In this post, I share my own list of grocery shopping essentials that I use in conjunction with my meal planner to put together my weekly food shopping list. I also outline why it’s important and useful to have a basic grocery list of food essentials. Plus you can download my FREE printable basic grocery shopping list template (not even an email address needed).
BASIC GROCERY LIST OF ESSENTIAL FOOD ITEMS
Do you struggle to get healthy meals on the table fast for the whole family whilst staying on budget? What you need is a basic grocery list of essential food items. It will save you time, brain bandwidth, keep your food spending within budget and save you money each time you shop.
Now obviously your list of grocery essentials won’t be exactly the same as mine. But my list should help you to get started super quickly. We are omnivores who eat a mix of meat, vegetarian and vegan food, so our shopping list reflects this. I have summarised it below.
BASIC GROCERY LIST OF ESSENTIAL FOOD ITEMS
This is my basic list of essential food items that I keep for reference in my kitchen and use in conjunction with my meal planner.
- Milk – whole (for kids), semi-skimmed and long life (for emergencies)
- Butter – salted and unsalted
- Eggs – always free-range and organic where possible
- Cheese – hard cheese, soft cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, cream cheese, cottage cheese
- Onions – spring, white, regular and red
- Rocket/ Arugula
- Green beans
We buy organic and free-range meat wherever and whenever possible.
- Chicken – whole chicken, chicken breasts, chicken thighs (great value), chicken drumsticks
- Beef – best value cuts, organic beef mince, burgers, meatballs
- Whitefish – haddock, cod
- Pink fish – tuna, salmon
- Seafood – prawns/shrimp
- Pork – bacon, pork chops
4. Pasta, Rice, Noodles, bread
- Bread – Spelt sourdough, wholemeal
- Bread buns – hotdog buns, brioche burger buns
- Pasta – spaghetti, tagliatelle, penne, lasagna, small pasta, soup pasta, gnocchi
- Rice – white basmati, wholemeal basmati, risotto, pudding
- Noodles – thick and fine
- Grains – bulgar wheat, quinoa, couscous
- Fish fingers
- Veggie Sausages
- Smoked salmon
- Smoothie fruit mix
- Sofrito mix
- Vegetables – peas, broad beans, mixed grilled vegetables, soya beans (edamame), root vegetables
- Oven chips
- Yorkshire puddings
6. PRESERVES, SAUCES and OILS
- Jelly / Jam
- Peanut butter
- Syrup – golden, maple
- Vinegar – white wine, red wine, cider, malt, balsamic
- Cooking wine
- Oil – olive, sunflower
- Soy sauce
- BBQ sauce
- Tomato puree
- Lemon juice
- Tikka paste
7. Cereals, crackers and cookies
- Porridge oats
- Grown-up cereals
- Children’s cereals
- Cheese biscuits
- Cookies/sweet biscuits
8. Nuts, Seeds and Dried Fruit
These are all great high energy snacks for tired moms and healthy additions to all sorts of quick meals:
- Seeds – flaxseed, chia seed, pumpkins, sesame
- Nuts – walnut pieces, almonds ground & flaked, pine kernels, brazil nuts, cashews
- Dried fruit – raisins, mixed fruit, dried apricots, dried prunes
- Dried mushrooms
- Edamame beans
- Tomatoes – chopped, whole
- Baked beans
- Beans and pulses – lentils, kidney, garbanzo (chickpea), black eye, black,
- Fish – anchovies, sardines, tuna
- Fruit – pineapple, peaches
- Flour – plain, wholemeal, self-raising, white bread, brown bread, spelt
- Corn starch / cornflour
- Sugar – caster, granulated, icing, brown, demerara
- Chocolate – cooking, cocoa powder, chocolate chips
- Baking agents – baking powder, baking soda/bicarb, cream of tartar
- Vanilla essence
- Vegetable suet
- Custard powder
- Condensed milk
- Food colourings
We don’t have lots of bought snacks and I’m afraid crisps are for parties and picnics only but we do keep a supply of no sugar, organic snacks in that help my fruit-phobic daughter to get her five a day …
- Crisps – ready salted, salt and vinegar
- Popcorn – sweet, salted
- Chewing gum
- Chocolate – Bars, buttons
12. Herbs and Spices
- Stock cubes – vegetable, meat, fish
- Spices – cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, garam masala, fennel seed, cumin, chilli powder, curry powder, paprika,
- Herbs – oregano, basil, mint, rosemary, sage, parsley
- Gravy granules
- Juice – orange, apple, grapefruit, tomato
- Coffee – incl. decaf
- Tea – black, green, mint, herbal
- Cordial / squash
Once you have created your basic essentials grocery list you can start using it to create your weekly shopping list.
WHAT IS A BASIC GROCERY LIST?
Your basic grocery list, sometimes called a ‘master grocery list’, is a list of all the essential food and grocery items you need to run your family kitchen and provide healthy food and snacks for your family.
Think of it like creating your own grocery index. It’s a reference list of ingredients and staple food items you can have to hand when you are creating your weekly grocery list. You simply take a look at your basic list every time you need to write your weekly shopping list.
You won’t need to buy every item of food and groceries on the list each week, but it will help you to plan your weekly shop, especially if you use it alongside a weekly meal planner.
Your basic list will help ensure that the essentials are always in your pantry, food cupboards, fridge and freezer. The list will change and evolve over the years, but your need for it will remain constant.
