Menu Planning and Saturday Errands

My weekends almost always start with menu planning and sorting out what errands need to be done.  I prefer to do all of this first thing Saturday morning, both to get it out of the way in order to enjoy the rest of my weekend and because I prefer to do all of my errands when most people have not gotten out of their houses yet.  I don’t like it when the stores are crowded and I have to fight people and traffic.  This does of course mean that I have to be out of my house as close to 8 am as possible.  Yes, that is early for a Saturday, and yes I would prefer to sleep in, but it makes for a calmer errand process and therefore, a calmer me.  Plus, the sooner I return home, the sooner I can nap if need be.  So to me, it’s worth it.

Most Saturdays (if I’m working on a Saturday, all of this will happen on Friday or my husband will do the errands) the alarm goes off at 7 am.  While I’m enjoying my first cup of coffee, I will do my meal planning.

First, I gather my supplies.

My supplies consist of my planner, my meal calendar, my coupon organizer, my shopping list, and my iPad.

The first step in planning out my meals for the upcoming week (Saturday through Saturday most weeks) is to fill in the events that will impact our dinners.  (My meal planning pertains only to dinner since lunch is eaten at work and breakfast usually consists of the same thing every day.)

For my meal planning, I use a simple monthly calendar (I believe I picked this one up at Target for around $2.00) that I keep in the kitchen.  I don’t keep my meal plans in my planner because my husband likes to see what we’re having, especially on nights that he cooks, which usually happens when I work late or have yoga and won’t return home until 9:30 or 8:30 at night, respectively.  (By the way, our rule of thumb is that one person cooks and the other person cleans, so we each take turns doing both chores.)

So, depending on my schedule for the upcoming week, I will write down anything that impacts our dinners: which day I work the evening shift, which day I’ll go to yoga, etc.  Once I see what days are left that need an official meal assigned to them, I will pick and choose what to make from my recipe book.

Once I’ve chosen which meal to make, I put a Post-it note on the recipe itself.  This helps me to find the recipe quickly and easily when I’m ready for it.  At this point, I’ll write down any ingredients that I need on my shopping list.

If something needs to be defrosted or marinated or prepped at odd times during the week, I set an audio reminder on my iPad.  When the bell goes off (usually in the evening in order to prep something for the next day), I look at the reminder and take care of the item.

A sample week of meals might look something like this (FFY means “fend for yourself”):

This isn’t the best example considering we were gearing up for vacation (we didn’t want to buy anything that wouldn’t be eaten) and my accountant husband was just finishing up his busy tax season (which meant he wouldn’t be home for dinner most nights).

After I’ve chosen my meals for the week and have written down any ingredients I need, I look through the grocery store’s circular to see if I can stock up on any sale items.

I also look through my coupons to see what needs to be used soon and if any pertain to anything I’m buying that week.

This coupon holder is part of Post-its’ Home Collection.  (Originally only available at The Container Store, some items from the Home Collection are now available at Target.)

At this point, my meal planning is complete.  But because I prefer to do all of my errands in one shot, I then refer to my list of places that I need to visit.

During the week, as things come up, I write down any store that I need to visit sooner rather than later to a small Post-it stuck to the weekend in my planner.  And during my meal planning I will check this list to see what stores I will include on my errand run.

Once I’ve decided which store(s) I will visit, I refer to my shopping list of essential and other items that I keep in my planner behind my “to buy” tab.

I keep separate sheets of paper here for separate shopping lists.  My “Essentials” list has all personal items I might need from places like CVS and Target.  Mainly, it consists of personal hygiene items.

Then, I have another list for everything household related, usually bought from places like Target or Bed Bath and Beyond.

From here, I add whatever I’m going to buy from either/both of these lists to my errands list in Wunderlist, adding items to whichever sub-list the item pertains to.  (You can read more about how I use Wunderlist in full here.)  Specifically, I’ll add whatever items I need from each store to that store’s list.

So in this case, I add certain items under Target, and the other items under Bed Bath and Beyond.  Of course, some items may be purchased at either location, and in that case, I may add the items to both lists.

I use Wunderlist while shopping because it’s easier for me to pull out and use my phone than it is for me to refer to my planner throughout my shopping.  The phone is easier for me to hold in one hand (because the other is usually occupied with Starbucks coffee) and can easily be tucked into a pocket if need be.  While I can pull out my planner and leave it open in the cart, I find that switching from list to list isn’t as easy with the planner while holding store items in my hand.  It’s just a personal preference.  However, since my planner is my lifeline and where I keep everything, I can’t do without keeping my lists there.  The phone and Wunderlist is just a shortcut to that information while running errands.

Of course, this means a little more work in the planning stages, but I don’t mind since we all know how much I love to plan.

Once an item has been added to Wunderlist, the item on my paper list gets a check mark.

This way, I know the item also exists in Wunderlist. 

The last part of my errand planning is to map out the order in which my errands will be done.

I’m lucky in that most of my errands take place along one road.  Still, I want to conserve as much time and gas as possible, so I map out the best way to get the errands done.  Usually, I’ll start at the furthest end and work my way back.  Groceries are always the last to be done so that they don’t spoil in the car while I’m running into another store.  There’s also opening time to consider.  Target is the earliest to open at 8 am, and thankfully, it’s located at the far end of my route.  So always I start there, and by the time I’m done, it’s after 9 am, the other stores will have opened, and I can work my way back towards the grocery store.

It really is the perfect layout for my shopping needs.

Once all of my lists are established in Wunderlist, I “star” them so that they are easy to find.

Remember my little list of stores to visit each week?  Once they’re added to my Wunderlist list, they also get a check mark.

Then, I grab my coupon book and my reusable bags and head out the door.

While I’m in a particular store, I’ll bring up the Wunderlist list for that store and check off items as I get them.

As I hit each store, I check those off as well.

Once I’m home and all items are put away, I’ll take out my planner and cross off any items that were purchased.

I will also bring up Wunderlist either on my iPhone, iPad, or Mac and delete those items that I purchased.

In reading through this post, it sounds like this process takes way more time that it actually does.  The entire process, from beginning (starting with the planning) to the end (crossing items off my planner lists), including running the errands, takes about 2 hours (depending on the number of errands that need to be run of course).  The planning part of it takes no more than a half-hour.  It does help though that I write down both any needed items and stores to visit as they come up throughout the week.  So I don’t have to think about where I need to go and what I need to buy during my planning process.

This system keeps me very well organized and allows me to make the most of my time while running errands.  Doing all of my errands in one go once a week is the way I prefer to do it, and so, being highly organized during that process helps me to complete the task as efficiently as possible.


  1. Your menu planning process is so much more involves than mine. ��

    1. It does sound involved, though not as involved as writing it down makes it seem. Mostly, the "involvement" comes from moving things from one place to another. As is my tendency, I make it more complicated than it needs to be. But it works because it keeps me organized and gets me and out of the stores faster, which is my goal. :)


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