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Charcoal and tampons: shopping with a list


How many times have you said these words:

I can’t get out of Target without spending a hundred dollars. I just can’t!

You’re not alone. I’ve heard many people say those words. If dropping a couple hundred bucks on Made-in-China household-goods-you-may-already-have-at-home troubles you, read on. There is hope!

Shopping with a list can help ease your modern life in so many ways.

Save money

Saving money is my absolute favorite reason to shop with a list. When you have an ongoing list of items you need (or really, really want), it empowers you to stick to that list while you are in the store. Do that and you’ll save money. No question.

Save time by making fewer trips

Because I’m not a fan of extra errands (not at ALL) I make sure to put essential items on my list as soon as they run out instead of trying to remember to add them to a list just before I need them again. Two good examples: charcoal and tampons. Let’s face it, charcoal and tampons are two things for which there is no replacement. If you ever run out of them, you have to make an extra trip to a store. Bummer!

Keep your list updated to cut out that extra trip.

Make healthier choices

Taking inventory of what you have in the fridge, freezer and pantry before grocery shopping not only saves you money — it’s healthier!

Avoid waste

Between 14-25% of the food we buy at the grocery store goes into the trash. That is just sad. Shopping with a list will help you waste less.
Jerry Seinfeld used to do a bit about buying too much milk and wasting it.

Do we need milk? Hey. I think we do. But I’m not really sure. Do we? (Go ahead. You know you want to watch the clip. It’s hilarious!)

Reduce clutter

My second favorite reason to shop with a list: less clutter! You don’t buy duplicates because you only buy what you know you do not have. True for food, clothes, batteries, everything.

Minimize whining!

Coming in at a close third in top reasons to shop with a list: Once your kids catch on that you stick to the list, they will spend less time begging you for things. They will grow to understand that resistance is futile. And (bonus) they’ll learn to make a shopping list for things they want themselves.

Expedite your shopping trip

When my kids were babies I knew I had about 20 minutes (on a good day) to get through the grocery store before someone cried or had a poopy diaper. Too bad for me it took 45 minutes to get everything I needed. It never failed. I don’t think I swiped my card ONCE in 4 years without somebody crying on my hip.

I hated (HATE-ed) grocery shopping back then. So of course I wanted to make it go as fast as possible. I created a list on my computer of the groceries we buy regularly in store order. I printed out copies and used one list each trip. Sounds OCD. But sister, it reduced my in-store time by 10-15 minutes. Winner!

All of these are wonderful reasons to use a shopping list. But if you aren’t used to doing it, how can you make a list a habit?

How to develop the list habit

Step 1: Find a list app you like

ziplist appAny mobile app is good as long as you can share it with your housemates. If Jeff is at the store I can add 4 gallons of ice cream and a can of whipped cream to our joint list while he’s shopping. That is tricky and awesome.

Also, with an app your list is always with you in case you make an unexpected stop. This means you avoid pointing fingers and going back and forth on the phone while you walk the grocery store aisles.

Right now I’m using ziplist for groceries. (grocery iq is also highly rated)

I also use a plain ol’ boring notepad list app (for iPhone) for things I want to pick up at other stores.

Protip: It may be helpful for you to have a list for each store. However, if you prefer to have one list for everything you need, that’s perfect. Do what works for you.

Step 2: Make your list ahead of time

If you put things on the list while you are at home, you can be very sure that you are out of each item. Once you are in the store shopping, you are not allowed to add a new pair of shoes to your list as you walk by them! Okaaaay?! You can definitely add things to a list while you are in a store. But it has to be the list for your next trip. Maybe by the time you come back, you’ll realize you don’t really want the shoes that badly.

If you don’t get around to making the list at home, at least make it before you walk into the store. Sit in your car for a minute and think about why you’re there. Write the items down because you know the wicked supermarket geniuses are going to be all over your inner child who wants shiny candy as soon as you walk in the door.

Step 3: A visual reminder


Write the word “list” on the credit card you use to pay for your shopping. If you use cash (you probably could have written a much more helpful article than I’m writing if you shop with cash) put some other reminder in your wallet that says “list.”

This visual reminder tells you to check your list while you are in the checkout line for forgotten things and also makes you feel a little guilty about items in your cart that weren’t on the list. PUT THEM BACK.

Keep it up 

Like staying in shape, the list is not a one time experiment. This needs to become how you roll. Give yourself props for sticking with it.

I’ve trained myself to be such a List Nazi that now, even if I only need to buy 2 things, I write them down. Since I use a list consistently, my mind can relax while I’m in the store and sing along with the cheesy music.

Do you shop with a list? If not, what’s stopping you? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

avoid waste, grocery shopping, list, mobile apps, organizing tips, save money, save time, shopping, stay on track

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