Be Healthy, Save Money, & Get Organized: Meal Planning Tips

Inspiralized grocery list

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not well-versed in money management. I’m sure Lu and my parents would agree. I’d rather beg for forgiveness than ask for permission, so I’m an impulse buyer. A sequined blazer? Why of course I need that! $16 glass of wine instead of the $9 one? Duh – it must be better! Talk about yolo-ing.

However, where I do shine in terms of saving money and organizing my expenses is with grocery shopping, via extensive table-making and Excel spreadsheeting. Today, I’m going to share with you my grocery lists which help me save money, keep healthy and give me peace of mind. 

We’ve all fell victim to the “all I have is moldy bread and a bag of spinach” nights when we order takeout or go out for dinner and spend $30 on a meal when we could have eaten at home if we had grocery shopped that Sunday. Heck, I once spooned peanut butter into my mouth and chased it down with chickpeas. I was clearly out of my mind.

I’m here to help. I’m going to give you my tips for grocery shopping on a weekly basis and stocking your pantry to equip you with the necessities. I’ll finish with the actual, downloadable version of my Inspiralized grocery list that I use to keep organized and healthy.

DISCLAIMER: This is only for dinner meal planning! Adjust your grocery lists accordingly to include items for breakfast and lunch.

Tips for Meal Planning for Inspiralized Cooking

1. Stock your pantry and keep it stocked: There is nothing worse than getting excited to make dinner and realizing that you ran out of olive oil. Major downer. It’s important to initially stock your pantry with the essentials, but it’s crucial to keep that pantry stocked. With my grocery list, I always separate the “pantry list” items so that I see them on paper and can quickly open my cabinets and check them off, before hitting up the grocery aisles. You don’t want to be in the spices aisle and say “I think I have oregano left.” Most likely, you don’t. Save yourself time here and a wasted $4.99 on a bottle of dried oregano by checking before you go shopping. 

A major benefit of keeping your pantry stocked is being able to throw together a meal in a pinch. For example, I always have canned tomatoes. Sometimes if I’m in a rush, I’ll simmer tomatoes in a skillet with some pantry spices, beans, and throw it all over zucchini noodles. 

The more you cook, the larger your pantry will grow. It’s okay to buy black sesame seeds for a recipe once. You’ll have that for a while and it may inspire you to make another dish with black sesame seeds again. However, you’ll realize quickly which items in your pantry are “essentials.” Since we all come from different cultures and upbringings, my “essentials” might be much different from yours, but these are the items I 100% always keep on hand for Inspiralized cooking:

Click here to download this list as a PDF.

Inspiralized pantry list

2. Stock your fridge and freezer with weekly produce essentials. I never leave the grocery store and farmer’s market without certain items. Keeping these food items on hand helps especially towards the end of the week when you’re low on ingredients or incase you forgot something and don’t have time to make it back to the store. Improv as a home cook is easy when you have some basics laying around. 

  • Eggs (1 dozen)
  • Garlic (2 heads)
  • Red onions (4)
  • Almond or soy milk (or preferred milk) (1)
  • Whole tomatoes (4)
  • Bag of spinach (1)
  • Celery (1 bunch)
  • Carrots (1 bunch)
  • Parmesan cheese (1 block)
  • Frozen shrimp (1 bag)
  • Frozen chicken breast (4 breasts)
  • Zucchinis (never leave the grocery store without these!)
  • Lemons (3)
  • Fresh parsley

If you’re a vegan/vegetarian, adjust accordingly to include some sort of protein source, ie tofu, seitan, tempeh. 

3. If you’re busy in the evenings or work late, prepare your meals ahead on Sundays. A fool-proof way to keep set in your meal planning is to prepare ahead. With spiralizing vegetables that are water-based (cucumbers, zucchinis, etc) make sure that you prepare the noodles separately. For example, if you’re making “Turkey Zucchini Bolognese,” prepare the noodles separately from the sauce and simply add the sauce to the noodles in a skillet and cook for a few minutes to heat up. Do yourself a favor and buy plenty of tupperware containers to accommodate weekly meal planning.

For a guide on how to store and prepare spiralized noodles ahead of time, click here.

4. Be realistic. You’re not going to cook for yourself 7 nights! You’ll definitely be going out to dinner or ordering takeout at least one of those nights. Even professional chefs eat out! Trust me, I happen to be friends with an Iron Chef! It’s a lofty goal to say you’ll cook every night and it’s an easy way to get burnt out. I usually plan to cook Monday – Thursday and Sunday. I typically go out on Fridays and Saturdays, so I don’t worry about planning dinner those nights. Adjust your meal planning according to your lifestyle. 

5. Grocery shop on Sundays. Start the work week off strong by having a fully stocked kitchen. It’ll put your mind at ease and motivate you for a week of healthy eating! 

6. Divise a meal plan and make a grocery list that incorporates your planned meals and pantry and produce essentials. This is HUGE! Ever since I started making grocery lists, I’ve saved hundreds and hundreds of dollars. It’s a pretty simple concept: decide what you’re eating that week, write down the ingredients needed and buy them. It can seem daunting at first, but once you get into the groove, you’ll never shop any other way. 

