic later this month – so stay tuned!

Of course, if you still don't want to do the work, which I totally get because that's why I started Prep Dish ;), you can always join us as a subscriber or join our newsletter list (if you didn't fill out the form above to get the download) to get a free week's meal plan!

Do you have a favorite grocery list template or app that you use? Let me know in the comments below or post a pic of your grocery list on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Find us in all 3 places as @prepdish!

Beginner Menu Guide


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Allison Schaaf Chef, Prep Dish

Prep Dish is a gluten-free, paleo, and keto meal planning website. Celebrity personal chef & dietitian Allison Schaaf thoughtfully crafts each plan using her own well-tested recipes. Each meal plan allows you, the home cook, to spend only 2-3 hours preparing a week’s worth of crave-worthy, healthy meals using seasonal, whole foods (nothing processed!). We aim to save you time while keeping your family’s taste buds happy.

Along with a weekly menu, you’ll get a printable grocery list and recipes for prep day — just one day of preparation yields scrumptious, good-for-you dishes all week long. Learn more…

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  1. Kaelyn Bujnoch

    Please send me the template. Thanks!

    • Meri Raffetto

      Hi Kaelyn,

      Go ahead and fill in your info on the form below the article! Thanks!

  2. Laura Ewing

    Would love the template, thank you!

  3. Cynthia Robichaud

    Please send me the shopping list template. thanks

    • Meri Raffetto

      Hi Cynthia,

      Just fill out the form below the article and you’ll get the shopping template! Thanks!


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