My Grocery Shopping List

List on fridgeI should probably start by saying that I hate grocery shopping. On the other hand, my household insists on eating, and we can't afford to hire a housekeeper or eat out every single meal or even exist on takeout, which means someone has to buy groceries. My husband offered to take on the job if I'd take over maintenance on the cars. Uh...

Given that I was stuck with the job, I decided to put some organizational skills to work to smooth out the process as much as possible. In particular, I wanted to eliminate the two hassles that irritated me the most:
1) I wanted a way to create a complete list of the groceries that were needed. No more emergency runs to the store for that forgotten strawberry jelly and two cans of tuna!
2) I wanted to progress through the store efficiently. No backtracking from the Dairy section all the way back to Produce because I forgot to get the raisins while I was there!

I've been tinkering with my system for nearly a year now, and I thought I'd share the current version. It seems to be mostly working well, but suggestions for improvement would be most welcome. (Yes, you really must hate a chore to devote this much time to minimizing it.)

The list itself

The core of the system is the form I created to use as my shopping list. It's not complex: A single 8.5" X 11" sheet, in landscape orientation. Margins of .3" all around. I inserted a table with four columns (the full width of the paper) and 14 rows, and then copied the table in again. The result is a sheet of paper divided into eight 'mini' shopping lists, each roughly 2.5" inches wide and 5" long.

I filled in the first line of each mini-list with the name of one of the 'areas' my grocery store breaks down into: Deli, Produce, Dairy, Meat/Fish, Frozen, Bakery, 1st, and 2nd/Unknown. The first six labels are self explanatory -- the specialty areas, generally located around the outside walls of most grocery stores. The store I use (which calls itself a superstore) has divided the interior shelves into three subsets of aisles, two for the 'usual' things you find in a grocery, with a third in between full of ...well, whatever. Beach toys, charcoal grills, plants, clothing. 1st and 2nd refer to the two chunks of 'grocery' aisles.

Use of the list at home

I print out ten or so copies at a time. The entire stack is stuck onto the front of my refrigerator by four strong magnets. A pen on a plastic coil thingy is hung on a magnetic hook beside it.

  • Throughout the week, whenever I (or any other resident) notice that something is getting low or has been used up or simply decide it would be good to have on hand, the item gets written onto the appropriate mini-list.

  • The night before I do the shopping I go through the grocery store circular and write onto the list the 'special sale' items I want to take advantage of.

  • Finally, I plan menus for the upcoming week -- generally just what the main course and side dish will be -- and add to the lists whatever is needed for those dishes that I don't already have in the pantry. For example, last week the decision to make stuffed peppers meant I added only a pound of hamburger and four green peppers to the list, because all the other ingredients were on hand.

List on fridge

Final preparation of list for usage

I extract the topmost sheet from the magnets, and cut the mini-lists apart. I stack all eight up, and punch a single hole in the upper left corner. (Scissors and a single hole punch are kept in a kitchen drawer.) Then a single 'hinged' ring binds these eight lists PLUS my store's 'membership/discount' card AND my debit card into one neat little stack. (Yes, you're allowed to punch holes in credit/debit cards, just avoid the magnetic strip and any raised print. Get a 'spare' card to use for this, if you don't want your main card defiled.)

At the grocery store

All I take into the store is that ring with the lists and the two cards. I 'wear' the ring on my left thumb -- no more dropped or lost lists for me! I can easily consult the lists, and both hands can still be used pretty freely for grabbing those 14 pound tubs of kitty litter or wrestling fruit into clingy plastic bags.

List on fridgeOnce inside the store, I move smoothly from area to area. Having a list of just those items in that department really helps me focus. Instead of being distracted thinking about items that are in other areas (What flavor of ice cream should I buy? Should I get one or two dozen eggs?) I see just the relatively small number of items I need to think about at the moment. Radishes, lettuce, tomatoes, grapes, oranges. Zip, zip, zip, into the cart they go.

Before I divided up my list, I often found myself backtracking for an item I'd overlooked in the entire jumbled list, sometimes the full width of the store. Now I virtually never have to retrace my steps even within an area. I march steadily along, tossing stuff into my basket, a model of organization. I am Hannibal astride my elephant, unstoppable and triumphant! (Hey, these little fantasies can help motivate you to do chores you dislike.)

