29 March 2011

Streamline grocery shopping and meal planning with a pre-printed list (download)

The idea of a pre-printed grocery shopping list always appealed to me, but in practice, it just never worked. I would forget to print the list, or I couldn't find it, or the templates I found were missing items I regularly bought. Well, I finally put about an hour of effort into my grocery list system, and it has been paying off ever since. The benefits so far:

  • Everyone in the family knows where the list is and can add items throughout the week
  • I no longer forget regular items that run out quickly
  • I can coordinate my shopping and grocery coupons more efficiently
  • I have my shopping list and menu plan in a single place (see below for details)

Here's why it has finally come together:

I customized the list. I found an editable grocery list template online (a Word document, not a read-only PDF) and spent about 15 minutes over about three weeks customizing it. Why three weeks? I drafted the first version, went shopping with it, updated, shopped, updated, shopped, and updated again. Now, it's just about right.

I created a specific place to display the list. I bought a little magnetic clip and keep the list hanging on a board in the kitchen, along with a magnetic pouch containing a pen and a highlighter. No more fumbling for paper or pens, or having to rewrite a misplaced grocery list. The whole family can now write on the list when they need to.

I "check off" items with a highlighter instead of a pen. Way easier to scan the list at the store when the items I need are called out in color. I use a pen to write one-offs on the list (items I buy too infrequently to merit a permanent spot).

The list is double-sided: grocery items on one side, and a menu plan on the other. I have found that an open-ended menu planning form works best for me -- more of a lightly structured notepad than a grid of boxes. I write down not only what I plan to cook, but what's happening that day that will affect dinner (late after-school activity? Babysitting?), and any advance prep (soak beans, defrost something, etc.). Having this info with me when I shop makes it easier for me to make fast decisions when I see something in season or on sale.

(By the way, my printer can print double-sided pages. If yours doesn't, you can either print two pages, or take the pages to a copy shop and photocopy them on the double-sided setting.)

Convinced? Here's my downloadable grocery list template. Feel free to edit and share as you like.

Your comments

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My kid is only 4.5, so I don't have her contributing to the grocery list (yet). I've found success with a free iPhone app -- Grocery IQ. I can customize my "favorites" list so adding the things I buy frequently takes much less time, I can customize different "stores" - I even made a separate "store" for Passover items!

I was tired of stopping at the store after work but forgetting the list on the fridge, so having it on my phone means I always have it with me.

OMG, I *so* need to deal with this! As a full-time Dad, I do all the grocery shopping. As a lazy man of the highest caliber (procrastinator extraordinaire), I just add stuff to a list on my iPhone, deleting each item when I put it in my cart. I reinvent the wheel three or four times a week. I need to fix this. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ditto what SusanOR said. My husband and I both have Grocery IQ on our phones - we share the same list, it's easy to scan the UPC code of an item when we run out, and whoever is shopping can pick up the items we need, sure to have the updated list. It's awesome.

i really like the menu plan. i like it being so open ended. thanks!

I got frustrated with Grocery IQ! I felt like I had to do a ton of work to input stuff -- this felt easier and I have the advantage of a low-tech list everyone can share.

Glad it's working for you, though -- I know a number of people who like it.

What I *really* want is a scanner in the kitchen, so that when the kids take the last of something, they can just run it by the scanner and it'll get added to the grocery list. Nothing worse than the last minute dash to the corner market because no one thought to tell me that we were running low on milk (which I don't drink, so I don't notice when it's becoming scarce). I'm gonna give the iPhone app a try ('cause I like the idea of saving trees), but if it's too much work, I'll go for the low-tech tree-killing method ('cause really, if it's between me remembering to buy Entenmann's Chocolate Donuts and a tree dying, sorry, but that tree is going down!)

I've been looking for something like this for a while, thanks Asha! I'll give it a try and see how it works for us. I don't (yet) have a smartphone, and the main reason I am wanting to get one is to keep my grocery list on "the cloud," because I'm tired of finding myself unexpectedly near a grocery store without a list. Your list won't help that problem, but it may help me with planning!

