Why Making A Menu Plan At The Store Works

Making a menu plan while grocery shopping seems counter to all the advice for organizing your meals.  However, I like to be different.  It actually works for me and maybe it would work for you as well.

Does making a menu plan while grocery shopping work perfectly?  Not always.  However, it does work most of the time and I have found myself more productive and less frustrated with my menu plans since I started doing this.

photo credit original image:  Eddie Welker via Flckr.  Modified via PicMonkey

photo credit for background image: Eddie Welker via Flickr.  Modified under Creative Commons License.

Here are the main reasons I menu plan while I grocery shop and why I think this system works.

  1.  I actually enjoy grocery shopping and I am able to go alone.  By going alone, I can take the time to think about what we need, our schedule for the coming week, and listen to that great grocery store music!  I actually find it easier to menu plan at the store than at home where I’m likely to get distracted and interrupted during the process.

  2. Since I make my menu plan while I’m at the store, I tend to work a week ahead.  I plan a week at a time but the basics of this week’s menu plan were put together during my weekly grocery trip last week.  Being a week ahead with food for a menu plan makes it easy to adapt to schedule changes that tend to arise.  It also means that if for some reason I need to skip a weekly trip to the store, we will still have enough on hand to get through the week.

  3.  My visual self does better if I’m making my menu plan while looking at the food in the grocery store rather than Pinterest.  It forces me to be realistic about my cooking abilities, budget, and what my picky family will actually eat.  Hopefully, I’m not the only one who has ever taken a recipe to the store only to realize I have no idea about the required ingredients.

  4. I don’t over plan my meals.  The problem I had when I would plan out our meals and then, grocery shop was that I would make them overly complicated.  Perhaps not the meals but I would plan out all the sides and a dessert.  Now, I just go to the store and stick to the simple items I know my family will eat.  I simply make sure a certain set dollar amount goes to fruits and vegetables and the sides are done.

  5. I can tailor my weekly menu to the items on sale or special in the store.  Instead of painstakingly going through the store flyer each week as I plan a menu, I simply plan it based on what I see on sale at the store.  This works for me because if something on sale doesn’t look like the best deal, I have not already locked it in place on a menu plan.  My local store is also great about having mark down items in the meat cases.  I’ve found some great deals and came up with new menu items to add to our rotation simply because I was not already locked into a menu as I shopped.

I should note that although I make my menu while I grocery shop, I do stick to a few of the conventional ideas.

I always check to see what we have on hand before I go to the store.  Sometimes I’ll have something that we need to use the current week.  For example, I had broccoli in my fridge Sunday that would go to waste if it wasn’t used soon so I planned one of my meals this week around it.  The week-ahead method tends to keep our freezer and pantry well-stocked so I will perhaps buy fewer meats in a particular week.

I do have a grocery budget and strive to follow it.  I don’t go to the store hungry (well, not without paying the price of a blown grocery store budget!).  For the most part, I know my prices and when something is and is not such a great deal.

If you don’t like menu planning because it seemed like it had to be done a particular way, then this post was for you.  Menu planning is helpful but it has to work for you and your family.  Don’t be afraid to try it your own way as opposed to trying to force yourself to use the more conventional and popular methods of making a menu plan.

Do you make a menu plan?  If not, I’d love to know why and if so, what is your menu planning method?

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10 thoughts on “Why Making A Menu Plan At The Store Works

  1. Elizabeth

    My husband is big into being surprised and doesn’t do well with plans so I will have food for a range of meals available, and then ask him what he wants from a selection. When I have to I will tell him we must eat X because it will go bad, but mostly I try to meet his need for spontaneity.
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    1. Jean Post author

      I don’t tell my husband the menu plan so he’s usually surprised. The only time I do share what I planned on making is if I’m not going to be home and he’ll be in charge of dinner. I like to have a plan to keep myself on track though.

  2. Christine

    This seems so smart and a great way to take advantage of unadvertised sales. I always get so frustrated with making a menu plan before I go shopping, because it doesn’t leave room for “I was at the store and they had fajita chicken for half price, so I picked it up even though it wasn’t in the plan”. Love it!
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    1. Jean Post author

      It really does help me take advantage of those sales! I find it also saves me time because I don’t spend a bunch of time going through the sales flyers since I know I’ll see the sales in the store.

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  4. Patty@homemakersdaily.com

    I don’t normally grocery shop/menu plan like that. It doesn’t work well for me. I’m a planner. I like to plan in advance and make sure I have everything I need for every recipe. When I don’t plan, or if I try to plan at the store, bad things happen. But I definitely agree that you should do what works for you regardless of conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom isn’t always right and nor does it work for everyone.

    1. Jean Post author

      It took me a long time to admit to myself that this is the way I shop and that it works for me. I think it was even harder to admit the conventional way wasn’t working for me.

      1. Deanna

        I fully agree with this – I long to be a ‘planner’ filling my lined journals/notebook papers, etc. with well thought out plans for the week, including meals, activities, chores, etc. But the reality is putting that pressure on myself just makes me feel like a loser and think lesser of myself than should be allowed. I even found that making short lists still puts me feeling not at ease. I’m needing to be more a ‘see it, do it’ type of person.

        1. Jean Post author

          I am also more of a visual person although I do much better when my visual line is not cluttered with stuff like it is today.

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