Preparing a Menu & Grocery List

I will be the first to admit that I am a nerd. I enjoy organizing and preparing for trips almost as much as going on them. To help facilitate my organization and trip planning I rely heavily on an Excel spreadsheet I adapted from my friend Patrick. Thanks Patrick!
The big key for me is figuring out an itinerary for the trip. Knowing where I am going to be, and knowing if and how long I will be traveling on a given day helps me decide how involved I want to be in cooking meals.

Here is an example of a trip my wife and I took back in 2009 to a Dave Matthews Band Concert at the Gorge Amphitheater and then to Northern Idaho. Notice, the first day we traveled from Pocatello to the campground in Oregon. Using Google Maps, I had a rough idea of how many hours it was going to take us to drive to our first destination.

Example Itinerary from September, 2009

Once I have established an itinerary, I can focus on the meals. I am a very visual person and like to separate each day’s meals out using the spreadsheet. As I begin filling in the blanks of my menu, I type all of the dishes or courses out in the cell adjacent to the meal.

Example Menu from September, 2009

Knowing we were going to be on the road for nearly 7hrs, we wanted to make the drive on the second day easy, I didn't want a meal that was too involved. We chose to make Tequila Tomatoes with Tequila-Lime Chicken Sausage and Wild Rice. On a two burner stove, the tomatoes are a cinch to make and the rice can cook alongside. We like cooking sausage over a camp fire, and were lucky enough the first night to get one started. To round out the meal we sipped guessed it, Tequila!

After I have my menu established it is time to get my grocery list together. I store food in a cooler and in a plastic tote, therefore I organize my spreadsheet accordingly. The nice thing about setting it up this way is you can use the spreadsheet as a checklist when packing. I tend to forget things if I don't have a checklist. As we were going to be gone for over a week, and space in our 4Runner and cooler is a premium, we chose to purchase enough perishable items for the first few days of the trip, and then swing past the grocery store half way through the trip to restock.

Grocery List from Sept, 2009

Featured Recipe
Scott Brady’s Famous Tequila Tomatoes

1/2 lb Cherry Tomatoes, cleaned and stemmed
1/2 cup Tequila
Salt and Pepper
3/4 cup Pine Nuts
1/2 cup Fresh Cilantro, coarsely chopped
2 tbs Olive Oil


Roast the pine nuts in olive oil until browned. Add tomatoes and begin to warm. Add tequila and cilantro. When hot (not cooked, you want them to be semi-firm) add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and serve.

Personal Variation:
I like to add a little crumbled feta cheese to the top of the tomatoes

Click HERE for the printer friendly version of this recipe.
Click HERE for a link to our spreadsheet.