I’ve added a link at the end of this post to download my FREE printable basic grocery shopping list template, you don’t even need to give an email address to access it. It’s my free gift to help you get more organised with your grocery shopping.
WHY YOU SHOULD USE A basic GROCERY SHOPPING LIST
There are several reasons why you should create and use a basic grocery shopping list as the basis for your family food planning and shopping. I’ve listed a few of them here.
A grocery list is essentially a shopping planner and we all know that a little careful planning can save money. Alongside ensuring that you won’t run out of food essentials, a list will also help you stay on track with the food you buy, rather than buying unnecessary items.
It is also very easy to do price comparisons with a marked-up list of the everyday essential groceries you need to buy.
I’m not a big coupon user, but it would be really easy to tie coupons into your list, by adding the list to the shopping list feature on coupon sites.
A little planning and effort up front will save you a lot of time when it comes to ordering your food shopping or going to the supermarket to buy it.
3. HELPS YOUR MEAL PLANNING
You can use a basic grocery shopping list alongside a meal planner. The list is part of the armoury you need to create healthy meals and make sure you are making use of all the food you buy each shop, particularly fresh food. I have a post on how to get started meal planning for your family.
A meal plan is the best way to make sure you only buy what you need, keep on budget and eat healthily.
4. KEEPS YOUR FAMILY HEALTHIER
A basic grocery shopping list enables you to make better decisions about the food you buy for you and your family to eat. There is nothing like seeing a list of food written out in front of you to spot where there are issues. A lack of fruit and vegetables or too much sugar and junk.
5. KEEPS STRESS AT BAY
There is nothing worse than trying to throw together a family meal at the end of a long day when you are unprepared and don’t know what’s in the fridge. Having a basic list to build your weekly shop from will keep you on track with a fully stocked fridge, freezer and food cupboards.
6. IT’S ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY
We all need to do our bit to cut down on waste and stop consuming unnecessarily. If you stick to a meal plan and grocery shopping list you will be able to streamline your kitchen so that you only buy what you need and don’t waste anything.
HOW DO YOU START A BASIC GROCERY LIST?
There are some simple steps you can take to start your first basic grocery list. The most important thing is that you start it. Here are the steps you need to take:
1. DECIDE WHERE TO HAVE YOUR LIST
Your main options are to create a digital spreadsheet, for example, Google or excel. You could use an app such as Cozi or you could go analogue and create a list in a journal or just on paper.
Go with the method that is easiest for you and will allow you to quickly check your list. You should also think about who else needs access to the list, either to add to it or to shop from it.
I have a basic list on a Google sheet, but as I am super organised when it comes to meal planning and food shopping, I also have my list on a super useful FREE family organizer app called Cozi.
Cozi has a list feature that you can use both online and on your cell phone. There is a premium plan you can pay for, but I find that the free version has everything that I need to keep my family organised.
The great thing about the grocery list is that it is in real-time, plus Cozi stores recipes and meal plans. It really is worth giving it a go.
2. ORGANISE YOUR LIST
Organize your list into categories or sections. You could keep the categories super simple like:
- Food cupboard
Or you could divide the list into food and drink categories:
- Meat and protein
- Fresh produce – fruit and vegetables
- Grains – bread, pasta, rice, cereals
- Preservers sauces and oils
- Cans and dried food
- Baking ingredients
- Herbs and spices
Do what feels right for you. The important thing is that the list you create is easy for you to use otherwise you simply won’t use it.
3. TAKE AN INVENTORY OF BASIC ITEMS
This is your starting point. Take stock of what you have in your fridge, freezer and food cupboards and note everything down within its category or section on your list.
HOW TO CREATE YOUR WEEKLY SHOPPING LIST
The best way to create your weekly shopping list is to use the basic essentials list in conjunction with your meal plan and a weekly stock-take of the food in your kitchen.
1. WEEKLY FOOD STOCK-TAKE
Use your list as a guide to check your fridge, freezer, pantry and food cupboards to check what food and ingredients you’ve run out of, what is close to its use-by date and what is close to needing replenishing.
2. START YOUR WEEKLY SHOPPING LIST
Add everything you need to buy to your weekly shopping list.
3. MAKE A MEAL PLAN FOR THE WEEK
Use your kitchen stock-take to help you plan your meals for the week, work out how to use up food close to its use-by date and to make the most of the food you have.
4. ADD ALL THE INGREDIENTS TO THE WEEKLY LIST
Once you’ve put together your meal plan for the week ahead you will be able to list the food items that you need to make all the meals for the week. Add all the ingredients you need onto your weekly grocery shopping list.
I really hope you find this basic essentials shopping list post useful and can make use of the list to create your own list.
I’ve also got a post on 8 easy ways to hack meal planning that will help you plan your family grocery shop and mealtimes.
The meal planning post is a great way to get yourself into the meal planning mindset, especially if you’ve been thinking about meal planning for a while, but never seem to have the time or brain bandwidth to get started.
FREE PRINTABLE BASIC GROCERY SHOPPING LIST TEMPLATE
I’ve created a FREE printable basic grocery shopping list template that you can download. You don’t even need to give an email address. It’s totally a little something from me to you to get you started with getting more organised at meal planning and grocery shopping.
Use the link to download your FREE printable basic grocery shopping list template.
Pin to save: