NOTE: I know my method may not work for everyone, it's just something that has greatly helped me stay organized, save time, and save money.
To go along with my monthly meal planning, I have created master shopping lists for the grocery store, Costco, and Target. Let me tell you, these have been a huge time saver for me over the past few years. I am a Target-aholic...majorly! I love that darn store and I would spend our entire income there if I could. So a master list for Target has also been a great way to keep myself in line. OK, enough small talk...time for the details.
The Target List:
I went through the house and wrote down everything we regularly buy at Target (personal care items, cleaning products, pet products, etc). Then I typed it up in a handy categorized list. If you use small enough font and plan the space well, you can fit two per letter size piece of paper. I keep a couple printed up and clipped to the fridge at all times. And here's the real strict part: I only go to Target once a month! Yes, I had to limit myself to once a month! I go through the list and highlight everything we are either out of or will run out of in the next month. Then I look through the sale add and my coupons to see what I can get really cheap and stock up on (toothpaste, shampoo, etc). Then I do my Target run and I stick to my list. If I forget something, it has to wait til the next month. Keeping myself in line with my favorite store has helped my debit card greatly!
The Costco List:
Much the same as the Target list, the Costco list has everything we normally buy at Costco. I try to do the Costco run once every 6 or so weeks, so the planning takes some getting used to. The same principles and rules that come with my Target shopping also apply to my Costco shopping.
The Grocery List:
And surprise, the same principles apply to my grocery shopping. I use a master list and highlight what we need based on the monthly meal plan. The first shopping trip of the month is the major stock up trip. I get all the non-perishables and dry goods I will need for the whole month, and the perishables and produce I will need for just that first week. Then each remaining week, I just buy the fresh items I need for that specific week. I am a major coupon clipper (using sites like coupons.com and smartsource.com). And like I do for Target, I seek out the deals on the things I can stock up on.
I keep all three lists clipped to the refrigerator at all times, but I also keep a clean master copy of each list in our household binder. Yes, that's right...we have a household binder. Stay tuned for that explanation!