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Weekly food shop and meal planning

edited 21 November at 9:13AM in Old Style MoneySaving
9 replies 5.2K views
Ianredman26Ianredman26 Forumite
5 posts
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edited 21 November at 9:13AM in Old Style MoneySaving
Hey 👋  
I'm intrigued to know how people do their weekly food shop. I hate my weekly chore of scouring recipe books for my meals then writing out a shopping list, it's such a laborious task.
Do people use recipe books? Are meals planned ahead? Are meals decided on while in the supermarket?


  • baggins11baggins11 Forumite
    235 posts
    100 Posts First Anniversary
    Hi Ian

    We don't look at recipe books as we have a repertoire of meals that we know how to cook and don't always stick to the recipes.
    We have a list of standard products we buy each week that are flexible. Eg I buy peppers, frozen prawns, frozen salmon flakes, mushrooms, baby leaf spinach and onions every week. So I can make chilli prawn linguine or veg pasta or creamy mushroom and salmon pasta/risotto or even a prawn curry.

    So we just check we are stocked up on all the long life stuff and frozen stuff. Eg frozen veg, tinned lentils, tomatoes, pasta jars, curry paste, rice, pasta, soya cream etc.

    We also have frozen options in for quick meal options chips, fish fingers, vegan burgers etc.

    I do like to go to the shops with an idea of what we will cook but its nice to have the flexibility. Also I will buy things like brocolli with no particular meal in mind and then add it to whatever you fancy. You just have to be careful to use it up and not forget about it in the fridge.
  • baggins11baggins11 Forumite
    235 posts
    100 Posts First Anniversary
    You might benefit from learning a repertoire of a few basic meals that can be adapted. It would drive me mad if I had to use recipe books every week.

    Eg you could learn a basic bolognese sauce that can become a chilli or turn into a lasagne. Or make double and the next day it becomes sloppy joes! Then you can easily mix things up without having to think too much about your shopping list.

    If you are an experienced chef who just likes using recipes ignore the above advice.
  • joedenisejoedenise Forumite
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    I meal plan a month at a time so that I can make sure I use up the stuff I buy.  There are 2 of us but nearly every meal I make I cook enough for 4 portions so 2 get frozen or sometimes will be kept in the fridge for a couple of days later.  When I plan my meals I am trying to include a new to me recipe a few times a month - I recently went through a few recipe books and made a list of the meals I wanted to try over the next few months.  We mostly eat fairly basic things like a roast on Sunday, left overs Monday and if the joint was big enough I'll make something else, eg chicken curry, mince up lo lamb to make shepherds pie.  We have sausages - sometimes as part of a fry up, as a toad in the hole, casserole etc.

    You really need to make sure you can cook some basic meals and then, as @baggins11 says, turn them into other meals.

    The shopping list is just made up of anything you don't have in the fridge, freezer or cupboards; topping up levels in cupboards, things like tomatoes, beans, lentils etc.  Also check that I have enough frozen veg, meat, HM ready meals etc for the plan.

  • PollycatPollycat Forumite
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    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper Savvy Shopper!
    Like the above poster, I meal plan for weeks ahead.
    Currently, I have meals pencilled in for as far forward as January.
    But these are just ideas and can be changed, depending on what I buy on my fortnightly visit to Aldi and on OH's trips to Tesco.
    From being totally unused to food shopping until lockdown, he now goes armed with a detailed shopping list and a note of planned meals for the next week or so but with the instruction to bring anything that looks interested.
    The other week he came home to a warm welcome with 2 fab aubergines which resulted in a change of menu plan to moussaka and parmigiana.

    I find being organised is key for me.
    I have an excel spreadsheet with 2 months of menus on each worksheet.
    That allows me to look back and see what we were eating this time last year.
    It also means I can move things about easily without scribbling out.
    I've just checked and I have menus dating back to April/May 2017.  :open_mouth:
    I also have a list of everything that's in my freezer & the date it went in.

    I like to try different dishes so every once in a while I sit down with a cup of coffee, my recipe books and my menu and freezer spreadsheets and rough out my menus based on those.

    For me, all of that that makes doing a shopping list easier.
    I'll plan several dishes that use mushrooms and peppers and buy family packs to make savings.
    I buy a larger pot of creme fraiche and it will do goulash and stroganoff a week apart.
    I'd never buy a single green pepper for a specific recipe.

    Also, like the poster above - and depending on what we're eating - I will do enough for 4.
    Quite often I batch cook things like bolognaise, chilli, shepherds pie bases, corned beef hash, dhal - doing up to 12 individual portions for the freezer.

    But - organisation was a key part of my job until I retired so I have the skills, willingness and time to indulge what for me is a pleasant task.

  • goldfinchesgoldfinches Forumite
    211 posts
    Ninth Anniversary 100 Posts Photogenic Name Dropper
    I'm just chiming in here to say that I seem to be a cross between the previous two posters. I have a queue of recipes that I want to try, a set of staples e.g. milk and yoghurt that are topped up at regular intervals and also snap up anything that catches my eye especially y/s items. 
    I have a larder/fridge/freezer inventory which I consult when planning and keep a speculative list of things I'd like to make if the ingredients are available/affordable/on offer. I also have records going back more than a year which I refer to when evaluating new recipes.
    I plan to batch cook twice or three times a week and then eat up those portions rather than varying my meals on a daily basis. I have an extensive library of cookbooks and subscribe to Nigella, Delia, BBC Good Food and many others because it gives me great pleasure to do so. 
    Some internet sites include the option of an automated shopping list for their recipes which you might find helpful but you do then need to delete the items you already have, it's not much different but you may find you prefer doing it that way.
    Adults do more work than they make; Children make more work than they do.
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  • edited 22 November at 8:13PM
    DD265DD265 Forumite
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    edited 22 November at 8:13PM
    I meal plan a week at a time. We tend to cycle through the same recipes, and have them written up in Google Keep, with the meal plan in a Google Calendar. We keep a list of what's in the freezer in Keep too, but don't note what's in the fridge or pantry. Our shopping lists - one for the supermarket, and one for the butchers - are also in Keep, meaning everything is accessible on the go. An added benefit for us, as we have a Google Nest Mini in the kitchen, is that we can ask Google to add an ingredient - like soy sauce today - to the supermarket list as we run low and don't forget.

    I will put everything in for the recipe that I know we need (e.g. meat, fresh things) and anything I'm not sure on will be suffixed so they can be checked before we go. We also have a few staples; milk, yoghurts etc. I'd say out of every 6 weeks, we'll have 4 weeks of going to the butchers/supermarket for 'big' shops, then a couple of weeks where we're using bits up out of the freezer and probably don't need the butchers at all, with only small supermarket spends. Last week for example I spent under £30 on the food shop, this week it came to £85 across the butchers and supermarket, though some of the meat will be used next week. We don't tend to get many YS bargains, preferring meat from the butcher, and anything else has to be suitable to freeze really, as I dislike changing the meal plan on the fly.

    What I do struggle with is meal planning to a budget. I just put in what I fancy and then go buy what we need with no real thought to what the meals cost, and I'd like to bring those costs down so that's my next project. :smile:
  • maisie_catmaisie_cat Forumite
    1K posts
    Ninth Anniversary 500 Posts
    There are some very organised people on her, I applaud your planning skills.
    I hate supermarkets and avoid food shopping if I can. As a result I bulk buy/cook and freeze, I have audited in the past and had a stock list on the fridge but frankly I was rubbish at ticking things off. I might look into keep, I've never heard of it.
    There are 2 of us and I usually get 6-8 servings/3-4 meals from anything I make so that we have "home made" ready meals for when we are busy. I bulk buy meat so that I always have chicken/beef/pork and a few processed like sausages/bacon. I use mostly frozen veg and lots of root cellar things like potatoes & onions/garlic. I grow lots of veg, and have about 20 bags of frozen cherry tomatoes!
    I have a store cupboard of flour, pasta, rice etc and herbs & spices. because we are rural we always have UHT milk, coffee beans, loose tea & frozen butter so I can easily go a month or two. 
    I tend to have a staple set of things that I never cook the same way twice. although I do often use the internet if I need inspiration. I try to rotate the carbs & protein as I was taught and we rarely have pre-prepared food, the occasional pizza being the exception.  
  • mamanmaman Forumite
    23.5K posts
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper
    I plan weekly. Although it might sound good, my weekly meal plan consists of 7 (or fewer preCovid if I was eating out) dinners written in the corner of my shopping list. After shopping I cut this out (it's the size of 2 large postage stamps) and stick it on the microwave to remind me. I start by planning to use up anything fresh that's left from the week before. I also have HM ready meals from the freezer like Bolognese or chilli so if something unexpected crops up they can be left for another time or moved forward for when I need a quick meal because I'm busy, tired or CBA. I write my plan from what I have in the freezer and cupboards and only buy essential new ingredients unless I see offers.

    I do try new recipes occasionally but most weeks consist of a roast, fish, a midweek meat and two veg, pasta meal, something with chicken, a gastropub type meal (burger, curry, Chinese) and something from the freezer. I have leftovers for lunch like bubble and squeak with cold meat or omelette or jacket potato. For breakfast I decide on the day but just make sure I buy in ingredients mostly variations on porridge or eggs. 
  • RonkneeRonknee Forumite
    47 posts
    Part of the Furniture 10 Posts
    A good way to buy what you need and you will use and thus reduce waste is to use a Shopping List app. There are loads out there, but Our Groceries allows you to build lists for different shops and arrange items in the order you go round the shop. As you shop, tap the items as you buy them and they fall off the list, showing what you still need to get.
    And build up your list throughout the week as you identify the need to stock up or replace items.

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