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Working the Aisles: Making the List

May 16, 2010

I used to hate grocery shopping before I figured out how to do it right. I would go with a half-list on an index card, or no list at all. I was “that girl” who would come home ready to make a quiche for dinner and realize that I forgot to buy eggs.

Or I wandered through the spice aisle, thought “I really need paprika!“, came home, and already had 3 jars on the shelf.

Or, shopping would take an hour as I ran back and forth, looping around as if I was training for a half marathon. Good for endurance, not so much for time management.

Shopping without a list only leads to lots of cursing on my part.

Years of shopping with my Mom and on my own, I have developed an art to the shopping list.  The grocery store becomes a place of peace and harmony, exactly what I need to prepare myself for a Sunday evening of cooking and a week of after work meals.

Including all of the right ingredients.

First, I picture how my grocery store is set up, categorizing the departments, and how I walk the aisles while I shop:


Then, I list the meals I plan to make for the week and their ingredients, plus my usual shopping list:

I group the ingredients together by category and write them in the order of how I work the aisles:

Then I go to the store, buy everything in the order they are written, and I’m done.

All of a sudden, shopping didn’t seem so hard. In fact, its a breeze. I save so much time while I’m at the store (and even have some extra minutes to browse the gourmet cheeses), plus I go home with everything I need and nothing extra. Of course, I do all of the categories in my head now and don’t have funky orange numbers on my list, but its a great way for the newbie grocery lister to get used to their shopping actually making sense, rather than being as all-over-the-place as an episode of Lost. And its just as satisfying when you finally figure it out.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. May 17, 2010 7:01 am

    I am SO thrilled you are sharing this…lists are a must to ones sanity and THE SHOPPING LIST organized is a no brain-er! By the way I love your graphics…

  2. May 17, 2010 8:26 am

    Lol…your diagram of the g. store cracks me up 🙂

  3. May 17, 2010 1:59 pm

    I’m a huge mess at the grocery store if don’t have a list! Even when I have a list, there are always a few items I forget to write that I tell myself I’ll remember at the store. I ALWAYS forget them. I absolutely love your idea of grouping groceries by aisle. I need to start doing that so I’m not always running back and forth 🙂

  4. May 17, 2010 2:25 pm

    haha, we are so alike! My issue is, though, that I always need to go to about 3 different stores to get all the things I need at the best prices. So I make lists in excel, with recipes for the week, ingredients needed for each recipe, and which store I need to buy it. Then I sort by store. Now I just need to add an aisle number and sort by that too 🙂

    • May 17, 2010 5:56 pm

      Sophie- love the chart! Planning always saves a lot of hassle later. Cara- I usually stock up S&S or Shaws 1 week and then go to Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods the next. But I agree there are a lot of foods you can only get a one specific store!

  5. May 17, 2010 4:48 pm

    What a wonderful and cute tutorial on how to effectively grocery shop!! I admit that i have been known to go OOOPS i totally bought something that i have 3x of at home! hehee You’re a fabulous artist!!!

  6. May 18, 2010 7:15 pm

    What a great plan. I started grouping our list when Hubby would come home missing some things!

  7. Carole permalink
    August 3, 2010 2:31 pm

    Finally, someone else who does this. I have “by-aisle” lists for all my local stores. It works great when I shop w/ the husband and son. We each have our assigned aisles and get the shopping done in record time.

  8. Jan Son permalink
    October 31, 2011 4:36 pm

    I don’t understand why you would start your shopping at the Frozen Food Section???

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