Bloody Brilliant – episode 2

There are those things in life that you make, buy or do and you realise it’s amazing and indispensable; and should it ever cease to exist (say, break) you will absolutely purchase, make or do it again. Or perhaps it’s a piece of advice that has impacted your life profoundly…  I’m going to write a series on things that have had this impact on me in the hopes that you can benefit from them as well. More importantly (to me) I’d love to hear what some of your favourites are.  (And no, I’m not getting any kind of money/products/sexual favours for this series from any company.  Honestly just my opinions!)

2. Menu Planning & OurGroceries phone app

For years, Andrew and I had five problems in the kitchen department.

  1. It usually wasn’t until 5:30 that someone would say, “What should we have for dinner” and then we would scramble around looking at what we had and what we could prepare in time.
  2. Because of this poor planning we frequently wasted food.  Specifically, we would put something (say, half a cut union) in the fridge and we would never use it again.  As a result it would turn green and develop some hither-to-unknown life form.
  3. Impulse buy at the grocery store.
  4. One of us would go to the grocery store without the shopping list and not remember everything they needed to pick up.
  5. We had an obvious lack of a personal chef.

Unfortunately, we still haven’t cracked #5 but we have certainly made inroads to problems 1-4.  ‘How did you achieve this miraculous turn around?’ I hear you ask.  Simply, we started menu planning.

Once a fortnight I will sit down with my handy menu planner printout download (links below) and develop a plan.


Here are my steps.

1. To do this I first look at the calendar to see what we have going on in that fortnight.  For instance, if we’re going out to dinner one evening I obviously leave that day blank.  And if we’re going to be out until just before dinner I’ll put something on the menu that doesn’t require much prep (e.g. a slow-cooker meal).

2. After that I vaguely figure out what meals we want to eat.  Because I’m the one planning the meals I get to pick whatever I’m in the mood for…. muwahaha.  –ahem –

3. Once I know what we’re going to eat I start to fill in the plan keeping in mind food we might waste.  (e.g. if a recipe only calls for half a bell pepper I’ll try to put another recipe that uses bell peppers near it.)

4. As I go along filling in my plan I write in the right-hand column items that we will likely need to pick up from the grocery store.

5. Now I take my handy plan around the kitchen just to double-check if we already have some of the ingredients on hand. (e.g. check the freezer to see if we already have a pack of frozen chicken breasts in there.)ourgroceries

6. Finally, I add the needed items to the (FREE) app OurGroceries which I have on my iPhone  and Andrew has on his Android. (Also available for BlackBerry.)  With this app we always have the grocery list on us, either person can update it and the other person can see the changes, and there is even a web interface if we’re not near our phones.  As I add them to the list I tick the final column.

So that’s it!  That’s what we do.  It’s a tiny pain at the planning stages but the amount of time/money/food we save more than makes up for it.  It also means that Andrew, who gets home before me, always knows what he’s preparing for dinner and knows that the ingredients will all be on hand.

I’ve included the link to my menu plan below, should you wish to download it. Above is a scanned copy of two used ones so you can see how I use it. (Notice in one I do the date American-style and in the other European-style.  Bad expat!)  I’ve started my week on Saturday since that’s the day we do our big grocery shop.  I’ve linked to the Excel versions below so you can change them to fit your needs, but if you don’t like my format there are tons of free printables online.  Some even include breakfast, lunch and snacks if you need that level of planning.


Trust me, it’s worth it.


As always, these opinions are my own and I didn’t get any compensation or samples as part of the review. I just think they’re bloody brilliant and want you to know! However, if the company wants to send me some stuff because of all the amazing free publicity I’ve just given them, they’re more than welcome to!!







2 responses to “Bloody Brilliant – episode 2”

  1. Meghan Avatar

    That is bloody brilliant! We seem to fail in the kitchen department too – specifically problem #1 with the add-on that I always seem to want to cook things that call for ingredients not on hand (LOL-lots of recipe modifcations happen this way!). Anyway, we always say a little planning would save us and on the weeks we manage to plan, we are saved. This is a great reminder to get on the planning wagon & stay there!
    Oh, and one more problem we often face? During 22 weeks of the year we are not really in control of our grocery list since we get whatever the CSA gives us each week. That sometimes complicates things because we don’t always know exactly what to do with everything we get. hahaha Last year we were better than the 1st year and this year is our 3rd year so we’ll be pros. Anyhoo, thanks for the reminder & inspiration to be meal planners. 🙂

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