Here are some ways I'm planning:
1. Inventory your resources. I was astonished by the amount of staples that we have upon a quick survey! I drew up a list of what I have so that a rough menu-planning sketch for the month will include these items heavily. Try to cluster like items together so that you can envision meal elements. Some like-item categories are:
- Starches: rice, pasta, lentils, other cookable grains, etc.
- Baking elements: Flours, sugars, molasses, honey, evaporated milk, nuts, dried fruits, Bisquick, baking mixes, etc.
- Breakfast foods: Cereal, oatmeal, granola bars, etc.
- Condiments: Marinades, dressings, sauces, peanut butter, jellies, etc.
- Vegetables: Canned, frozen, dried.
- Fruit: Canned, frozen, dried. (remember that for fruits or veggies fresh produce purchases will also come into play...)
- Meats and proteins: Canned tuna, canned chicken, frozen poultry and meats, beef jerky, peanut butter, nuts, eggs.
2. Do a rough monthly menu-plan sketch. This is not written in stone, but it will help to keep you from unnecessarily buying extra groceries from desperation. Throw together a fruit, a starch, a veggie, or a veggie, a protein, a condiment, etc. Cluster varied meal elements, and feel free to add items like, "Fresh fruit" or "Fresh veggie" as a general placeholder for what you'll find on sale during the month as you do your minimal grocery shopping. If you're up for getting creative already, make elemental recipe notes like, "Shredded cheese + brown rice + chicken chunks = casserole". If you like, use the ingredient search on allrecipes.com or recipezaar.com to throw a couple of ingredients together and see what suggested recipes result.
3. Do a final-buy of anything you need on 12/31. I'll be picking up fresh avocados and mangoes at Giant while they're cheap (Thursday's the last day for the sale prices on those), and maybe some poultry or meat since our frozen meat stash was semi-raided in December after our baby's arrival.