Do you dread the weekly chore of making up your grocery list? Or are you a fly by the seat of your pants kind of person when it comes to shopping? While grocery list making and grocery shopping can feel like an onerous task, it doesn’t have to! I’ve got tips on how to make grocery list generation and grocery shopping easier.
For years, I was a big fan of winging it when it came to meal prep and groceries. I loved the idea of walking through the grocery store or farmer’s market and letting “inspiration” strike. It worked out OK for a while, but once I had a family to feed I realized two things:
- I wasted a lot of time and money making last minute trips to the grocery store
- we ate the same things over and over again because that “inspiration” rarely struck
So, I made a change: I began planning our meals and writing out a grocery list more carefully. The shift that occurred was amazing – I saved time, money, and actually became much more creative and adventurous in the kitchen. Given the impact it had for me, I wanted to share what I learned about how to make your grocery list work for you.
Why Grocery Lists Are Important
Let’s be honest, pulling together a grocery list every week can feel like a bit of a chore. And during those weeks when you’re feeling tired or pulled in too many different directions, it can be a tempting task to let slip. But there are a number of reasons why grocery lists are important and a worthwhile task:
- Save time. Grocery lists help to keep you organized so that you don’t waste time wandering the store wondering what to buy or forgetting items that then require extra trips to the store.
- Spend less. When you go with a list, you are much less likely to succumb to impulse purchases and will focus in on buying what you actually need.
- Less waste. Shockingly, nearly 40% of food in America is wasted. Much of this takes place in restaurants and grocery stores, but a lot of it also happens right in our own homes. Shopping with a list will help to reduce your own food waste because you are more likely to purchase the quantities of food you actually need, therefore reducing the risk of food going bad before you can use it.
- Stress less. When you go shopping with a grocery list you will find that you have more purpose and clarity, which will mean less stress.
How to Make Your Grocery List Work for You
Now that you are (hopefully) convinced that grocery lists are important, here are some ways to make the process simpler, faster, and more economical.
Keep a running list
Instead of thinking of a grocery list as a static once-a-week item, I recommend that you think of it as a living document that you interact with regularly. This means that as soon as a staple runs out, you put it on your list. That way the most essential items never get forgotten, which means you can reduce trips to the store.
I keep my list in the notes section of my phone. Other people I know post a list in the kitchen so that all family members can add to it when they think of something that’s needed. And others I know use “Alexa” or another voice activated platform. Set up whichever system would work best for your family and see how much easier it makes your life!
Organize your list by area of the store
Produce, dairy, shelved items, etc. Organizing your list by food groups and where they are located in the store may sound like overkill, but I find that doing this is a great time saver. In fact, not only will it help you to speed up your shopping, but it will also remind you of additional items you might need as you make your list.
Go to more than one grocery store? Keep lists for each!
Many people I know go to different stores for different items, depending on cost, quality, or availability. I am one of them. If you are too, consider making separate lists or tagging which items you get where to make your shopping smoother.
Kids and the Grocery Store
I believe in bringing your kids with you to the grocery store because it’s an opportunity to teach them about different foods, engage them in family tasks, and practice math and reading skills. But the reality is that bringing your kids with you to the grocery store has it’s own pitfalls. So I wanted to tackle each of those challenges and offer some solutions.
The first challenge is that, especially when they are on the younger side, having your kids in tow will likely slow you down. Between curiosity about different items and negotiations over products that somehow sneak into your cart, you can lose a good chunk of time.
With the really little kiddos, I recommend making sure they stay in the cart (less small hands grabbing things) and that you distract them with either a snack or a game. For a snack, I used to either bring a snack cup or hand them a banana (I’d bring an extra to weigh at the check out). For a game, I would challenge them to find things as we shopped (items of specific color, letters in the alphabet, specific things in the murals on the walls, etc.).
When they’re older, assigning them a task can be a good distraction. When my kids still needed to be within eye sight, I’d ask them to get an item for me within the same section of the store. Then, when they got older, I’d assign them items all over the store. This not only helped me get all the groceries, but it kept them occupied and started to teach them about how to navigate the grocery store.
Begging for items
I don’t know about anyone else, but every time I go to the store with my kids they ask for things that 1) are not on my carefully built list and 2) are almost always things I would not normally buy. Ugh! Some people I know let their kids pick out a fruit or vegetable of their choice. This worked well with my family until my younger son started asking for $7 artichokes that I just couldn’t bring myself to buy. So, we have now agreed that if they come with me to the store and are helpful in the shopping, they can choose one item that is under $3.
Use The Scramble!
And the easiest way to get your meals planned and grocery list taken care of all at once is to use The Scramble! Did you know that once you have selected your Scramble meal plan for the week, your grocery list is automatically created for you? Not only that, but it is organized by area of the grocery store (see tip above). All you have to do is customize it by adding your staples and extras, deleting anything you’ve already got covered, and you’re off and running!
If you’re not a current member of The Scramble, join now to make your weekly grocery shopping and meal planning a cinch! Check out our sanity-saving service with our free trial.
Do you have ways to make grocery lists easier? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!