A Week’s Menu Plan and Grocery Shopping List All in One

Photo by sporkist

I don’t mind menu planning. It’s really a good thing to do, because if you already know what’s for dinner, you’re less inclined to pick up something on the way home. What’s time-consuming for me is the shopping list: gathering all my recipes and checking the ingredients, looking through my pantry to see what I already have, and later in the week realizing that someone ate an ingredient I needed for a meal.

I came across an idea from NannyGoat that was so incredibly smart I almost fell out of my chair. What if you organized your menu plan into a spreadsheet that you could also use as your shopping list? Brilliant! Then you can easily see what you need and what meal it’s for.

Let’s try it out.

Here’s my menu plan for one week.

Day 1: Ranch Chicken, Roasted Asparagus, and Rice

Day 2: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Day 3: Summer Salad with Garlic Toast

Day 4: Family Style Chili (makes extra to freeze for later)

Day 5: Eggs, Bacon, and Roasted Red Potatoes

I only plan five dinners for a week’s menu. The other two nights are something easy: leftovers, dining out, or a meal from the freezer. Most of these meals feed two to four people. If you have a small family, you can have leftovers for lunch. If you have a larger family or hungry teenagers, you might want to make extra.

Each week I include beans, eggs, or pasta to balance the cost of the more expensive meals. I also make sure to double or triple the recipe for at least one entree. This makes it easy to invite friends over, take a meal to someone who is sick, or freeze servings for later.

But this is the part I think will save time and help the most:

The Shopping List, Recipe Links, and Cook’s Notes
(Click for the full, printable version)


The five meals are listed across the top, and the ingredients are organized down the side. I can quickly see what I need to prepare each meal. On the right side is a total of all the ingredients. Before I go to the grocery store, I can print this list and highlight the things I need to buy.

Update: Printables! Print a blank form that you can fill in with your own menu.

Haven’t tried menu planning before? Try this one, it’s already done for you. What are your family’s favorite regular meals?


interviewIf you’re in Dallas, watch the CBS news on Tuesday night. I’ll be on in an interview about Small Notebook and our annual No Spend Month challenge coming up in July. The interview airs on CBS channel 11 tomorrow at 10:00 p.m.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Great idea.. : )

    Ivy´s last blog post..Martha Mondays

  2. Your no spending month fascinates me…though I think July is out for me. I like to plan menus, too–though I am far less organized than you!

    Mrs. E´s last blog post..Nothing Lacking

  3. Hi Rachel,

    I love meal planning and it’s a MUST for me. It saves loads of time during the week, it’s less stressful and it saves you money in the supermarket and by not eating out. I love how the plan and shopping list are integrated as well that’s fantastic!

    Congrats on your CBS interview how exciting! I’ve checked out your no spend month and I think I’ll give it a go this July and see how we do. :)

    Sherri (Serene Journey)´s last blog post..Favorite Finds Of The Week

  4. Hi Rachel,

    I love meal planning and it’s a MUST for me. It saves loads of time during the week, it’s less stressful and it saves you money in the supermarket and by not eating out. I love how the plan and shopping list are integrated as well that’s fantastic!

    Congrats on your CBS interview how exciting! I’ve checked out your no spend month and I think I’ll give it a go this July and see how we do. :)

    Sherri (Serene Journey)´s last blog post..Favorite Finds Of The Week
    Oops…forgot to say great post! Looking forward to your next one.

  5. I always plan my menus each week. I love this idea. Thanks for the recipes too; they look delicious.

    Amanda @ Mommy’s Idea Book´s last blog post..The Mommy Interviews by Kristy Stratton-Tolley

  6. Love it. I usually just make sure to keep a good stock of staples in my pantry, and shop the weekly sales, but sometimes I am left scrambling when I’m without an ingredient that I thought I had on hand. I’m going to give this a shot.

  7. Thanks Rachel for the pdf. I have been shopping for two weeks with meals planned. It has been time consuming going through all the recipes each time and adding it all up on a separate list. Also, trying to remember which meals needed particular ingredients. I will surely try this method and let you know how it works for our family.. and I’m excited to try new recipes. Thanks again.

    Lynnette´s last blog post..Yogurt in the Crock Pot

  8. I love this! Thanks for this post!

    Cherry Tree Lane´s last blog post..MOVE! THAT! BUS!

  9. Allison says:

    ah yes… “later in the week realizing that someone ate an ingredient I needed for a meal”

    so very very frustrating!!

    thanks for the spreadsheet!

  10. I smiled too when I read about someone eating an ingredient you needed for a meal . . . let’s just say that between the two other “someones” in our house, it’s not the one who can’t open the toddler-proofed refrigerator and cabinets :).

    I love spreadsheets for planning menus, though mine’s a little messier, but it works for me. One thing I do sometimes when I’m feeling like I can’t think of what to make is to consult my “frugal meals” list that is broken down into categories of vegetarian, casseroles, soups, etc. and lists the rough cost per serving (not including staples I usually keep on hand).

    I also will often try to go through a whole month and list out what I think I could make on each night. That way, when things go on sale (like meat or pasta, for instance), I can go ahead and stock up on those items for meals later in the month. Some nights are intentionally easier, like Thursdays when we make homemade pizza, or Sundays when we just eat leftovers. Fridays, if we have it in our budget, are set aside for a simple but fun meal out.

