Our 21st Century Shopping List

I’m sure you’ve all heard the advice that you should never go into a grocery store when you’re hungry because you’ll end up buying so much more than you need. I find this to also be true if I enter a store without a shopping list. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m so much more likely to end up with cookies and candy in my cart if I haven’t entered the store knowing exactly what I need.

Our Old Way: Shopping Lists on a Fridge

My husband and I used to stick a small notepad and pen to the fridge (with blue tack putty) and whenever someone used the last of something, or thought of an item that needed to be bought, s/he would add it to the list, and we would grab that piece of paper before heading to the store to keep us on track. This worked well for awhile, but there were two drawbacks.

First, it was most useful for items that needed to be restocked. If I used the last drop of maple syrup, it was easy to quickly write “maple syrup” on the notepad before eating breakfast. When we moved to meal planning (after the baby arrived! Because then we realized that if we didn’t plan everything we might never eat), having to write everything down on a notepad wasn’t very efficient because it seemed silly to stand in front of the fridge and write down each ingredient for seven meals every week. The second drawback is that we couldn’t rearrange the list. We would end up in the store and have to keep reading through all the items in every aisle to make sure we had everything we needed from that section. As our lists got longer, this started to take up more and more time in the store.

Our New Way: Shopping Lists on Our Phone

We knew we had outgrown our paper lists and needed a better idea. We liked the idea of both of us being able to contribute to the list. We also liked the idea of checking things off in the store to keep us on track. So we turned to the thing we use most in our house– our phones! We didn’t want to add another app unless absolutely necessary because we are trying to keep our phones “simple,” so we tried experimenting with what we already had. After going through the Notes app and Google Docs, we settled on Google Keep and have used it for about six months now.

Icons of Google apps, with an arrow pointing to Google Keep

Google Keep is a “lists” app that has several features that we love:

  • Anyone can create a list and share it with another user (similar to Google Docs)
  • Google Keep homescreen with four lists
    How different lists are displayed on the homescreen of Google Keep.

    Anyone with whom the list is shared can add items to it

  • Each item has a checkbox next to it. When you tap the checkbox, it moves to the bottom of the list to a checked items area
  • You can uncheck items from the checked items area  to put them up on your list again (we use this all the time– why go through the trouble of typing “bag of spinach” again when you can just find it below and uncheck it?)
  •  If you want to rearrange the order, you can easily drag and drop items (This allows us to keep our list sorted by grocery store aisle. Since we know the layout of our store pretty well, we have the list arranged in order from the store entrance to the back of the store and this makes it so much easier when we’re shopping.)
  • Google knows it’s a shopping list, so when you start typing an item, helpful autofill suggestions come up so you don’t always have to type the entire item
  • The app syncs in real time. Sometimes one of us will run into the store while the other one stays in the car with the baby. Whoever is in the car can quickly add something to the list if we’ve forgotten it, and the other person will see it immediately.

Interesting ways we’ve used Google Keep:

  • Our Google Keep shopping list is our shopping list for everything. We often go to different stores to buy items that are unique/better priced at that store (e.g., every time I need frozen veggies, I go to Trader Joe’s), and we write the store name in all caps as a list item and put everything needed from that store under it. This way, everything we need to buy is on one combined list and when we’re out, we can quickly check the shopping list to see if anything is needed from a store we’re passing.
  • Sometimes we’ll run out of something that we urgently need, like milk. My husband will run out to get it, but he doesn’t need to get everything on the list. So while he’s driving to the store, I’ll quickly rearrange the shopping list and write “STOP HERE” as a list item so he knows to get everything above it.
  • As I mentioned in my couponing post, I usually work on my digital coupons on my phone. I have my Google Keep shopping list open in the background so I can quickly switch apps when I find a coupon I like and add the item to my shopping list under the correct store.
  • I usually meal plan by looking for new recipes on blogs. When I find one I like, I can easily copy and paste the ingredients into my shopping list instead of writing down or typing each one. It makes it so much easier!

I love having an easy way to get things down on “paper” so I’m not carrying the random bits of information around with me all day. Since I have the Google Keep app on my phone, it’s easy for me to add to it throughout the week whenever I think of something we need.

Hopefully this insight into our electronic shopping list gave you some new ideas! If you use any other apps or methods to keep track of your list, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

34 Responses

  1. I didn’t know this was a thing…thanks for sharing! I love lists and it’s so great that the whole family can be on the same page. Thanks!

  2. I totally need this. My husband always makes fun of me for carrying tiny pieces of paper and post it notes with me. I am obsessed with makings lists lol This will make me a lot more organized.

    1. Yes! It’s such a nice feeling to have all your lists in one place. If you have more than one list, the Google Keep homescreen has a neat interface so you can arrange them in any order you like.

  3. Very helpful! We used it for a while, but got away from it. I don’t remember it having this much functionality? Thanks!

  4. I had never heard of Google Keep before.
    I used to keep a printout of everything we used in the house on the refrigerator with a highlighter nearby. When we would run out of something, whoever used the last of it would highlight it and I would take the list with me when I went shopping.
    It was a lifesaver

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