As a starting point, I thought through what each of the people I feed eat throughout the day. I am happy to eat the same thing for breakfast + lunch every day. My partner has a choice of two things for breakfast + two or three things for lunch (*). Our daughter eats what she likes.
Our current list looks like this:
B: coffee + breakfast bite
cereal or oatmeal*
L: fruit + granola + yogurt
leftovers or pb sandwich or rice noodles + veg*
D: veg + grain + protein
(bowl, pasta, salad, soup)
tea + fruit or smoothie
The above list is written on one side of a notecard. On the flip side of the notecard, I wrote a loose list of things that supply these meals. There are specifics like oatmeal + peanut butter...and more general things like in-season fruit + in-season veg which can be chosen according to what looks good on a particular trip to the store (which provides variety in our meals).
This is my current list of items:
This list covers the staple things that ensure we can make + eat real meals at home. Things like tea + spices that run out less often can be written down for a specific trip.
I've made my grocery lists in various ways over the years, but this is probably the simplest system I've used. It involves decreasing some expectations for more complicated meals + variety, but this is exactly how I want to eat...so it's working for me. (Of course, I can always accommodate a craving too.)
All of which leaves a little time for sipping chai on the porch of a favorite coffee shop on my day off instead of doing chores all day. :)