How many times have you hurried into the grocery store after work, tired, with no idea of what you’re going to cook for dinner – much less for the rest of the week – and took more time and spent more money than you planned?

When you decide to meal prep, that type of grocery shopping will become a thing of the past. If making meals for a week or month ahead seems intimidating, then shopping for the items may seem impossibly overwhelming.

But, there are ways to make grocery shopping for meal prep a very manageable, and even enjoyable, event. Having the right staples on hand makes meal prepping much more streamlined.

When you have items such as oatmeal, flour, eggs, rice and a variety of spices in your refrigerator and pantry, you have the basics to prepare almost any meal. Add frozen chicken and vegetables to the mix and you’re way ahead of the game.

Before you grocery shop for meal prep, decide on the meals you’re going to serve and jot down the ingredients you’ll need. In the beginning, you may be concentrating on a few meals per week – or certain meals of the day.

This simple beginning will be good experience to prepare you for even more meal prepping and you’ll find it gets easier as you go along. Meal prepping can help you eliminate multiple trips to the grocery and keep you from having to decide which fast food is for dinner when you don’t have time to prepare a meal.

Organize your grocery list by aisles if you can. There are many online templates for groceries that you may want to use and are divided by produce, meats, baked items and more.

Consider the elements of a healthy diet – meat, veggies, fruit and dairy and make sure your meal prep plan includes them all. If you have leftovers after shopping and preparing the plan ahead meals, use them for the next round of meal prepping so there’s less waste – or for snacks if there are leftovers such as veggies and fruit.

Set up your refrigerator and pantry so unloading and storing the groceries will be an easy and time-saving task. If everything has a place, it will be much easier to unpack groceries next time.

Make your grocery shopping a fun task by trying new recipes for plan ahead meals and new spices and foods you may have never tried before. You won’t like them all, but it’s fun to try new things.

To further ease your grocery shopping experience, print out one of the many “grocery list” templates online and use it to organize your shopping list before you ever step foot in the store.