Creating a time-saving grocery list

I love food and cooking but I’m not a big fan of grocery shopping. I would be, if I were the only one in the store and I had an unlimited amount of time and money, but that is never the case. Consequently, I am always searching for new ways to minimize my time in the grocery store.

Over the years, I’ve tried various grocery list apps. Many of them were simply lists. I had to manually type all items, one by one into a list on my phone. Once they were purchased and checked off, I had to either uncheck them manually if I wanted to keep them on the list to buy again next week (milk) or delete them if they were just “once in a while” purchases (ketchup).

Some apps let me choose food items from a database but the database could not be modified. I could not add, delete, or edit to specify a certain brand. Some databases were so large it was time consuming to find items. Some databases were too small or too different from our family’s eating habits to be useful.

For almost a year now, I’ve been using the Grocery Gadget app on my iPhone. It’s also available for Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Nokia, and Amazon Nook. See the promo/demo video here.

If you sign up for a free account with Grocery Gadget you have access their robust and customisable database and can sync it to your phone. For me, this was a real time saver as I could see and edit the entire list on my large computer screen instead of only on my small phone screen.

I spent a few hours updating the database by deleting the foods we never eat, adding items we do eat, and updating the existing items by specifying brands and package sizes we prefer. It allows for both U.S. and metric sizes and will allow you to specify if the item is in a jar, box, bottle, etc.

You can also add the price of each item as well as any applicable taxes. You can edit the tax rates to whatever percentage applies in your area. This allows you to see your total grocery bill before you even head out to the store.

Another great feature of Grocery Gadget is the ability to add photos and UPC bar codes to each item. This is very handy when you are staring at a shelf of razor blades and cannot remember which brand your husband uses and which brand your teenager son uses. I just look at the photo and scan the bar code with my phone!

I do about 95% of my grocery shopping at one specific store, so I went a step further. I renamed the categories based on the aisles in my grocery store. Since the categories are always listed in alphabetical order, I added numbers to the beginning. Produce is the first section in the store when I walk in the door so the category was named 00 Produce. The deli section is at the end of aisles 2 and 3 so it is called 025 Deli.

It took me a few weeks of slightly extended grocery shopping sessions accessing the database on my phone to ensure each food item was in its correct category but the time invested at the beginning has more than paid itself back. Now, I don’t even have to walk down aisle 7 if I don’t have anything to buy in category 07 Sides Asian Canned Veg. This is a big time-saver especially when the store is busy — and a money saver too because I’m not tempted to buy items that are not on my list.

Because my grocery list syncs through the free web portal, everyone in the family uses the app and can add items to the grocery list at any time. Sometimes I will be at the grocery store and all of a sudden “cheese slices” will appear on my list. I know immediately that I need to buy more which saves me a trip to the store later in the week. If my husband and I shop together, we can go to different sections, check off items as we pick them up, and get everything in half the time without duplicating items in our trolleys.

The Grocery Gadget app works very well for our family and the way we shop. But I’d like to hear from our readers to know what they prefer. Please share your grocery list techniques in the comments section below.

11 Comments for “Creating a time-saving grocery list”

  1. posted by Christine on

    I have made a template with Excel where I have categories of foods and “lines” to put items in.
    It takes up half a page and fits nicely on the refrigerator door with a pen. Being able to immediately write down what we are out of is handy for our shopping.

  2. posted by S on

    My boyfriend and I use GroceryIQ. Sounds kind of similar to Grocery Gadget. We can both sign in online or on our phones. Check off what we need on our list (which we customized at first and can add or delete from as our tastes change); and then clear the shopping list and start over from the clean “favorites” list when needed.

  3. posted by SkiptheBS on

    I’ve used Grocery Gadget for years; tried other apps but they crash or are limited.

    Gadget allows me to make multiple store lists & add temporary lists for holidays that can be cross-referenced with store lists. I can check off items as I put them in the basket to eliminate the one-forgotten-purchase problem.
    Lists can be synced between computer and phone on a base account so family members can add items as they run out.

    It doesn’t sync accounts with coupons…yet…

  4. posted by SkiptheBS on


    I haven’t been using Gadget in computer so I had no clue that it WILL add coupons now. Gotta check that out!

  5. posted by Pat on

    My solution is MUCH lower tech. I keep a list on the fridge and my husband and I add to it whenever we run low on something or run out. I made a table (yes , I did use the computer) of large boxes, one box for each aisle of the grocery store and numbered each box and labeled it with a few key words for the contents of the aisle. We just transfer the information from the refrigerator list to the appropriate boxes and head off to the store.

  6. posted by Diane on

    I typed a three-column Word document of items that we regularly use and put them in the order of the aisles at the store. When we run out of something, we can highlight it. When I get ready to go to the store, I can highlight items that I know we will need for the week. A few things not on the list can go on blanks at the end of the page. It did take me a time or two at the grocery store to get the list right, but now it is so easy to print off ten or so copies of the list at a time and put them on the the fridge (heavy duty magnet). I made this list when we had six children still at home, and we really needed it!

  7. posted by Bill D on

    Our family has dabbled in dozens of applications for this purpose, and finally settled on Plan To Eat ( for grocery/staples list (and more!). Plan to Eat combines a recipe database, meal planner, and grocery/staples list in one easy-to-use package. It does not sort the grocery list by aisle/section directly, but does categorize your items so you could do it if you wanted to. That is not a feature I’d use much, really, since I don’t often shop the same grocery from week-to-week and when we do it’s mostly “whole foods” on the edge of the store (who goes down the center aisles!). It does support multiple stores (for ingredients/items which are only available at a specific store). And, as a bonus, you can automatically build the grocery list from your meal plan, and share recipes with friends. Of course, this is a paid product, but their terms are very reasonable for the value, and they are continually adding features to improve the product – and, they don’t hold your data hostage if you decide to cancel. p.s. they have a free trial, and their black friday sale is usually 50% off the annual subscription cost!

  8. posted by Margaret on

    I use the Knock Knock All Out of Pad ( It’s a 6 inch by 9 inch notepad with a magnet on the back. The pad lists by category most of the products one would keep in a kitchen. I check off items as I use them up and mark down what I need for the week’s cooking. When I am ready to go shopping, I just tear off the sheet and take it with me to the grocery store. The back of the sheet is handy for taking notes or working out a week’s menus.

  9. posted by Erin on

    I’ve been using Grocery Gadget for years!! I love that the lists are sharable with other people in the household & that you can even make lists for separate stores that you frequent.

  10. posted by Ellen on

    My family has used paper lists. We’ve used a whiteboard on the fridge. We’ve used customized Word docs. We’ve tried a dozen apps for iDevices.

    The only method which has worked really well for us? Google Docs. Everyone in the family has the link to the current grocery list, which we update from our laptops or iThings, and then whoever winds up going to the store pulls up the GDocs app on an iPhone and…voila!

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