The first thing is to make sure you know what you have on hand. This in itself will save you money. If you don't already ,start an inventory and keep it up to date. Once you know what you have get out a piece of paper and number it for the amount of days you want to fill in, if you are only planning on shopping for a weeks worth of food and such then number to seven if more then keep going. Now, by first using what you have on hand make as many complete meals as you can. A complete meal for each household may differ but for ours it's protein,carbs,vegetables,and/or fruit. I don't do this all the time and lapse in my planning from time to time,especially during specific seasons,it gets rather hectic here. But that is one of my goals for the coming year. Once you have as many meals made up as you can with what you have on hand,get another piece of paper out. Now here's where the fun starts.
One thing that I have and use often is a list of complete meals that I keep in my journal. This has helped me so much,when I'm looking through the sales adds and see the I can get a pork loin for a great price, I then go to my list and check out my pork recipes, I pick one or two and put it on a number for a meal. A little work earlier has saved me loads of time now. With that said if the price is really good I may get two or three and have them cut or leave it whole or both and vacuum seal them in portions appropriate for my family size label them, add this to my inventory list,toss them in the freezer and walk away.
Keep going with this until you have a complete list of meals for your given menu.
Now lets get started on that shopping list. First I take paper and divide it up in sections,dairy,meat,canned goods,seasonings,sweeteners,grains,vegetables,fruits,nonfood items and pet care. I go to day one and right beside it I make a mark by what I need to buy. Let say we are having Chili and spaghetti I know I'm going to need more hamburger or ground turkey. I use 1 lb of meat but I double my recipes so that's 2 lbs per meal in total I know I need 4 lbs of ground meat. I then go to my shopping list paper and put under the meat section ground beef or turkey what ever I'm going to use for that given recipe and I put four slashes to mean 4 lbs it would look something like this lean ground beef - I I I I , when I get that at the store I just mark it off. I keep doing this until I come to the bottom of my menu. I go over it once more to make sure I don't forget anything, it's so easy to forget to get butter, or yeast for baking b/c it's not right in front of you and you don't think of it. So once you get your list of groceries you will need for the meals on your menu,your not finished yet. You have to make sure you write down any household items or pet care items. Anything you need to get that while your out at the store. Do you need toothpaste,is there a good deal this week on it,and better yet is there a good deal on it and you have a coupon,don't forget to add it to your list. Don't forget snacks,you know how children and husbands love to snack. : ) Once I have my complete list finished, head to the store and do my damage. LOL
All that planning,list making and careful shopping doesn't do anyone any good if they don't preserve it properly. I put away the groceries that I can and set my meats,fruits and vegetables aside. I get our my freezer bags and vacuum sealer (if needed),and sharpie,my inventory and a pen or pencil. I wash my hands and first I handle the fruits and vegetables, I clean them and put them in the fridge in freezer bags and set some fresh fruits in our fruit basket that I keep on the table for snacks. After I have labeled and dated all bags I put them in the crisper in the fridge and start on the meat. I divide it up into portion size appropriate for my family and if I'm using all of the meat I'm handling at that time I simply put them in freezer bags,label them and toss them in the freezer. Now if I bought extra I vacuum seal them,label them and toss them in the freezer. When I'm done I clean up my mess,wash my hands and walk away, I always make sure that as I'm putting away the items I have bought I add them to my inventory,this way I'm not back tracking later or worse not using up what I already have on hand and in turn wasting money!