Tools for creating grocery shopping lists

Shopping lists are essential for helping you to remember what you need to buy at the grocery store. There are two stages for compiling most shopping lists — the running list you add to as you run out of essentials and the planning list you create as you’re putting together your weekly meal plan. Both are important, but made in different ways.

I recommend everyone having a public list on the refrigerator or hung on the wall in the kitchen that any member of the house can write on as needed. If your son finishes the milk, he can add “Milk” to the list. If your roommate eats the last slice of bread, she can add “Bread” to the list. A public running list is even convenient in case you have house guests and one of them discovers you’re out of toilet paper.

When creating your planning list, you may choose to add to the running list or create a second list. I use a worksheet for meal planning, so I just copy the items off the public list onto the planning list. The system you will use consistently is the best system for you.

Tools that might work for you for creating effective grocery shopping lists:

What method do you use to create your shopping list? Share your system in the comments.

10 comments posted

  1. Posted by Steve - 05/05/2011

    I use a pre-printed shopping list, but I made my own and keyed it to our grocery store. It has our staples on it (orange juice) that we basically always need and can just check off, along with blanks so we can fill in based on menus for that week. The thing I love about it the most is that it is organized by aisle/section (e.g. aisle 4 – cereal; fruit) so I don’t have to go down the aisle 3 times because I forgot to get an item the first time down it.

  2. Posted by Lori Paximadis - 05/05/2011

    We keep a steno pad and pen on the corner of the counter (we have a lot of counter space, so it’s not in the way). I write the local grocery store’s name at the top of the left column, Costco at the top right, and Trader Joe’s toward the bottom of the right column. Whenever we need something, we just write it under the store it comes from. If we need something from a different store, or my husband doesn’t know which store it comes from, it goes on the bottom of the left column.

    We don’t do meal planning per se. We have a number of dishes we regularly prepare out of what we have on hand, and we just keep the pantry/fridge/freezer stocked with those things, adding them to the list when they get low. If I need something special for a special meal, I just add it to the list.

    When I do the weekly errand run, it’s easy to just tear off the list and go.

  3. Posted by Angela - 05/05/2011

    I’m usually a pad & pen list-maker, but I sometimes use the Mealfire.com grocery list feature (I use Mealfire for menu planning & recipe storage), especially if it’s a long list. You can customize the grocery lists to correspond to the layout of the stores you shop at, which is a very helpful feature!

  4. Posted by KateNonymous - 05/05/2011

    I use the standard “Notes” app on my iPad Touch (it’s also on the iPhone) for all lists that don’t need to be printed.

  5. Posted by Christine - 05/05/2011

    I also use a preprinted grocery list. I just made a word doc with about five columns, jotted down anything we every might possibly buy, and organized it by general areas of the store. Then I printed out a bunch of them. Before I shop, I check the pantry and highlight what we need. It has been a huge time saver and stress reliever, and very low tech.

  6. Posted by Merikay - 05/05/2011

    We use a white board in the kitchen and then transfer it to the back of a scrap envelope or other paper. Sometimes my husband call me from work or the store and asks whats on the board.

  7. Posted by Debi - 05/05/2011

    My husband and I use the website/phone app Cozi for this and LOVE it! We can make changes on the website or on our phones (I have an iPhone, he uses Android) and it updates whenever we use it. If we both run errands separately, we can see what has been checked off the list and what may have been added. It saves so many “Honey, did you get the …?” calls :)

  8. Posted by Matt Fetissoff - 05/06/2011

    Lately I’ve been keeping a text file on my computer that I edit as food runs out. Then when it’s time to go shopping I shoot a photo of it with the camera on my phone so I can look at my list when I’m out.

    Maybe I should start posting the photos of my lists somewhere.

  9. Posted by Kevin D. - 05/06/2011

    My wife and I love the OurGroceries app (free!). What is great is that she has an iPhone and I have an Android phone and they work together nicely.

    Since at least one of our phones is always around, we can compile our list as we go through the week. This helps to eliminate forgetting things you need and mistakenly buying duplicate items. You can have lists for each store and move items between stores.

    We both have data plans, so it allows us to shop separately and simultaneously without being redundant. This makes us very efficient!

    Highly recommended!

  10. Posted by Courtney - 05/10/2011

    I also use a dry erase board on the fridge, but take a picture of it with my phone before going to the store.

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