Menu Planning Hunter’s Way


My shopping list

I know I’ve been scarce again.  After doing 5 closing nights in a row, the last 3 being almost like Thanksgiving weekend again, I was beat on Monday and I had just one day off before going back to work.  I think I’m still recovering from all that.  In fact, my brain is so fried, I wasn’t sure what to write about since all my recipe development lately has been for next month’s Raw event.  Then I remembered I’ve been meaning to write about how I do my menu planning.  I know I’ve written about it before, but this time I took pictures for visuals.  Plus, I have an updated system because of my work scheduling.


A little tangent for a few seconds.  I realized as I typed the title for today’s post, that I’ve never really explained the origins of my blog’s name.  It is a long story that I will save for later, but I’ll give you a summary for now.  Hunter is my nickname given to me by the guys I worked with back home at the YMCA.  Let’s just say little ol’ me, 5′ 2″ and 105 pounds at the time, nearly took out six of the guys twice my size at one time while playing a game.  Before ever doing martial arts, I knew how to root myself and lower my center of gravity thanks to all the athletes I hung out with in college.  I shocked the bejeezus out of them and they tried to call foul.  My side won in the end.  The Lyonesse part, well…I have a lot of Arthurian novels on my bookshelves.  I enjoy reading the many different tellings of the rise and fall of Camelot.  The romantic in me?  Could be.  But heck, I’m one of those strange people who own and has read the complete works of Shakespeare.  You draw your own conclusions.  I just like where I go in my head when reading them. So that’s it.  You can call me Debi.  You can call me Hunter.  Or you can call me Dianah (a play on Hunter and the name I use in Second Life when I play in there).

Back to menu planning.

There was a time when I could just go to the grocery store, no list, no menu plan and still come home with healthy foods for dinners.  I would troll the produce aisle and pick up whatever looked good.  Then I’d peruse the meat and seafood where a plan would solidify in my mind.  Once I had my proteins chosen, I would sometimes head back to produce for more.  This worked when I didn’t mind being in the grocery longer than really necessary.

I moved on to creating a list, rather haphazard like most of us do or have done in the past.  You know what I mean.  You write down what you need or think of as it comes to mind.  I forgot things on the list a lot.  I tried crossing things off on the list to keep track of what I still needed, but that became cumbersome.

I got to the point where I just wanted to get in and get out – under 30 minutes.  Shopping at places like Fresh Market and Whole Foods helped as they are smaller than places like Kroger and Meijer.  I created my list system above several years ago.  I group everything by category.  First is produce or “fruits & veggies” as I have it written.  That’s the first area I hit and systematically go through that part of my list in the store.  Next, I move on to “meat” which includes fish and seafood.  It’s also the next natural progression in most stores as you shop on the periphery.   Then I have pre-packaged items.  Those are the food items I have to go into the aisles for.  When needed I also have a “non” and a “bulk” category.  “Non” is any non-food item like foil, vitamins, toothpaste, etc.  So, when I have that down, I know what aisles or areas I need to head to.  “Bulk” is the bulk bin area, not the bulk paper towels or drinks.  I haven’t bought paper towels in years.  I have no use for them.  Bulk drinks on the other hand…some wine wouldn’t hurt, but we don’t have the space for that.  Anyway, that’s where I get my dried beans, nuts, brown rice etc.  If you have a bulk bin section in the grocery, you’ll find that those times are generally cheaper than the packaged items.  I can either get a pound of dried beans for $1.29 or a 12 ounce can of the same beans for the same price.  Some of that weight in the can is the liquid.  I’ll take the dried beans any day.  They taste better to me, too.  Last on the list is dairy.  Unsweetened coconut milk, cheese, eggs, and the occasional sour cream, yogurt, or cream cheese.  This part of the list is rarely more than 1 or 2 items.

This is where it gets a little crazy.  I shop at Kroger for my produce.  The Kroger that is pretty much right around the corner from our complex sucks, though.  Like major sucks.  I can rarely find what I need there.  It’s small, old, and dirty.  I go there only if I need something fast and I know they’ll have it or if my produce list is small and simple.  There is a really good Kroger about 4 miles away.  HUGE produce section.  “Natural” food section 4 times the size of the Kroger nearest to us.  Bulk wine.  Oh wait.  No, seriously.  I feel like I’m in a wine cellar in their wine section.  The only other wine area I’ve seen bigger (other than at a vineyard or winery) is at Jungle Jim’s.  I digress though.  So, Kroger has pretty much the same produce selection as Whole Foods and it’s cheaper so what I save on that goes to pay for the quality stuff at Whole Foods.  I try to stick to buying organic produce if it’s something that we eat the outer skin.  Like celery.  If it’s something where I peel the skin, I buy conventional.  If I can get what I need pre-packaged at Kroger, I will buy it there.  However, I have noticed some things are actually cheaper at Whole Foods, like tofu.  Go figure.

I buy my proteins, dairy, and anything else I didn’t get at Kroger, at Whole Foods.  Whole Foods generally has a better selection of local proteins and wild caught seafood.  I will peruse Kroger’s seafood case for wild caught stuff.  The Whole Foods I shop has grass-fed beef from a farm down South. Kroger doesn’t have that kind of selection.  And, after learning about Kroger adding wheat to their ground beef, I’m really leary of buying anything from their meat department.  Whole Foods also has a better selection of free-range chicken and eggs.  I miss the local meat and eggs I got from the CSA last year.  With my crazy work schedule, a CSA this year is out of the question.


