The Art of Making a Grocery List


When I grocery shop without a list, two things usually happen – I make too many impulse purchases and I come home without the things that I actually went to the grocery to buy. There’s an art to making a grocery list.  I’ve tried different ways to simplify my list making and have finally settled on one way that works well for me.  Here it is —

Step One  – Keep a Running List


I keep a running grocery list on a magnetic bulletin board in our pantry.  I add to the list when I notice that we are running low on staples or when I think of something that we need.  In theory, the person who uses the last of something should add that item to the list.  In practice, when I find empty boxes or containers that my kids left on the pantry shelves or in the refrigerator, I toss the empties and I add those items to the list. The key to the running list is to keep it in a very visible place – in the pantry, on the refrigerator, or taped to the inside of a kitchen cabinet.

Step Two – Convert the Running List into a Grocery List 


Although this step may seem redundant at first, it is critical to streamlining grocery shopping.  I typically do our weekly grocery shopping on Sunday, making occasional quick mid-week stops for fresh or forgotten items.  If I’m having an organized weekend and I’ve managed to do a little meal planning, I add ingredients needed for those meals to the running grocery list.  Then I grab an envelope and rewrite my running list on the envelope in the order of the aisles of the grocery store where I shop. It’s amazing how putting the list in aisle order saves time. This was a lifesaver when my kids were small and I wanted to minimize meltdowns by getting in and out of the grocery in warp speed.

Step Three – Put Coupons in the Envelope


Although most of my coupons are digital, I do still clip some paper coupons.  I grab coupons from my stash for just the items that are on my list and put them inside the envelope.  That way, I will actually remember to use the coupons when I check out, instead of finding them crumpled in the bottom of my purse days later.

Optional Step Four – If Dad is Doing the Grocery Shopping

When my husband does the shopping, it’s difficult for him to know exactly what to get with multiple varieties of most items available.  And not surprisingly, I’m particular. To make it easier, I snap photos of the items on the list, text the photos to him, and put an asterisk on the grocery list (which indicates “photo on your phone”). That way he’s not one of the husbands you see in the grocery aisles looking dazed with his cell phone to his ear, calling home to see exactly what he’s supposed to buy.

I’ve tried lots of grocery list apps and other systems, but this way is simple and works well for me. I hope some of my tips work for you.



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