One of my wonderful clients once said, "I like to think really hard...once." Sure, you can scribble a grocery list on the back of an envelope, but with a minimal investment of time and energy, you can create a preprinted grocery checklist that will streamline your shopping.
Here are five tips for creating a super-functional grocery list:
1. As a jumping-off point, download a free, printable list from the Internet. One of the most exhaustive lists available is "The Ultimatest Grocery List" from grocerylists.org. To customize your list for your family, have a peek in your fridge and cupboards to see which items you use often (unless of course it's been so long since you've shopped that they only contain a jar of fuzzy mayo and a stale rice cake) . You might also want to flip through your "old standby" recipes and note any key ingredients to include on your list.
2. Keep your customized list simple and uncluttered--to be functional, it shouldn't include everything that you have ever bought or ever will buy. (Seriously, how many times in a decade does a person need to buy Old Bay Seasoning?) Instead include only the most frequently purchased items with blank lines for occasional "write-ins".
3. If you really want to make your shopping trips efficient, you can sequence your grocery list so that the categories on the list appear in the same order as the corresponding aisles at your favorite grocery store. For example, if the produce section is near the front door of the store, this would be the first section on your list. This sounds more complicated than it is--you can probably do this from memory. If not, just jot aisle numbers next to items on your list the next time you shop and edit your list accordingly. This simple step will save you from backtracking for forgotten items. It may also save your wallet...and maybe even your waistline! Grocery stores are designed to encourage spending. (Ever wonder why you have to trek past the Chips Ahoy and the Pringles when you're hunting for the milk?) If you know exactly what you need and where to find it on your first pass through the store, you're less likely to answer the call of the cookies. [Insert Tarzan-like cookie sound effect here.]
4. If you regularly shop at multiple stores and there are items that are only available at a particular store, (Trader Joe's Belgian Chocolate Pudding comes to mind as a purely hypothetical example) you'll probably want a separate section of the list for each specialty store.
5. Print several copies of your list and give it a "test run" for a few grocery trips. If it works for you and your family, you can laminate it (or put it in a sheet protector) and use a dry erase or wet erase marker to check off needed items.
Photo Credit: Stock Xchng