My planning calendar


My current planning calendar was born out of the necessity to figure out the menu based on my crazy work schedule.  I only know my work schedule 2 weeks at a time.  Yesterday, the schedule for the last week of March came out.  I write down my work schedule at the bottom of the day blocks.  At the top, I write down the dinner menu item.  Anything in between is appointments and what not.

I plan dinners according to whether I open, close, or work mid (midday).  If I open, I choose things really easy and simple to put together.  Generally, those days I work 6-8 hours.  If I open later in the week, I know I’m going to be exhausted when I get home, so those usually end up as “Leftover” nights.  If I close, the time I go in depends on how simple or complicated dinner will be.  The later I go in, the more complicated I can get.  Days off during the week are either dinners that are time-consuming or cooked in the slow cooker (which is currently out of commission because I broke the lid and it can’t be replaced because it is “obsolete”) so that I either have leftovers for leftover night or it will be something that will be stretched out for dinners in the coming weeks.  For example, a few weeks ago I made Bolognese sauce.  I portioned out the leftovers into Tupperware and froze them.  Each week I used a portion for a dinner.  Those were the super easy dinners after doing an opening shift.  Roasted chicken one night turns into chicken salad the next night and any leftovers get frozen for later use in soup or something else.  Next week, I’m making a beef brisket to stretch out for a few weeks that will become things like shepherd’s pie.

Planning my menu this way makes it easy on me and easy on Chaz.  He knows what to expect and sometimes he helps with the grocery shopping.  He usually does a Kroger run on the weekends when I’m at work (weekend meals are up to him) and will take care of what I need on my list if I ask him to.  This is especially helpful if I don’t have a Monday off.  Or if I don’t want to spend all morning running errands when I only have one day off between work days.

I love the board because it has a space on the left for notes and for to do lists.  Right now, I only have a long-term to do list running.  I still have artwork and pictures to hang in the master bedroom and master bathroom.  Oy.  Little baby steps.  I need to add taxes to the list.  I’m way behind on that.  I blame work and being sick and exhausted lately.  Do you think the IRS would understand?  Me neither.  *sigh*

For those of you struggling with menu planning, I hope this was helpful.  If you didn’t need help, I hope you enjoyed a little voyeurism of my day-to-day life.



  1. I was just finishing my marathon read of your blog when I saw you posted a new entry. That really does help to see your calendar. I need to invest in one when I finally move in with Dima, haha.

    • LOL Babygurl! I’m glad it helped to see it. You can use a regular calendar. I just liked the function of the board I have because of the To Do List section I can use. Saves paper!

    • LOL Babygurl! I’m glad it helped to see it. You can use a regular calendar. I just liked the function of the board I have because of the To Do List section I can use. Saves paper!

  2. I just started a coupon binder with a price book, freezer & pantry inventory and menu planner. I was off my schedule this week due to my dental issues, but I’m back on my game. Keeping a price book can help with determining the best price for stuff when you shop at different stores–and the “cycles” of sales at places like Kroger so you can figure out when to “stock up” on stuff you normally get. you can check out DIY coupon binder videos on u-tube. I’m not as gung-ho as some of those mormon ladies, but i’ve caught a few good deals on stuff in the past couple of weeks.

    • I’ll have to check that out, Stick. I’ve been thinking about doing an inventory list, especially with Chaz doing some shopping and not always checking on what we already have. I think I need to make some chili to use up some of our ketchup supply. I just don’t know how well I’d be able to keep up with it. And coupons? Granny would probably be turning over in her grave if she hadn’t been cremated since I use them so infrequently. Most of the stuff I buy doesn’t have manufacturer’s coupons. The stuff that would have them are a bit hard to come by. I do use the Kroger and Target coupons that print out with my receipt when I can, but most of the time they print off stuff that I never buy. Go figure.

      • the inventory can get easy if you make it habit to update it after each grocery trip–its part of my grocery routine now. Unload the groceries, get out my binder and update. I can tell you, it’s been an awesome thing these past two weeks–menu planning directly from my inventory list–using stuff in the freezer i had forgotten. i don’t inventory the fridge though–too much turnover too quickly.

        And as for coupons–I don’t think i even use 70% of them. I’ve discovered the key is HAVING them, so that when the sale for the thing you DO use comes up, you are ready. I also get alot of those “printed for you” coupons from kroger in the mail for stuff i actually DO use, but i would misplace them or not see them and i found i wasn’t using them, which was stupid. They are the main reason i created this binder. And to have a place to put that damn 20% off coupon from BB&B.

        • LOL Yeah, I can see me updating the binder. Well, more like Chaz NOT updating the binder with what he bought. lol I do use those printed coupons when we get ones for products I do use. I also use the ones that Kroger sends us based on what we buy there…rather what Chaz buys (ice cream, cookies, etc.).

  3. Great post, Debi! So sensible in managing your work schedule and I like that Chaz uses your planning and schedule to some degree, too. 🙂

    Thanks for some of the background of your blog’s name, too. I especially enjoyed hearing about how you kicked the boys’ butts. 😉 As an Engish major, I read a lot of Shakespeare, but I think I’ve forgotten much of it. Not all of his works were my favorites, but I still have a Shakespeare poster somewhere and I did really enjoy going to the Folger Shakespeare Library in DC once because it was, of course, all things Shakespeare. 🙂


    • Thanks, Shirley! Chaz using my planning schedule was a very loose interpretation of what he really does. lol

      The time I went to D.C., I did not get to go to the Shakespeare Library. That will be on my list for next time! I think the highlight of that trip was getting to see real Van Gogh paintings at the National Museum of Art. They happened to have an impressionist exhibit when I was there. I was in heaven. Part of me want to cry and the other part of me was screaming with joy. 😀

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