There is no one way to make a list and menu, but here is how I do it. I start by listing the days of the week in the top right hand corner. Then, I put the meal next to each corresponding night. That way I can tear off this portion and hang it on the fridge as a reference for the week. By listing the days out this way I can easily check my calendar and see what is going on each night. Often times we may have a family dinner or something else going on where a meal is not needed.
Next, I try to take an inventory of what food I already have on hand that I can work with. I try to keep my freezer stocked with chicken breasts and at least one other kind of meat. Often times there will be one meal that sounds really good and then I will work out from there. Example, last week I made the pork loin with mustard sauce. The sauce required green onions so I still have several left over. So, I took that into consideration this week and I tried to come up with one or two meals that I could use the green onions I already had (baked potato soup and spinach enchiladas). This is a key to saving money. I try to avoid buying special ingredients that I will only use for one meal. If I do that for each meal of the week I will be spending a lot of money and probably end up throwing extras away.
Along with reusing ingredients I also try to re-invent our leftovers. I like to call this make-overs, not left-overs. Sticking with the pork loin example, we had that last night and I still have pork left over along with some sauce. I will get some kaiser rolls today and make that into sandwiches with homemade oven fries (I will get a bag of potatoes for the soup and use some of them for the fries) for Saturday night.
Finally, I always have my Kroger circular handy when planning my menu as well. If there is a certain vegetable or meat on sale I may try to incorporate that into our menu. I also have coupons nearby to compare with the sale items of the week. I don't use a lot of coupons, but there are some that save a good bit of money. Cereal has become expensive over the last few years. I always check the circular for which brand of cereal is on sale. Usually, I will have a coupon for that brand of cereal and so I will stock up. Depending on the sale, there have been times when I have purchased 3 or 4 boxes at a time and then I don't need to worry about cereal for a couple weeks.
I watch the prices on the items I buy most often and so I usually have an estimate of how much I will be spending before I even get to the store. Sometimes, I will jot the estimated price (rounding up to the next whole number) next to each item on my list. This is helpful when my list is long and I am worried about going over my budget.
Yes, all this does take some time and planning on the front end, but it is so worth it. I am able to get in and out of the grocery store in less than 30 minutes because I know exactly what I need. Also, I am only buying what I need so I am saving money.