Hey everyone!  Some of you have asked for more grocery shopping related posts, so I figured this would be a good one for a Friday afternoon.

Whenever I go grocery shopping, I like to plan ahead.  I really truly believe that’s the key to smart grocery shopping and meal planning for a busy week.  Here are the steps I like to take before stepping foot in the grocery store.

Smart Grocery Shopping:  A Day in The Life

Cut Coupons
I like to go through my coupon collection and see if any coupons I have could potentially apply to this week’s meals.  Just because I might have cut a coupon though, doesn’t necessarily mean that I will definitely use it.  It really does need to be a good deal to be worth it.  Right now I get coupons from previous trips to the store (the ones that come out with the receipts) as well as from the Sunday Globe.  I know there’s a lot more I can be doing when it comes to coupons, but.. baby steps!

Review the Weekly Circulars
I also like to check out the weekly circulars to review what the store’s weekly specials are.  I then make a giant list of anything that’s on sale that I could *potentially* buy.

Hunt for Recipes
Once I have that master list of on-sale ingredients made, Tim and I discuss what nights we’ll be making dinner together that week.  We then go on a hunt for recipes that call for the ingredients that either 1) are on sale because they are written down on my list, or 2) we have coupons for.  I find the recipes either from other blogs, things we’ve made before, healthy living magazines, Pinterest, or recipes I’ve emailed to myself and saved for another time.

This week, we needed to plan meals for tonight, tomorrow night, and next Tuesday.  Here’s what went into our decision-making:

  • Tonight’s we knew would need to be something quick, so we are going to whip up some ground turkey and black bean burgers.
  • While reading Women’s Health on the way home from Oklahoma, I stumbled across a Tuscan Baked Zucchini recipe that looked interesting.  Since zucchini was one of the weekly special’s this week, well, there was that decision.
  • I’m being featured on Around The Plate again this week and need to come up with a recipe that uses strawberries (which just happened to be buy one get one free) so boom, there’s one for Tuesday night.  I’m not telling you what it is just yet!
  • I like to make a big batch of something to have on hand for lunch during the week, something I can make on Sunday or Monday and grab and go as I please.  Tomatoes on the vine, tuna, avocado, and multi-grain bread were all also on sale so this week’s lunches will be a tuna and avocado salad mixture.
  • My constant weekly staples no matter what are:  Yogurt, bananas, cottage cheese, blueberries, and a veggie to snack on at work — but again brand and what’s on sale definitely comes into play.

Make a List
Once we have it all figured out, I scrap the first master list and write out everything we need for the actual stuff we’re going to buy.  We also double-check our cabinets/fridge to make sure we don’t buy anything we already have, and check to see if we can cut any recipe ingredients that we might not really need. 

Head to the Store / Stick to the List
We don’t stray from what we’ve decided on, unless it’s to cut something out, or if we see something extra that catches our eye that we didn’t plan on.  For example, the zucchini recipe calls for pine nuts but $5.79 seemed like a lot of money to pay for something that probably won’t make or break the meal so that was eliminated on the spot.  I did catch that shrimp was on sale though, so although I might not be making anything with shrimp this week, now I have it for future weeks and I know it won’t go bad. 

Here’s what I ended up with in my cart this week!

Note:  Tim and I use the same carriage for our stuff, then at the end we split our food into three piles:  What he’s bringing home, what I’m bringing home, and the “shared” ingredients for our meals.  We usually just divide up the shared ingredients on the fly.  This of course will become much easier when we live together, but we think it’s a good method for now!


  • 7 Chobani yogurts
  • Eggs
  • Lowfat cottage cheese
  • Reduced-fat shredded mozzarella
  • Orange juice


  • Cooked shrimp


  • 2 tins strawberries (buy one, get one!)
  • 1 tin blueberries
  • Asparagus
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 avocados
  • Bananas
  • 1 yellow onion
  • Celery hearts
  • 3 sweet potatoes


  • Multigrain bread
  • Multigrain tortilla wraps
  • 2 Luna bars
  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 cans tuna fish
  • 1 container Quick Oats
  • Whole wheat rice

It probably seems like a lot of work, but my planning ahead steps above really only take me between 30 minutes and an hour.  Today I ended up saving around $20 and spending around $60 total, which is not too shabby for having had nothing in my house to start with after my travel week this week.  Plus I was out of some staples (eggs, bread, oatmeal) that I normally don’t need to buy every week.

I’ve followed these “smart grocery shopping” steps ever since I made smarter grocery shopping one of my goals for 2012, and I’m finding that I really am saving myself $20-$30 a week as compared to what I used to spend.

Pretty awesome, right?

What are your smart grocery shopping tips?! 

Off to see my uncle’s play tonight!  He has a part in “Crossing Brooklyn.”  Hope everyone enjoys their weekends!