Food Q&A: Grocery List

I need help creating a healthy weekly shopping list so I can form a meal plan that'll help me to lose weight.

Need ideas for coping with restaurant buffets? Want some good snack ideas? In our Q&A series, nutritionist and food editor Leslie Fink, MS, RD, answers questions about food, nutrition and weight loss.

Q: I need help creating a healthy weekly shopping list so I can form a meal plan that'll help me to lose weight.

A: Having foods on hand that will help with weight loss is terrific only if you take the time to prep, cook and then eat them. Therefore, I encourage you to work out a basic meal plan and build your shopping list from there.

Meal Planning Basics
While it's lovely to never repeat meals all week long, it's more practical to think of how you can use a food for more than one meal to cut back on shopping, preparation and cooking times.

For instance, as long as you're cleaning and cubing chicken for a stir-fry, plan on making chicken burritos as well. While you're grating cheese for the burritos, shred extra cheese for bean nachos. And don't forget about produce: Use leftover shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes from the nachos for a salad topped with crumbled feta cheese later in the week.

Once you have your main meals planned, create a list of basic staples to stock up on for now and the future:

  • bread
  • tortillas
  • baked chips
  • cereal
  • salsa
  • peanut butter
  • jelly
  • mustards
  • light dressings, oil, vinegar and other condiments
  • cooking spray
  • eggs
  • egg substitute
  • cheese
  • yogurt
  • dry pasta, rice and other grains
  • canned beans
  • tofu
  • frozen stir-fry vegetable mixes
  • lean ground turkey breast
  • chicken breast
  • frozen shrimp
  • canned tuna
  • lean cuts of beef

You should also keep a list of perishable items that you'll need to replenish on a weekly basis: milk, fresh fruits and vegetables.

Next, take inventory of which food items you've got left toward the end of each meal plan cycle. Create some meals for the following week using those foods and then fill in the gaps with new recipes and food items. I find that most people tend to eat the same foods and meals over and over again. So once you've completed a week or two worth of meals, meal planning and grocery shopping should be a piece of cake.