First, figure out how many days you’ll be cooking dinner. Then, write down which Inspiralized (because of course you spiralize every night!) meals you will be making. Then, look at the recipe list and write down which ingredients you’ll need for each recipe. Repeat this for each meal and at the end and tally it all up. If you’d like to save even more time, reorganize the list by grocery aisle. This helps tremendously, especially when you’re in a rush.

Here’s what a typical night of Inspiralized dinners look like on my grocery list. As you’ll see, I have a section for pantry items. Because we’re savvy cooks and we already have a fully stocked pantry, all we need to do is check our pantries to make sure that we still have enough to make the week’s dinners. At the bottom of the list, there’s a vegetable section so that you can easily tally up the number of vegetables you’ll need for spiralizing.

Inspiralized grocery list

Now, here is what that same grocery list looks like, organized by grocery aisle:

Inspiralized grocery list  

What I love most about my grocery lists is that they show me what I’m eating in a week. Clearly, Inspiralized eating is full of fresh veggies. What better to way to keep tabs on your diet than to see it laid out on a chart? 

Here is a blank copy of this grocery list for you to fill out (in Word document) and use the next time you grocery shop. I’ve kept the pantry items in there for you. If you’d like to use this grocery list to plan breakfast and lunch, just add two additional rows at the top, like this:

Inspiralized grocery list

Now you know all of my secrets. Ok, maybe not all of my secrets, but definitely my tried and true grocery shopping tricks. 

Happy food shopping! 

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Comments

  1. This is really awesome…I am a Sunday shopper/cooker for the whole week. Thanks!
    P.S. I’m getting really nervous about winter b/c the size of zucchini at my grocery store are shrinking, getting harder to spiralize!

  2. I’ve been enjoying your instagram photos (there can only be one Inspiralized, right?) Love the spreadsheets. My book focuses on “planning it thin” and it’s difficult to make menu planning approachable- well done. And I’m an impulse buying too, will never change.

  3. So. Your excel spreadsheets kind of make me giddy. That’s normal, right?

  4. This is amazing! It makes me realise how disorganised I am with shopping :-) Especially not being realistic and counting with 7 days rather than 5 at home + 2 eating out. Thank you Ali!

  5. Thank you so much! I love this!

  6. This is awesome!! I have been planning my week’s meals and making a grocery list, but I really needed a better way to organize it. I’m definitely going to use this method.

  7. OK…so I already commented on a page today…but then I saw this and could not help myself (plus I’m a new subscriber so I am really excited about everything). I am a BIG meal planner a Saturday only grocery shopper (to the point where if we run out of milk too bad, wait until Saturday). But I think you just made my life EVEN EASIER!

    Thanks for posting, its great!

  8. I know this is an older post but i had to comment. Not even sure you will see this.. I really appreciate you helping those of us who have the most unorganized meal planning (and then some). My biggest problem is that i see 3 or 4 gourmet style recipes i want to try that require buying single use items that never get used again because they only work for that particular recipe. So by the end of a month i will have SO MUCH STUFF in my kitchen that is, put frankly, going to waste. I love my earth, i dont want to be wasteful. Yet i want to try new things & experiment with new recipes constantly. I like your weekly planning schedule. & since going back to full-time work it may be time to simplify my meal planning. Thank you for the charts, i will certainly give them a try. I need to learn to simplify & substitute. & learn that a recipe doesnt have to be difficult to taste amazing. Your recipes are teaching me that. I am also learning through your site that the least amount of ingredients can actually be healthier for you. Now if only you & your recipes could organize the rest of my life, house, car, desk, …. Jk. Tee-hee!

  9. Elizabeth Hess :

    You are awesome. Just found your blog and all the wonderful info you share! Thank you so much!

  10. This shopping list organizer is exactly what I needed! Thank you for sharing! We already use coupons to save on items we frequently use. This organizer will help me to better plan meals and hopefully not waste so much! At a glance I will know which items I already have in my pantry and/or freezer for the upcoming week’s meals! I can cross off my list before going to the store and not purchasing multiples of items I already have at home. I am excited to try out your shopping list organizer this week! Thanks again!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Meal planning. It’s less overwhelming to cook healthy if I know what I’m cooking. I plan on Sundays – check out my post on that. […]

  2. […] Sunday, plan your spiralized meals for the week (check out this post for more tips) and then prepare your noodles accordingly. Keep them in plastic bags or containers […]

  3. […] Oh and of course, all of this wouldn’t have been possible without meal planning. Every Sunday, I would decide not only what my blog post schedule was but also, what I was going to eat for dinners that week (which 95% of the time revolved around my blog post schedule – so I was eating what I was blogging, or, practicing what I was preaching!) I sat down on Sunday, made a detailed list, shopped and did any meal prep beforehand that I could – spiralizing all of my vegetables for the week and cooking meats or rinsing cans of beans, things like that. You can learn more about my meal planning tips in this post. […]

  4. […] Meal plan for the week. I’ve got plenty of tips for that here and here. […]

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