Basic Shopping List

Brooke Burton's easy shopping list and menu plan

An empty refrigerator in a food lover’s home is a sure sign that things have gotten busy. In my case, that means a restaurant-opening schedule, a young puppy that needs to be to taken care of and trained, and a husband and home that needs attention.  After that, there’s barely enough time to cook, let alone shop for food.

Lately, my refrigerator looks more like a refrigerated plastic shelving unit.

Yesterday when I opened the refrigerator door, the little overhead light showed me nothing but wilted basil, fancy mustard, mayo, sriracha, handmade jelly, a jar of some kind of juice-soaked cherries, soy sauce, and fish sauce.

Time for me to go shopping.

But what exactly does one buy when there’s no food in the house, stomachs are growling, and the puppy is whimpering and in need of a good walk?

If I’ve got less than an hour to go shopping, unpack the groceries, and make dinner, I’ll rely on my tried and true shopping list.  I can zip through any market in about twenty minutes flat with this memorized list. The seasonal basics help us stay within budget, keep us away from relying on take-out, frozen or packaged foods, and gives us room to work with hearty ingredients that have a good shelf life.

Because even though I may work in restaurants, I often don’t want to spend a lot of time thinking about menu planning and cooking. The following list includes what I shop for along with a few simple menu ideas.

Brooke’s Basic Shopping List

My basic shopping list allows for seasonal variations for several basic meals that feature protein and vegetables. I can use milk for my morning coffee or to pour over my granola. For snacks we have a square (or two!) of chocolate and a handful of nuts, a piece of cheese, or fruit.

Almond Milk
1 Greek Yogurt
1 Regular yogurt
1 dozen eggs
1 square of tasty cheese
1 chicken
a bunch of herbs
some fruit (whatever looks good)
lettuce (whatever looks good)
2-3 bunches of kale
granola (or the ingredients for making my own)
a bag of almonds or pepitas
sparkling water
2-3 bars of dark chocolate

Meal 1 (breakfast/lunch/dinner)
Kale and eggs

Meal 2 (dinner)
roasted chicken
with sauteed kale

Meal 3 (lunch)
left-over chicken salad on greens

Meal 4 (breakfast)
cheese and herb omelet with greens

Meal 5 (lunch or dinner)
Kale salad with feta cheese and figs (or dates)*

Meal 6, 7, 8 (breakfast/lunch/dinner)
yogurt with granola and fruit

Do you have a basic shopping list you rely on? What’s yours?


*Recipe to follow!


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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.


  1. My shopping list looks almost identical when I need to have some staples in the house. One thing I always have on hand is good organic butter. If I’m out of butter, things have surly gone awry!

  2. October 2

    LOVE this list Brooke, our is quite similar. Tough ~ but doable to eat right even when you are in a constant time crunch!

  3. October 2

    My list is v similar to yours – although I don’t see bread- always good for grilled cheese sandwiches and lunch boxes… love kale but would need some lettuce in there too

  4. October 2

    Ha, my fridge looks like a cold plastic shelving unit right now too! I’ve found as my schedule has gotten more hectic between baby, work and bike training schedule I haven’t been able to make it to the market or farmer’s market with any regularity. So I’ve signed up for a farm box (from FarmBoxLA), full of goodies from the Hollywood Farmers’ Market and also includes eggs. Combine the veggies with pantry ingredients like polenta, pasta, barley or farro, some quality cheese–I always have Parm or Pecorino Romano on hand–nuts and spices and there are a million meals I can make, from soups to salads to veggie-centered entrees. I also try to keep some bacon on hand to add some deeper flavor to dishes, and then I just need to pick up milk and occasional proteins like fish or pork or a whole chicken. I miss my market rituals, but find we’re still eating quite well!

  5. Mine’s really similar to yours too, but instead of a whole chicken I’ll often just buy a package of thighs and a few sausages – things that can be braised down, tossed with veg and grains, and reheated easily. My husband eats so many meals at work that I’ve had to start cooking with the eventual microwave nuke in mind!

  6. My simple shopping list is pretty similar. Mine always has:
    – Milk
    – Eggs
    – Cottage cheese
    – Yogurt
    – Fruit and veggies
    – Hummus
    – Cheese
    – Bars of dark chocolate
    – Sandwich bread
    – Sliced meat

    • October 4

      Allison, you and my husband share the same exact list! He loves having sliced meat and cheese on hand for bread-less sandwiches and snacks!

  7. October 9

    I really loved this. My list is quite similar to yours, though I’d swap in tofu for the chicken (I’m a vegetarian!), add some chard and spinach in addition to the kale, and load up on quinoa and dried white beans. Also: organic bananas, veggie burgers, loaf good hearty whole wheat/grain bread, mushrooms, cauliflower (my true love).

  8. […] I go to the market, I always grab at least one bunch of kale to take home. The leafy green is a trusted source of […]

  9. October 22

    I love your shopping list. This is definitely how I roll when I’m not bogged down with recipe testing.

  10. October 30

    I don’t know why I found so much pleasure in reading your shopping list, but I did. In college, I used to collect shopping lists because I lived near a run-down grocery and the lists would blow through the parking lot. And they were so telling. Like character sketches. Here’s what’s on my list these days:
    Soft cheese
    Dark chocolate
    Manna bread
    Snow peas
    Frozen raspberries
    Oaty biscuits
    Black licorice

    • October 31

      Thanks for the list. I love yours! I think it’s so cool to see your oaty biscuits and black licorice on there! You are such a sophisticate!

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