Once I've acquired all the items needed in a particular area, I rip that list off the ring and crumple it into my pocket, and move on to the next area. Once all eight lists are crumpled, I am DONE. Head directly to the shortest checkout line, scan the two cards, and escape from the store! Hallelujah! (Yes, I do hate grocery shopping. I think I mentioned that once before.)

A couple of points someone may wonder about:

  • Yes, this isn't the way to spend the least money possible on groceries. I don't use coupons, I don't cherry pick the specials from multiple stores, I don't use a calculator to figure out if the 12 oz can at 1.39 is a better deal than the 14 oz. can at 1.59. OTOH, when an item is on sale at a significantly low price, I do pick up several for the pantry and so over time a large proportion of what we eat was actually acquired at a sale price. Bottom line, reducing how much time I spend grocery shopping is more important to me than cutting grocery costs to the absolute bone. YMMV.

  • Yes, this system requires that everyone who adds items to the list know which area of the store they are found in. This hasn't been much of a problem. Most things are obvious, once you internalize the difference between fresh produce and canned/bottled items. In addition, that last mini list is labelled "Second/Unknown." When someone doesn't know where an item belongs they put it there. I move items onto the correct mini-list at the same time I add circular sale items.

That's the whole system! Between not having to backtrack while in the store AND not having to make at least one 'emergency' grocery run each, I figure I save at least an hour and a half a week. Which may not sound like a lot, but 1.5 X 52 is 78 hours! Nearly two full work weeks worth of my time moved from the 'Have to do a detested chore' to the 'Have fun!' columns. I love it.

I'd love it even better if I could save yet more time, so if you have suggestions, please share them here.

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Excellent Idea....

However, getting the people in my house to actually write down what we need is a nightmare so we ended up going to the shop with only half a list and winging it. That's why I developed my version of the grocery list.

It contains all the items we regulary purchase, ordered by the aisle order of my local Supermarket. It's stuck on the 'fridge with a pen on it so people can just check off what they need when they've used it. Because it's in aisle order its quick and easy to see what we need.

You can download various formats from my site under the blog entry "Grocery Shopping Hack: Weekly Shopping Lists" - Hope that makes your life a little easier!

Grocery Shopping Hack moved

Please note that the new url for the blog entry "Grocery Shopping Hack: Weekly Shopping Lists" is now

It's been one of my most popular posts so I guess it's been useful for people!


broken links


All of the pictures and links on that page are broken--no download, no images of what the download looks like..



I manage our home alone and since the birth of our daughter; all the balls I've been juggling neatly in the air and the laundry of course have come tumbling down around me or should i say Crashing, this includes our grocery shopping; food and supplies. I feel like I've never been shopping in my life all of a sudden, and if i can get even a little help with anything it would be greatly cherished. From knowing what I should be buying to finding the time, I need an over-haul on my routine of stocking the house with our necessary supplies; it's infantile, literally! SO, frantically I went searching the web for a "bright light" and disappointingly the link is not working, I've tried both and desperately wanted to take a look. please repost , keeps coming up with a server error!?
Thanx in advance,
Desperate Mom of three, who needs help managing everything since the birth of our daughter this past August! ;)

Updated link to my Weekly Grocery List

Hi There,

Sorry you were having problems accessing my website and my Weekly Grocery list, my website went offline for a while but it's all up-and-running again now.

You can view the Grocery List at

It's available for download in PDF, Open Office and Excel formats.

I hope you find it useful - of you have any suggestions or comments please feel free to leave them here or on my website.

Good luck with your shopping!


Thanks for fixing it

Folks were asking for it.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson) ***

Weekly Grocery List Download

Hi there,

I was having a few problems with my hosting which stopped the links to my grocery list download working. They should all be fixed now.



Grocery lists and Weekly menus


I use a modified version Knock Knock's Eat pat as well as the DIY Shopping list.

The menu goes up on the fridge and the bottom quarter of the page is a space for a "We are out of" list. Admittedly, if people want something we don't have - it goes into this list too. I divide my list according to the store/section as well, although I never thought of then cutting up the page so that I have a conveniently small pile of paper to carry (and thus not have to worry about dropping or loosing my list). Thanks for the tip!

thanks for the ideas!

Thanks for a great post...I'm seriously ticked and grateful that people are trying to streamline this household "process." I'll definitely try your system. Right now, we just use a write on/wipe off board, which accumulates items throughout the week. I transfer these to the back of a junk-mail envelope, and list them roughly by where they are in the store. I do clip coupons, and write a cirled "C" before these items and stuff the coupon in the envelope. I'm a bit anal about checking the circular, so often write in some key sales prices (gr beef 1.99/lb), just to make sure I buy the right item.