Eventually there will just be a touch screen hanging in the kitchen...then we'll have the best of both worlds. And a very dirty touchscreen!

I'm a once-a-week shopper, so this works for me. But that's the point! Everyone's food, timing, and organization needs are so different that each step of the process requires thought and customization.

You're welcome! I got tired of the low-level feelings of pressure I got using those fill-in-the-box ones. Like, I need to fill in every box!

LOL! Too true!

LOVE this! I too, have tried many, many methods and have yet to find something that consistently works for me. But I do currently keep a paper list - but it's very disorganized, resulting in much backtracking at the store (frustrating).... Anxious to modify this for stuff that we use, and try it out. Thanks Asha!!

I am inspired. But.. I also think I need different lists for different stores, and that realistically, I need it with me at all times. I randomly stop at the store on the way home from other errands to grab a few necessities when they run out, in addition to a weekly shop. I guess the Grocery IQ app on the iPad, which we keep on the kitchen counter, would work. Or perhaps if I simply perfect the weekly shop, I'd eliminate those extra stops!

Any way to download this without having to sign into slide share or giving them my facebook info? This is remarkably helpful for a fulltime dad/law student. THanks!

Thanks, Jill -- I never even considered doing the scan UPC thing!! Something new to try!

I've done a similar list, and I found that having them in order of the aisles at the store is even more helpful. That always takes a trip or two to get it right, but then it's awesome.

I have a very similar grocery list, organized how my grocery store is laid out. Every time we move though I have to reorganize it!

The tweak I did that I like best is to have a couple of blank spots at the end of each category. So that when pizza is on the menu, I just write mozzarella in the deli category, since it's not on the regular list.

This list is spread-out enough to accommodate write-ins. That makes all the difference.

I didn't love Grocery IQ... it was too complicated but not customizable enough for me, as I recall (it's been awhile.) The app I use and LOVE is ListPro. It's almost like a database or spreadsheet that you can sort by department, store, etc. It took a little bit of setup, but now it works unbelievably well. After I shop every week, I click "reset list". Then when we run low on something, I click "need" next to that item. When I go to the store, I click "filter-what I need" which pulls up only what I've flagged, and sort it by department. Then as I pick things up, I check them off. Lather, rinse, repeat. It has totally changed my life, no more keeping up with a bunch of pieces of paper or doing it from memory!

For the items we run out of, I keep a magnetic list pad (dollar bin at Target) on the fridge (with a magnetic pen) and write things down as they run out. My 8-year-old has started using it too, which is pretty funny (apparently we need "flower").

I have toyed with making a list like this but I would want to organize it by the store layout, and I go to at least 3 different stores. I need a Trader Joe's list and a Hannaford list and a Whole Foods list...

Regarding store-specific lists...you could just collect everything on one list and color code by store using highlighters.

I actually kind of enjoy backtracking at the store, but it is a time-waster, and while it's okay for some trips, it's really bad for others.

Oh, it's definitely twice a week around here. I'm proud of myself for having gotten it down from three! :)

i have to speak up about my recent experience with.. online grocery shopping.. let's put it this way - it is a bit more expensive (minimal increases). however below are the benefits:
- ability to shop from home (on the computer, at night, have a couple of days to "play around" with the list to get only what's needed, pick own date/ time when the groceries are needed)
- ability to get "one of each" (literally) fruits and veggies from the assortment (trying new foods, re-discovering the items that i always forget to obtain)
- saving a trip to the store (getting in the car with kids, we all know it's a chore in itself, going from isle to isle, standing in line, then the checkout experience and getting home)
- ability to manage spending (only trips allowed to the store are for milk, bread and eggs)
- untold savings (gas, my energy, loading and UNloading the car - think 5-lb bag of sugar and 2 gallons of milk: yeah, THOSE groceries)
i am not advocating this type of shopping on a weekly basis, however it is so pleasant to have this option when the weather is not really cooperating..

Thanks!

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