How to Make Efficient Multi-Store Shopping Lists

If you need to get numerous things from several different stores, one specially-designed list can help make planning and shopping easy.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #323

It’s summer! And you know what summer means: camping!

Personally, I don’t understand camping. Great women and men throughout the ages fought against all odds, studied, experimented, suffered defeat, and then triumphed in the quest to invent electricity, indoor plumbing, microwaves, and air conditioners. And how am I supposed to honor their memory? By considering it “fun” to turn my back on their sacrifices and go out into this so-called “nature,” where they don’t even have room service? Heck, they don’t even have rooms!

Nevertheless, my friend Bernice is on her way to the Venus Descending festival. It’s a gathering of people who are into Pagan and Earth-based religions. “The Goddess provides, and this is my chance to thank her in person,” she declared. So she’s gathering all her camping gear and packing it up, in gleeful anticipation of taking it out to a festival and getting it wet and dirty, while she dances around bonfires playing the drums. The she has to bring everything home, wash it, and pack it all up again. I can’t imagine a better way to spend my vacation.


It turns out that preparing for festivals requires trips to several stores. It also requires all kinds of gear that you’ll never use for anything else. So Bernice has constructed a shopping list of a couple of hundred items that she needs to buy so she can go enjoy nature, unfettered by modern consumer culture.

Her list includes things like tents, tarps, headlamps, dried food, bottled water (to wet the food with), flashlights, blankets, inflatable mattresses, portable stoves, propane for the stove, insulated coolers, ice, sarongs, pirate costumes, ninja costumes, evening gowns, and bacon. Lots and lots of bacon.

Make a Separate List for Each Store

Not only is this one long list, but the items need to be purchased at several different stores. So when walking into Stud’s Sporting Goods, Bernice has to scan down 200 items and figure out which ones she should be looking for at Stud’s. It only took her a couple of trips to realize that while it’s easy to make a list by just writing down everything she needs, it’s hard to use a list that way.

Bernice’s solution was to organize the shopping list by store. She made three shopping lists: she has a list for Stud’s Sporting Goods to buy camping-related items, a list for Saras’s Supermarket for food, and a list for Felicia’s Fabrics for the materials to make her costumes.

That’s a good first step--but for her purposes, it’s not enough. There’s so much to buy that she often thinks of new items she needs; when she does, she has to dig up her lists, find the right list, and add the item to the list.

Now, she has to keep track of multiple pieces of paper, and she is always worried that she’s duplicated items between lists and will accidentally buy two pirate costumes. That would be a tragedy.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.