The 'We Are Out Of' List

A more natural spot for this type of list seems to be next to the garbage can, but then again, not everything gets thrown away, some of it walks out the door or even flushed down the toilet!

Well, in our case, it's the

Well, in our case, it's the same thing. :)

Along side the fridge is a row of bins: recyclable paper, cans, bottles, general trash.


Great idea - will you be posting a link to a template?

I used to use my Palm Pilot

I used to use my Palm Pilot with a program called JShopper. It was pretty slick, you could sort the items alphabetically and then just check the boxes for what you needed.

Then when you got to the store, you could display just the checked items and sort by aisle. The items were removed from the list when you checked them again.

It would even do multiple stores.

As I say, it was really slick - until my grocery store decided to rearrange and renumber all the aisles.

And now my Palm Pilot has died.

Sad to say, now I've gone back to using paper and just trying to pay attention to what item is in what aisle. I do find myself back tracking a bit, so perhaps I'll try and use something like your system.

Thanks for sharing!
Tim Foreman -

Grocery List

I love this idea - the original one in this string! What a neat way to make grocery shopping easier! I am definitely going to use the 8X11 paper and then cut it up into sections the night before! There is nothing I hate worse than going back and forth in the store!!
Thank you!!

I used to use my Palm Pilot too

and a shareware program called HandyShopper (for Palm based pda's). I love HandyShopper. It is so much more than just a grocery list. If you join the HandyShopper yahoo group there are a bunch of different databases to download and play with. Grocery lists, household chores (a la FlyLady), Christmas planning lists, travel check lists, etc. I used to combine it with paper, doing my big monthly shopping from HandyShopper and weekly fresh produce trips from paper.

Would you like to try Shoppingmate

Shoppingmate can remember what you have purchased. It should help you without a Palm Pilot.

Squares Solutions Company

Hybrid approach.


In my house we follow a hybrid approach. I do meal planning once a month along with the 'big grocery run'. Then periodically we do a quick pickup for produce and dairy throughout the month. The big grocery run requires about two hours or so of prep, then two hours or so for the shopping part, and a little bit of time on the put away end. It happens once every month to six weeks.

The meal planning is done with a database I wrote in MS Access. I may move it to OOo at some point when I can figure out the reporting tool. You could also do this with most of the commercial cooking packages out there, they seem to offer scheduling as well as recipe handling. Anyway, my database has a few basic lists:
* Ingredients
* Recipes
* Menu
I created a list for the ingredients we use in our recipes, and added the recipes we use most. When it's time to plan the menu, I tell it the entree, vegetable, and starch we'll be having for each dinner. I don't plan the lunches or breakfasts.

When I'm done entering the plan (and most of the time I just copy an old month and change the dates), I print out three reports:
* Master Shopping List, which sums up how much of each ingredient is needed for all the meals in the date range and presents them on a grand list. (Produce excluded) I use this to check against what we have on hand--I scratch off anything we don't need to buy.
* Produce Shopping List, which breaks out the produce needed by week so we have next week's list of produce all ready to take to the grocery. This gets stuck to the fridge.
* Menu Plan, which shows each date with its intended meal. This gets stuck to the fridge also.

So the next step is checking the Shopping List against what we already have and removing any items we already have on hand. After that, I transfer these items to my in-store shopping list, which is printed double-sided on letter paper with each section of the store broken out (meat, dairy, produce, dry, canned, frozen, etc.).
Then I go through the rest of the house and check inventory of everything that isn't part of the menu plan (toilet paper, lunch items, etc.) and add the needed items to the list also.

Next up is the coupon review. I clip coupons throughout the month as they arrive, so at this point I go through them and remove the expired ones. Then I mark the shopping list for each item I've got a coupon for (as a reminder to pull it out when I add it to the basket). The coupons I clip are generally $1 or more each, so they're worth doing. I don't generally mess with the smaller value stuff. I've saved as much as $30 in one visit just from clipping the big ones.

So now I'm ready to go do the big shop. I have my shopping list, sorted by section, my coupons, sorted the same way, my debit card (balance check before we leave), my husband, and my children. Off we go to the warehouse club (first) to get whatever they have that's on the list. After that, to WalMart for the smaller stuff. Then home to put it all away. Because it's a warehouse club, we have to repackage the large packages of meat into smaller units before we freeze it. We've taken to adding the marinade at this step, too. This is the 'put away' portion. Also packing the stand-alone freezer.

