Save Money and Time with this Genius Grocery List (with Free Printable!)

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by Robin

best grocery list

If you aren't using a grocery list you are probably spending too much money and time at the grocery store.  The habit of using a grocery list can make the food preparation parts of your life go that much more smoothly.

I've created a printable grocery list that works well for us; you can download it below, but first some grocery list food for thought.

grocery shopping list

We all have our "ways of doing things" that we carry into our adult relationships and this is one of mine.  Collecting a list of grocery needs throughout the week has been a way of life for me.  Growing up, "Did you put it on the list?" was a question heard when something was finished off in the kitchen and when I begged for some tempting thing at the store.

There are a lot of good reasons to be in the habit of keeping a list.

Here are a few that are important to us:

1. It's frustrating to run out of ingredients.  
It can be hard enough to come up with a supper idea on the fly (meal planning saves this hassle).  It is especially challenging when you're missing a key ingredient for what you've come up with.  (I've been known to growl when this happens.  Seriously, like a Bear.)

Keeping a well stocked pantry and freezer can prevent this.

2. Too many cooks empty the pantry.  

Both Ed and I share cooking duties at our house.  If we didn't keep a list, frustration would ensue (See Growling above, and add hissing like a Mountain Lion.)

Also, whoever does the shopping would have no way of knowing what the other used up.  Our grocery list has saved many Bear on Mountain Lion battles.

3. The fewer trips you take to the store the more you'll save.  
This is true for a number of reasons.  For one, if you live a good distance from the store, you'll waste gas.  I don't need to tell you how expensive gas is.

And research shows that the more trips you take to the store, the more you spend.  Does this sound familiar?  You pop into the store to pick up milk or eggs.  As you weave through the aisles you see a few other things, either they are on sale, look too delicious to leave behind or you suspect you may be out of it at home.  

By the time you get to the checkout, you're counting the number of items in your basket to be sure that you can still go through the express lane.  Stores are set up like this on purpose.  The things we most commonly run out of are in the back of the store by design.  The idea is, as we wind through the store to get what we really came for, we leave with much more.  

By going to the store less often, you can reduce your exposure to temptations.

4. It's easier to take advantage of sales. 
By taking a few minutes before you head out to mark your list with the sale items, you can be sure you'll take advantage of them.

I find the best sales are screaming at you on the front of the flyer, but whisper in the store.  That's a marketing technique.  They want you to choose their store, but they don't necessarily want you to only buy their sale items. 

Make sure you remind yourself of what's on sale by marking the best sale items on your list and draw attention to them.  A highlighter would work, or a symbol of some kind.  At our place , e use a $ (dollar sign) next to the best sales.

5. You only buy what you need.  
Roaming through the store looking at the shelves to remind you of what you need is costing you money.  Looking at everything there is to buy is a good way to fill your cart with things you don't need or won't use.

I will do this once in awhile, to see what new products are out there, but the key is not to do this every time you shop.

6. Prevent impulse buys.   This has worked well for our kids and grocery store trips.  The kids know that they need to think of what they want at home and add it to the list.  In the store, if they ask for some random thing that catches their eye, they get this response, "Hmmm...that's not on our list."  The first time this worked I was floored!  Now they try and remember what it is they wanted before we leave (they usually don't remember, but when they do we usually add it).

Like many parenting strategies, this one probably has an expiry date, but for now, we're enjoying it.

Grocery List Tips:

Over the years we've tried different ways to keep a grocery list.

  • Use paper.  I often see pretty chalkboards on blogs or in magazines.  They look so pretty, but I a chalkboard didn't work well for us.  Unless you're going to carry your chalkboard with you through the store, you're going to need to copy the list down again on paper.  Save yourself the hassle and write it on something you can carry with you.  

  • Don't you hate when you've made a trip to the store and forgot one of the things you actually needed that day?  Use a pen and stroke off the things you've put in your cart.  You won't miss anything this way.  

  • Last year I made a printable chart based on the ingredients for our Master Menu Plan.  We would highlight the items we were running low on.  That worked well at times.  The challenge with that one was taking the list to the grocery store and trying to find everything in a timely manner.  It just wasn't laid out well for shopping and we would always miss something.

  • Now we use a more open-ended system which is based on the layout of the grocery store.  This makes it quick to locate where to write it onto the list at home.  And it's quick to get through the store.  We do less backtracking through the place to get an item we missed the first time through.  

Help yourself to our Free Printable Grocery List:

Got something to share about grocery lists?  Leave a comment below!


  1. There is a great free ap called out of milk.You can scan foods in your house to add to your list, apparently I can synch my list with my husbands phone, so if one of us gets an item we can remove it from both lists( havent tried it yet)I also add foods by food group for better flow through the store!

  2. Thanks for that tip - we are going to have to check that out! You had me at "free ap"...

  3. Agreed! My husband and I meal plan and make our weekly grocery list together--definitely helps us save money and time. The grocery store can swallow money if you're not careful!


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