I work from home, and am lucky enough to have lots of flexibility built into that arrangement. You would think that means I always have a spotlessly clean house and four course meals on the table every night, but you would be wrong. I'm very much still figuring out a system to tackle all the household tasks that need to get done. First and foremost on that neverending list is grocery shopping/meal planning, and through lots of trial and error, I think I've come up with a pretty good system. While I am no Betty Crocker, my system has definitely improved from my days of teaching full time, during which it was a small miracle that food magically made it into our pantry and fridge and eventually ended up on a paper towel in the microwave plate for dinner. Here's what's working for us right now:
List making and grocery shopping on Thursdays
Shopping on Thursdays works best for me for a few reaons. First, the stores tend to have just switched their sales (usually on Wed.), so there is a big selection of sale items available. Second, I can pick up anything special I might need for weekend gatherings or events since plans are already in place. I also avoid the weekend or Monday crowds. Bonus - my favorite cashier always works Thursdays. She is a sweet older lady who's fun to talk to and always makes sure my chips and bread don't get smushed.
Shopping primarily at Target
We have a Super Target in town with a full grocery. It's so great to take a swing through cute shoes and Nate Berkus' latest collection at the same place I buy deodorant and olives. We do supplement with a few bulk items at Sam's/Costco once a month and fresh produce from the farmer's market occasionally, but for the most part it's a one stop shop, which is very convenient and makes grocery shopping less of a chore. I also combine their online coupons with the Cartwheel app on my phone. This week, I saved $19 between those two things.
The grocery notebook
I have a specific notebook that's just for grocery shopping. I use this one (also found at Target). It seems to be the perfect size and has two different pockets to keep coupons together. Every week I open up to a new two page spread. On the left, I plan meals for the week based on what we already have on hand, what's on sale, etc. I also do not plan a new meal for every night. I schedule leftovers, dinners out, or even a frozen pizza right in there. I also use that space to write down any other recipes I might want to make like banana bread, or a new dessert. Doing this meal planning first helps me make sure I include any ingredients I need on my list. On the right I make my list using a four corners method. I do this so it can all fit on one page by grocery store area. For example, I might start my dairy list in the upper left corner and meat in the upper right going down, but then produce in the lower left and dry goods in the lower right going up. This is a little OCD I will admit, but it really makes grocery shopping go faster and ensures I don't forget things.
One person in control of the budget and shopping
I'm responsible for the groceries around these parts. While Mr. Ladd will certainly run to the store for a few things every once in a while, we find it's easier for one person to primarily take care of it. We have a set grocery/household budget, and every other week on payday, I take that amount of cash out for the next two weeks. This has been a huge help in staying on budget and not just throwing random things in the cart. It's easy (especially when you find cute things at Target) for that grocery bill to creep up, but this really helps.
Lest you think I am an organized control freak when it comes to planning our meals, this is all very flexible, and nothing is set in stone. If we spontaneously decide to order take out instead of making tacos, I just make the tacos the next night. And, sometimes we're just not in the mood for whatever's on the menu so I keep quick things like quinoa, pasta, and even that frozen pizza on hand.
I hope some of these ideas are helpful for you, and I'd love to hear what you do to organize your grocery shopping and meal planning. I'm always looking for suggestions in this area. Also, Kelsey from Rising*Shining and I are always talking about this topic, and we get into it in this episode of The Girl Next Door Podcast.