How to Manage Your Shopping List

Learn how to manage your shopping list when you don’t know what you need.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #101

Today’s topic is getting groceries without forgetting something. The quick and dirty tip is to use a list that learns.

Omer from Tel Aviv, Israel writes in:

I live with my girlfriend for the past year and we always have the same problem: We can't make a decent grocery shopping list. Even when I write a list at home it is never comprehensive enough. Sometimes she knows what we need but I am the one actually going... It seems that always there is always something missing in my bag when I come home. We need to find a way to make a list that will be updated all the time and available anywhere..

Grocery shopping!! I just love grocery shopping!! … No, I don’t. I hate grocery shopping. I always go when I’m hungry, and I don’t even bother to take a list. I just get what looks good. Like marinated olives. We have 200 half-eaten tubs of marinated olives in the fridge, and let’s not even get started on the string cheese. The best part about the Internet revolution is that I can grocery shop from home and get everything delivered. Videos, too! I can watch all the Zombie World Domina… Er, no. The Sound of Music. My therapist said Julie Andrews. Do a deer. Just watch the awesome YouTube video of the flash mob choreographed dance, and everything will be safe and calm. Ahhh.

You want a list that learns from experience. Most people shop for basically the same stuff over and over. Maybe you change brands a bit. This week, you buy the 16-pack of Kleenex, whereas next week you buy the 16-pack of Scott tissue. Over time, you’ll be able to figure out that your weekly shopping list should include a 16-pack of some kind of tissue paper. You will also be able to figure out that you should see a nose doctor about that. It’s not normal.

Keep Your Grocery List On Your Computer

Create a document on your computer where you store the master copy of your list. As a first pass, just type in everything you think you’ll need at the store. Make your list a bullet list, and set the bullet to be a hollow circle or square that you can fill in. I use Pages for the Mac, which has an awesome hand-drawn-looking checkbox by each item. You can you use your own favorite word processing program, and create your own bullet list.

Now print out the list and hang it on your refrigerator, or the little bulletin board you have next to the front door. If you don’t have a little bulletin board, get one for goodness’ sake. It’s a great place to leave phone messages for your roommate, boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, or polyamorous family unit. You can add spice to your relationship by writing half a message and tearing the paper so it looks like the rest got lost. Make up stuff like, “Family emergency! On my way to visit. Love, XXX” but don’t actually give any details; then don’t answer when people call your cell phone frantically. It’s lots of fun, and your whole family will think it was a hilarious joke when you reveal nothing’s wrong.


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.