Throughout the month, there's a fresh shopping list posted to the fridge to collect the 'out ofs' as they occur. We've got a bin magneted to the side of the fridge containing pens and dry erase markers for just such events. So next week, when it's time to do the produce run, there's a list already on the fridge of produce, and a list already on the fridge of any other items we're out of.

You might think I live in a big house, talking about the warehouse club and the standalone freezer, but I don't. It's a very tiny house. We bought the freezer and the vacuum sealer at the same time we decided to do the warehouse club so we'd be able to handle the larger packages of meat and vegetables. It works really well. I hear a lot of people say "I couldn't be a member of a warehouse club because of all the big packages" but trust me, you can find a way. My house is the size of a middle-of-the-road apartment.

I'm not sure if this amount of time is better or worse than the system you've developed, SusanBeth, but it does combine a little bit of the saving money part, which is key for me.


Meal Planning database

Would you mind sharing your database? I know you worked hard on it, but would you kindly email it to me. My entire family has to change our eating habits -- high cholesterol, aggravated glaucoma, chronic constipation, pre-diabetes, incontinence -you name it. Teh biggest annoyance is meal planning as we try new recipes and grocery shopping with a list (not just buying what we always buy). I would very much appreciate it. Access is useful, but extremely complex.

Your kindness and consideration are appreciated.


Loving Shris's Hybrid approach

Shris, you are a genius for creating such a tool from the ground up! I wish I had your knowledge & patience to create my own database that can perform the same functions!!!!! If ever you care to share your creation, I know many of us would benefit.

But until you share, I will use shoppingmate. The program could use some serious updating. Still, I find its features to be awesome. It reminds me of Cook'n & Food Storage planner ( a really, really old...dinosaur... version, however) but it is more focused on inventory & grocery lists rather than recipe management ( it has this feature though).

For $10, its not that bad. if you have the time & patience, making your own database, like Shrish, is THE Best deal!!!!




Not a genius. Just familiar enough with databases to want to try it out for a while. I think I used it for two years or so, maybe 3. It was definitely worthwhile when the kids were so small, I didn't want to drag them around every week trying to shop. The monthly thing was good for a while.

Might go back to monthly runs for staple goods now that we've joined a CSA for our produce. Then the weekly runs would be limited to milk.

I would not share what I built with the general public because it's not simple to use the way software programs should be. The database was ugly and made just for my idiosyncrasies, my idea of what's 'tolerable'. And I would definitely NOT want to be on the hook answering questions, troubleshooting, providing upgrades, etc.

I highly recommend coming up with one's own list of recipes, deciding how many times to use them per month, then multiplying out the ingredients to come up with a minimum stock list. That's all the DB did, anyway.


Similar idea, with a twist

I like the ring-on-thumb idea, and gave it a try the last time I went to the store -- very elegant solution!

At our house, we have a fairly regular shopping list -- so regular, in fact, that we just keep it in email, already sorted in aisle order. When it's time to make a trip, Mrs. Friend of Pens runs through the list and removes anything that we don't need, adds in anything special that we do (rare, the master list is pretty long) and sends it to me at work. I stop at the store on the way home.

I used to just print out the email, but now I print it and slice it up into aisle-specific strips of paper, punch the corner, and slip on to a ring. Slip ring on thumb, walk through store, shop/rip, shop/rip, shop/rip... what a time-saver, and no worries about juggling my whole list around. Again, very elegant!

More efficient grocery shopping

I love this article by SusanBeth. The author is certainly a well organized and practical person. She does not, however, address the problem of getting all those bulkey, painful to carry, and cumbersome plastic bags full of groceries home to her door. I invented a tool (Gadget) that makes this chore painless and much easier.
They also allow you to buy more groceries with fewer trips to the supermarket. You can learn more at

Shoppingmate provides a better tool for manage your shopping.

Shoppingmate helps you to organise and control your grocery shopping. It keeps your purchase history. It shows you how to cook your daily meals with your own recipe books. Recipes can be imported into Shoppingmate easily. It helps you to make your meal plans for everyday or occasions. It reconciles your money transactions. It pops up system messages and your messages when it is launched. It gives graphic and summaries presentation of your shopping and financial information. Shoppingmate provides you a powerful tool to total manage and control your shopping easily, efficiently and financially.

Squares Solutions Company

Easier with ...

