Use a dry erase board for the family grocery list

Dry erase boardStu (who’s now one of the editors of GNM Parents — did you know that?), took some of the guesswork out of grocery shopping for older kids:

I was having trouble getting my kids to go to the market with me, and they would complain that my food selection was lame. Rock, meet Hard Place.

So I bought a whiteboard, hung it up, put up a nice selection of colored dry erase markers, and told them this: If you want something, put it on the board. Whatever I see on the board, I will buy. If it doesn’t go on the board, I don’t buy it.

Rough seas for about two weeks. Since then, several years later, and nary a peep about the pantry. Occasionally I have to remind them to put it up on the board, but very rarely. 99% of the time, I can hear their footsteps march from the fridge or the pantry over to the white-board, whereupon I still experience the rapture at the squeak of the markers as my kids do their part, taking responsibility for their own needs.

It’s not like they pick the menus completely, or don’t eat vegetables or anything. But for snacky, lunchy, quick-dinnery items, the whiteboard works.

Many (all?) dry erase boards are magnetic, so they’re also good catch-alls for the random bits of paper unworthy of a place of honor on the front of the fridge.


  1. Carly says

    Our grocery list whiteboard is ON the fridge and the markers have magnets on them. We really couldn’t make it any easier!

  2. says

    My family did something very similar during the years I was growing up. My dad took a large white dry-erase board and (using a jig-saw) cut a rectangle the size of a phone jack out of the middle.

    He mounted it in the kitchen, attached the phone to the center, and we had an all in one family message center. The left hand side was for shopping lists and general notes to each other, and the right side had phone messages and a laminated list of commonly used phone numbers. (We typed them out on Excel, cut it out, and sealed it to the board with clear packing tape.)

    Above this he hung an oversized desk calendar, and when one of us had an event coming up it was our responsibility to make sure it was added to the calendar (either by ourselves, or by asking mom or dad to write it down.)

    Also, we never had a dishwasher (as my father said “We have four of them, Meghan, Lauren, Jaclyn and Bryan!) and it was up to us kids to do the after dinner dishes. One of our initials was written in next to each date, and there was never a way to agrgue that it wasn’t “my night” to do dishes, the schedule was in plain sight.

  3. Anonymous says

    I use a roll of adding machine paper hung on a small dowel on a board so that I can tear the strip off to take it with me.

    However, I do use my dry erase board for menus. And, Stu- get those kids to write menus! Hubby and I each choose two and each kiddie (3 & 5) chooses one. It sure makes grocery shopping for a week at a time much easier and I can count on having menus the kids will like. (Yes, pasta gets suggested often, but “pasta” is flexible– red sauce? pesto? alfredo? clam sauce? lasagne?) Even an idea makes the planning easier.

  4. Wendy says

    The grocery list is a constant source of aggravation. :) I bought some of that white magnetic printer paper, and I created fridge magnets of all the regular items on the list. The idea is that items *in* the fridge/pantry will be lined up in one area of the door and items we need will be in the other area. Unfortunately, we’re in the middle of remodelling the kitchen, so it’s not going so well, but here’s what it sort of looks like now:

    My husband hasn’t quite warmed up to the fridge magnet idea, as you can tell from the magnetic notepad in the middle of the door.

  5. says

    In a pinch you can also use your fridge itself as a dry-erase board! Just make sure it’s a smooth, nonporous surface. A mirror works, too. Or a window… I may be getting carried away now.

  6. John says

    We have white melamine cabinets, and we use dry erase markers to write directly on the inside of the cabinet doors. The cabinet that holds our dishes has our grocery list. The cabinet door above the junk drawer has the family calendar and emergency contact information. The dry erase markers come right off the cabinet doors, and if it doesn’t come off clean (like the red marker, which leaves a little red ghost image behind) a little 409 or dry erase board cleaner takes it right off. The wife likes it since it’s hidden in a cabinet and doesn’t make the kitchen look messy, but the lists are easily available and convenient. And not having much space in the kitchen, using the hidden space of the insides of the cabinet doors is nice.

  7. Betsy says

    My first useful contibution to this site! Go to Home Depot / Lowes and get shower backer board – 12 bucks for a huge sheet (also called melamine). Mount it with mirror hangers and voila – a huge and CHEAP dry erase board. We think we will have to replace it every few years, but we are on year 3 and it still looks good. Emergency numbers are at the very top for babysitters. Long term goals / projects pretty high up and everyday stuff at eye level. It also happens to be next to the phone. Here is a picture from some random website that I have no connection to:

  8. Tracy WW says

    I keep a notepad backed with a magnet on the fridge. That way, not only does everything get written down, but I also have a list I can tear off and take with me to the grocery store.

  9. says

    I like this idea so much, but the problem is, white board looks ugly.. is there any way to make it look nice?

  10. says


    Our whiteboard is for our kids, so they use different colored markers to jazz it up, as well as stickers or other art concepts.

    Also, you can take a sheet of melamine (as recommended above) and bring it to a frame store, to give it your own special touch.

  11. Joe Banks says

    Tracy WW is on the right track. Dry erase boards don’t work because you can’t take the list with you. Just get a small memo pad and glue a flat magnet to the back.

  12. says

    I have a white board on the side of our fridge also. I have it split down the middle in two sections. The left side contains what is for dinner tonight so my DH can start dinner before I get home (yes I am spoiled…) and the other side contains what we need at the next grocery shopping trip.

    The only problem is when my 3 y\o wants to help out with dinner, she tends to erase my list or draw over it.

  13. flynn says

    We just use the white board for odd, non-staple items, and we draw pictures of what we need. It’s a fun challenge.