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

Consolidate with X’s in Columns

Making a single list is convenient because you can write all the main items down at once, and simply add new items to the end. But having separate lists makes it easy to quickly find stuff in a given store. Luckily, there’s a way to combine the benefits of both lists into one.

Start with a piece of engineering graph paper. Label the first column "Item." Write the items to buy in the first column, one per row. Bernice’s items include vegetarian faux beef jerky (I don’t want to know what it’s really made of), an inflatable mattress, and an eye patch for her pirate costume.

There's a way to have a list that's easy for adding, and easy for shopping.

Now, label each additional column with the name of one of the stores you’ll be visiting for your shopping run. Bernice labels column 2 "Stud’s Sporting Goods," column 3 "Saras’s Supermarket," and column 4, "Felicia’s Fabrics."

For each item, put an X in the column (or columns) corresponding to the store where that item can be purchased. The jerky gets an X in Saras’s Supermarket, the mattress gets an X in Stud’s Sporting Goods, and the eye patch gets its X in Felicia’s Fabrics.

Now, when entering a store, Bernice only needs to scan down that store’s column, looking for Xs. When she finds an X, she knows that item can be found at that store. This offers the convenience of just having one list for writing down items, with the benefit of easy-to-scan columns that create a separate shopping list for each store--without your having to rethink every item from the beginning, each time the shopping list gets consulted.

Consolidate with Checkboxes in Columns

Bernice loved this technique so much that she started using it for everything. However, she noticed that when she was scanning down a column, her eye would be on the right side of the paper, in one of the store columns. To mark off a purchased item, though, she would have to scan over to the left side for the checkbox, making it easy to lose her place in the list.

So she proposed an improvement: instead of putting an X by every store where an item can be bought, put an empty checkbox. Then when you buy the item, you can check it right off, since the checkbox is already where you’re looking. If an item can be found at more than one store, put a checkbox in both columns. So then when you buy the item, you can just check off all the relevant boxes for that item.

Bernice is awesome.

Gotta run--I have to help Bernice carry her shopping bags in from the car. She got everything she needs, and she and Melvin are off for a week of “camping.” And drumming. And communing with the Goddess. I’ll wait here and watch Netflix.

To sum up: shopping lists are well and good, and to make it super-fast to construct one, use engineer graph paper. Label columns with store names, and every time you add an item, just write an empty checkbox in the columns of the stores where you can buy that item. When you go shopping at a store, read down its column. The items with checkboxes are your shopping list--so once you have an item, just check it off.

I'm Stever Robbins. I help high achievers accelerate or change careers. If you want to know more, visit SteverRobbins.com.
Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!
Photos of Woman with List and Checkboxes courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins 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. 

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