    When I’m really organized, I like to even break down the days of the week into general types of meals, i.e. soup and bread night, vegetarian night, ethnic food night, etc.

    Life from the Roof´s last blog post..Just let it go

  11. Very cool idea! Love the shopping list blended with the meal plan for the week. And thanks for your spreadsheet – hopefully it will help me get more organized!

    Jules @ Lovely Las Vegas´s last blog post..Happy Friday from Lovely Las Vegas!

  12. I love this idea! Thanks for sharing! And Congrats on the interview. I hope there will be a way for us not in the Dallas area to see it!

    Diann @ The Thrifty Groove´s last blog post..Throw Out Fifty Things!

  13. WOW! I never thought of this. I love menu planning! I will have to give this a try!

    Rachel´s last blog post..Lotsa Lasagna

  14. Please post the CBS News bit!

    Juliet´s last blog post..My next car!!!

  15. I agree with Juliet – please do post a link to the CBS spot. I know you won’t want to, but seriously, all of us non-Dallas readers would LOVE to see and hear you. Please oh please oh please? :D

    Megan @ Simple Kids´s last blog post..Rainy Days: The Indoor Safari

  16. Wow, that really is organized. I meal plan, too, but I plan for 2 weeks at a time. Mondays are always crock pot nights, on Wednesdays my partner cooks (with much grumbling), and on Fridays we almost always have homemade pizza (I freeze a bunch of dough ahead of time, so it’s actually quite quick and easy). I have found that shopping for two weeks really cuts down on the impulse buying! I keep our menus on a little whiteboard, and most recipes are in plastic sleeves in a binder.

    My best, easy recipes are ground turkey and black bean chili (we have this almost every week) and stuffed pasta shells. I make a lot of chicken breasts with rice and potatoes and whatever vegetables we have. I love, love this roasted chicken recipe, too: http://tammysrecipes.com/oven_roasted_chicken.

    liz´s last blog post..spring in Fairbanks, Alaska

  17. This is a great idea! I’ve seen other menu plans and shopping lists, none of which seemed to “compute.” This one seems much better and thanks for sharing it. I’ll give it a try on my next go ’round with menu planning and shopping.

  18. I am collecting recipes to start menu planning, so I’m glad for the suggestions, thanks! I also have one for you, I have a large basket in my pantry that I put the ingredients for that week’s recipes in, so that my family knows the items in the basket are off limits for snacks. That way I don’t find out at the last minute that an ingredient has been eaten! :)

    Kimm´s last blog post..The Family Couch

  19. I could have written that first paragraph myself — such great points! I love this idea and will have to try it out. Seems it would be easiest to just have one master spread sheet that could be filled in quickly each week. Now I just have to sit down and set that up. :)

    Allegra´s last blog post..Treasury Love

  20. I have been planning meals for more than a year. It helps to make my life easier and stay on budged with my food costs. I use a spreadsheet similar to this, but I also track prices so I know how much I’m spending before I even go to the store. Prices do flutuate, but I updated after each shopping trip. I’ve found that I need a bit more automation. As a web developer/designer I am currently working on a meal planner/grocery list application. The idea is to be able make my meal plan and have it automatically make a list of the ingredients I need and put it on a grocery list. It’s still a major work in progress but I hope to finish one day.

    Alicia´s last blog post..Mother’s Day

  21. This is great! But I have a question, does anyone menu plan to include breakfast and lunch? When you grocery shop you have to include things for that. Any ideas in that area? Thanks!

    Terri (Colorado Dreamin’)´s last blog post..Homeschool Post

  22. Link up to List2shop.com, it helps to prepare your grocery shopping list online. It saves money and multiple trips to the grocery store. Let me know if you like this site.

  23. I cannot believe I missed this post the first time around! My husband and I have been working on how to make meal planning something that he can participate in and this is perfect! If I whip something like this up for our favorite meals then ANYONE in the family can print it out, take inventory of what we do and do not have, then go to the farmer’s market or store and pick up what is needed! Perfect!

  24. I used your meal plan for the week and it made my life so much easier (added bonus – my entire family liked all the meals). Thank you and anytime you feel like making more meal plans – feel free!

  25. My friend told me about this website that you list the groceries you have and it brings up recipes that include those ingredients – if you don’t have all the ingredients – it tells you what you need. As you run out of stuff you take it off the list and the recipes update what you need. It still has some cons it seems – but I love it – it pulls recipes from my favorite recipe site so I like that too. Its http://www.supercook.com – so what I did waited till I had hardly any groceries then I listed them on the site – picked out the recipes I liked that I had the stuff for – then I saved ones I didn’t have all the stuff for but wanted to make and added the items I was missing to my grocery list. Thought you might be interested. I love your blog ….

  26. I also first saw this idea on Nanny Goat and fell in love. I have extended a bit and have come up with 49 recipes that my family LOVES we rotate the 49 recipes over the year. I love your menu planning sheet…thanks for sharing.

  27. I loved your post. Its very organized. Colleen & I have been menu planning for years and love to do it. Recently, we formalized our menu planning process into an online drag & drop menu planning community with hundreds of recipes and users and growing. Right now you can get a free account too. http://www.minutemenuplan.com. Plus, if you have influence and already coach, take a look at our unique coaching opportunities.
    Keep up the good work!