Make a Useful Shopping List

Lisa - May 4, 2022

When it comes to having a good experience at the store, a good shopping list can make all the difference. A well-organized list can make the trip straightforward and quick, while going without one can mean over an hour of browsing, trying to remember what you need, and deciding between the countless brands presented to you. Here are some tips for improving your family’s shopping list to make trips to the store a breeze. We’ll address the topic as if Mom is the one in charge of going to the store, but you can apply it to whoever has that responsibility in your family. 

A good shopping list is accessible to everyone. If Dad discovers the family needs more lightbulbs or one of the kids finds out you’re almost out of brown sugar, it will work better if everyone doesn’t have to relay that information to Mom. They should be able to add it themselves, reducing the chance that someone will forget to mention it, or that Mom’s mental note will fail to reach the actual list. This should save Mom the headache of trying to remember multiples requests as well.

Grocery bag

Along those same lines, the ability to add something anytime, anywhere is great for ensuring your family never forgets a thing. This is most feasible with a digital list, such as the ones on Family Tools. Maybe a daughter finds that she needs a new water bottle in the middle of softball practice. If she has a device nearby, she can add it right then, and Mom will see it the next time she checks. Because Family Tools updates immediately, Mom could even notice the addition while she’s at the store.

As list items are created, it’s very useful to label them according to what they are or where they’re found. For example, if the family needs six different items in the canned food section and family members give all of them the category “Cans,” then Mom can easily get them all at once instead of backtracking as she goes down the list. If certain items are bought at certain stores, they could be labeled with that as well. When using Family Tools, you can make as many categories (called sections) as you’d like, and items that have already been added can still be moved from one section to another. (I’ve found that last feature to be nice when someone puts things in the wrong section, which happens more than I would expect!)

Things are rarely added in a convenient order, so even with categories, it might be hard to see everything with that category at a glance. Family Tools lists can be sorted by section with a single button, and they’ll keep sorting as you add more items. They’ll sort alphabetically, but if Mom likes to go through the store in a certain path, she can precede section names with numbers to put them in the most convenient order. Other digital lists usually have a sorting function as well, hopefully one that can sort the categories and not just alphabetize the items. Paper lists are trickier and may need a second draft after everything has been added to get it properly sorted.

Woman shopping

Another tip that can be nice (but tricky with physical lists) is the ability to see who added each item. Usually, if Mom sees that someone needs colored pencils and wants more details, she’ll have to ask every kid about it until she finds the one who added it. However, if it’s marked with a name or a certain color, she can go directly to that person. In another situation, Mom might see a note on the list to pick up a dozen doughnuts. If she knows that Dad put it there, she might figure he’s going to take it to work or treat the team he coaches. In contrast, if she realizes that her seven-year-old son added it, she can safely dismiss it as an attempt to get more treats in the house.

To provide this solution for physical lists, you can try to judge handwriting, but it’s easier to have people add their initials or set up different colors for each person to use. (If you have a trickster like the one mentioned earlier that would use others’ initials or colors, you might have to get creative!) If everyone has their own Family Tools account, then the app will include names on list items automatically. Other digital lists may or may not have a way to do this, depending on how they’re set up.

Finally, shopping lists—particularly those meant for groceries—are most helpful when they’re connected to your meal plans. If your shopper goes once a week, for example, then make sure to look at the upcoming week’s worth of meals and add every ingredient you need them to get. This will help prevent forgotten items and last-minute changes to your dinner plans. If you don’t want to flip through your recipes manually every time, then Family Tools can do it for you. After adding your recipes and creating your meal plan, the Shopping List Generator can import ingredients directly from your plan to your grocery list with the press of a few buttons.

Those are our tips on shopping lists—give everyone access, add some categories, identify who adds each item, and connect it with your meals. Make your family’s grocery trips straightforward and simple, especially with the help of Family Tools.