From the few online screenshots of this product it doesn't appear to have any real advantage over maintaining the same information in a set of connected spreadsheets. This is the level of (spreadsheet) application set for UK A-level IT coursework projects. And I hope the product is easier to navigate than the self-promoted web site.

As another alternative, one of the demos of Omni Outliner is organising a shopping list. Wouldn't be too difficult to extend tha demo with financial and historical data. I recreated the original demo based using the layout of the two major supermarket chains with shops in my area. OmniOrganiser has tick-boxes; easy to select those items to be purchased and then print just those parts of the outline. OmniOutliner has a major advantage over Shoppingmate: it runs on Apple Macs and was shipped as part of Apple's Mac OS X (Tiger release).

And a further alternative would be to use the online stores that major supermarkets and high-street grocers now offer via their web sites. These have recipe suggestions and auto-transfer of ingredients lists to virtual shopping baskets, transaction histories --- for some even including reminders of regular purchases. Only problem with these online shops is one doesn't get to select the fresh fruit, veg or meat for oneself.

My preferece would be to create those linked spreadsheets for data entry and transaction analysis then have an embedded URL to hook into the various online shops to order the goods.

But there really is nothing simpler than a written/printed shopping list carried in one's hand while walking up the aisles of a grocers, butchers, bakers.

Looks like SPAM to me

or unsolicited ad-ware, which is equally as unwanted.

Considering this is the second post hawking that product from an anonymous poster.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

SPAM or spam?

It would be difficult to get SPAM down the wire; SPAM are rather protective of their trademark. ;-)

I considered the double-postings spam (sic) too, which is why I was so critical of the product. But then so were the reviewers at TUCOWS who gave it several scores of "1 out of 3" and a comment improved --- the original version must have been spectacularly awful.

However, this was the first on-topic spam posting I've ever encountered. I'll give them that; so much better than the usual chinese shoe shops or bogus drugs that we receive.

"on topic" spam ?!

I agree.
I could accept one on-topic plug, but two is not necessary.
It could be more acceptable if the product got better reviews :)

"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)


Yup, spam. Had this been emailed to me privately I'd have considered it as UCE (unsolicited commerical email), which in my view is just as much of a nuicance as spam. Would fail on prime requirement number one for a software product: does the product run on more than the program loader called Windows? It might get a second chance if it runs on Linux or Mac OS X? But it'd still be consigned to the recycling bin as UCE. Though Windows-only makes it spam.

Grocery lists - timely now more than ever

I thought I had remembered this topic from more than a year ago...with gas and food prices soaring, we're trying our best to plan well when it comes to shopping. My husband is a military veteran, and though the base is about an hour away, it still pays to do most of our grocery/essentials shopping at the commissary- as long as we plan it! Otherwise, there are just too many good deals to pass up and all of our savings are wasted. These tips are wonderful and will help to make the big shopping trip less painful.

One thing that has helped is in organizing the coupons better. I invested $1USD on a cheapo 4x6 photo album. Each photo pocket holds coupons for different needs: canned goods, cleaning products, breakfast foods, etc. I use a post-it note on each photo pocket and list the coupon and expiration date. That way I know exactly what I have when making the list and don't let the good coupons expire like I have in the past.

There are just so many good ideas and tips on this site -- i just love it here!

Save multiple trips to grocery store :)

hey i found this site,

Its a free to use grocery shopping list website. It helps to create, organise, maintain and print your grocery shopping list. You can either use without registering with limited features, or register (free of cost and minimal information) and use it with more features. It has a huge list of grocery items and grocery stores available in US. If you do not find your item or store in our list, as a registered user you can simply add it in your private list. You can even create a list of your favorite items and stores, so that you don't have to search through a huge list every time you create your grocery list.

This surely helps me save time,money and multiple trips to the grocery store. Let me know if you like it.

permanent grocery list

My system is basically the same as yours, but I have a "permanent" grocery list that is organized by the aisles of my store. Like you I would prefer to make it as painless as possible rather than as cheap as possible. I then use a highlighter to mark the items I need. My personal list is a single sheet of paper, three columns each on both sides. It took tweaking for several weeks because I would forget about certain things I don't buy every week and would have to update the list. I then took it to the store and made changes as I went through to be sure I had things on the correct aisle. Once I had done that the system was virtually painless. Of course when the store decides to rearrange I have to rearrange my list, but that doesn't happen often. And on the computer it's simple to cut and paste. I am currently trying to turn it into a pocketmod so it's easier to carry.