I need to meal-plan. If not, it would be cereal for all every night!
It goes like this: I sit down every Saturday night with the weekly fliers, my recipe binder, the laptop and my notebook of shopping lists. First I look through my "master list" (which I keep in my recipe binder) of all the things I like to keep on hand. You should make one, it's super-handy! It's a list of everything I need for typical breakfasts (I have a few options that everyone can choose individually from), lunches (I let the kids decide what we all have for lunch each day), snacks, salads and baking. Also things like spices, teas, and household items. I quickly glance through the list and see if we need anything on it. I will do a quick look through the pantry, fridge and freezer to confirm. I write what we need on the shopping list.
Then I look through the fliers and see what's on sale. I see if anything tickles my fancy. Or if anything we use a lot is on sale so we can stock up. I add those things to my shopping list. It also helps inspire my dinners. I then take out my list of meals (also in my recipe binder), and make my dinner plans.
I make a different dinner every night of the month. I write them on the calendar. That way I know what I need to do every day, and can take meat out of the freezer or other prep as necessary. Dave also knows what to look forward to each day, and it ensures that I don't repeat meals. If you give me a past date I could tell you what we had for dinner! I'd just need to look it up in my calendar!
We go shopping early Sunday morning, while the store is stocked full of goods, but before it gets busy. I make dinners Sunday through Friday, then Saturday we have leftovers or pantry food. It helps clear out the fridge for the influx Sunday morning, and saves us the cost of a meal. And it gives me a night "off".
I have a list of over 30 meals we really like. I also try to add new ones every so often. I print out all of my recipes, and keep them in those clear page protector things in my binder. That way they are on hand when I need them, I can just take 1 sheet to the kitchen with me instead of a whole recipe book, and if I spill or splatter anything on them, it just wipes off and doesn't ruin the paper. I used to do 1 new meal every week, but that stopped when I got pregnant with Ruthie, and I kept just craving our regular meals (I still did a different meal each night of the month though). I want to start trying new things again. It's not that hard, really. I bet you could think of 30 meals you like with little effort. Try it, just write them out. Then the internet is a fabulous resource for new ideas. The internet taught me how to cook!
So I decide what meals to have, then add the ingredients necessary to my shopping list (if we don't have them on hand). I try to think of meals that have similar ingredients (like nachos, taco salad, and burritos for example), so we don't have to buy a million different things, and there is less of a chance of things going bad in the fridge, since we will most likely use it all up over the various meals. I will also take a look in the fridge and see what ingredients we do have in there, and think of things I could make with those.
Sometimes I will look up recipes for different baked goods I want to try too, and add any necessary ingredients to the shopping list.
Finally, I ask Dave if there is anything he is craving or wants, and I add that.
And... that's how I do it!