How to Organize a Shopping List


You may be thinking, hey, everyone knows how to make a grocery list. You just write down the names of the items you want and run out the door. Well, making a grocery list in this manner will pretty much insure you’ll be making about five trips to the supermarket too many in the week to come. This article will teach you how to create an organized grocery list, with not only the items you want, but the items you need and the ones that will save you money in the long run. It will hopefully save you some time – and gas, and help you maintain your sanity in the process.

Look at your recipes

Presumably, since you will be buying groceries, there is a recipe you want to make. So grab your recipe and write out a list of the ingredients on a note pad, envelope, or whatever paper you have handy. Make sure you write down the name of the item and the quantity of the item that you will need. Repeat this step for each recipe you have in mind.

Take inventory of what you have

Once you have all the recipe ingredients written down, check the refrigerator, freezer and pantry to see which of these items you already have. The people who choose to skip this step are the ones that end up with five half-used boxes of corn starch in the cupboard. Cross any items you already have off of your list, unless you don’t have enough to complete the recipes or you want to replenish your supply so you don’t have to shop for more of the item next time you need it.

See if you’re running out of staples

No, not the office supply that sticks two or more pieces of paper together – staples as in those basic items that you always seem to need around the house, like butter, milk, cereal or toothpaste. Add any of these items to the bottom of the list, again checking to make sure you don’t already have them stashed away somewhere.

*You may want to ask other household members if they need you to buy anything. Again, do a check of the pantry, freezer and fridge before adding an item to your list.

Check your coupons

If you’re looking to save money on your shopping trip, as most people are these days, you’ll want to check your coupon box or file to see if there are any that you can use. If you notice you have a coupon for an item on your shopping list, circle the item on the list so you don’t forget to use it. It is also helpful to put the coupons you plan to use in a separate container from the box, such as a small envelope. That way they’ll be easy to find while you’re shopping. And you can check the envelope when you’re at the register to be sure that you’ve used them all.

*Make sure the coupons aren’t expired before you add them to the envelope, or you may look a little silly in the check out line. Plus, it will negate the whole time-saving thing when the confused checker calls the manager and asks why the coupons won’t scan.

Check the grocery store circular

Lastly, peruse the ad for the grocery store and see if anything you plan to buy is on sale. While you’re checking, see if there are any deals that you can’t pass up. Add these sale items to the bottom of the list. Be sure to check for coupons for these items too.

Type or rewrite your list

Once you’ve gotten everything you plan to buy written down, you’ll probably want to rewrite your list so it is more readable and better organized. You can either type it up or just rewrite it on a new sheet of paper. (If you’re making the list for someone else and your writing is chicken scratch, please type it up – unless you want him coming back frustrated with a box of Cheerios with two gallons of cat milk.)

Tips on writing your final list:

  1. Group the items by where they can be found in the grocery store so you don’t find yourself ping-ponging all over the place once you get to the store, especially if you have limited time to shop. For example, dairy items, meats, fruit and vegetables, etc. If this sounds pretty cumbersome to you, don’t worry. There are software programs that can help. One example is Aisle by Aisle software.
  2. Mark the sale items and those you have a coupon for with an asterisk or other symbol so that you remember to stock up and pay down.
  3. Always write down the amount of each item that you will need (two apples, five cups of sugar, etc.), unless you want to make another trip to the grocery store in a couple of hours when you realize you didn’t buy enough.

Head to the store grocery store

Now that you have your perfectly organized grocery list, it’s time to hit the store.

Tips for when you’re at the store

  1. When you get to the store try to stick to your list. Grocery store layouts are designed to get you to buy things that you don’t need.
  2. Never buy groceries on an empty stomach. Those chocolate cakes sure are tempting when you haven’t had dinner yet.
  3. Pay attention to the prices of the items you’re buying so you’ll know right away if you are being overcharged. Sometimes the sale prices or coupons don’t scan correctly in the register.
  4. Avoid the candy-filled checkout lines if shopping with kids or other sweet-toothed adults, or if you are the chocolate addict of the family.

*It has happened countless times. A person goes through the effort of making a well organized, well thought out grocery shopping list only to get to the store and realize it’s back at home on the kitchen counter. Do not be this person. And don’t forget the coupons either.


  1. Skyes says:

    I make my first copy of my shopping list on a dry erase board. (Mine stays on the fridge with magnet pens the rest of the week, so everyone can add to it.) This lets me move stuff around, and in the bottom corner, I jot down items I need to go back & check on while I’m making my list.

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