There’s a smarter way to organize your grocery list

Illustration for article titled There’s a smarter way to organize your grocery list
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My mother is a grocery-shopping phenom. When my brother and I still lived at home, she’d draw up a grocery list each week—which meant laying out meals for the whole family for a week—then clip her coupons, and be in and out of the grocery store in under an hour. Did she owe her superpowers to the fact that her mother was a supermarket cashier for decades? Who knows. Either way, I watched a master class in grocery-shopping efficiency four times per month.


Meal-planning aside, my mother has one principle that helps her breeze through the supermarket with laser precision. She organizes her list by her route through the store. She passed this gem along to me at some point when I was college, probably after she witnessed me stumble through various aisles, doubling back to get items I’d forgotten. I’ve made my grocery list that way ever since.

I know this is not rocket science, but it was new info to me at the time. I’d previously been writing my list by meal, perhaps? Or by vaguely lumping items together if they seemed related, which as anyone who has looked for both rice and pearled barley in the store knows is not how groceries are laid out. My mom’s method does require that you shop mostly at the same, familiar store. But even if you don’t, you can roughly approximate a store’s layout: produce when you first walk in, meats and dairy along the back wall, canned and dried stuff in the middle, bakery and specialty departments near the end.

I use Google Keep to make my grocery list so that it’s easily edited and always available on my phone. Once I enter all the ingredients I need for my meals, I reorganize them by aisle. For me, that’s fruits and veggies first, followed by potatoes/onions, meat, canned and dried stuff, beer and wine, frozen food, dairy, and finally bread. It takes a bit of extra organizing before I head to the store, but if that saves me even three minutes of pushing my squeaky cart around the fluorescent-lit aisles, it’s a win in my book. If you have your own special shopping hacks, you know I’m all ears.

Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.


Most major grocery stores are laid on the same. Produce in one spot. Deli/bakery on the other side. Meat/dairy/frozen down the back and in the center. Pantry goods by produce. Cleaning supplies, paper goods, and for some reason pet and baby food by the deli.

So I go in get produce, then pantry goods, then paper goods and cleaning supplies. Cat food & litter. Then bread, frozen, dairy & meat with a run down the back.

But I've lived in hot climates the last 30 years, so I want all my cold stuff together as long as possible.  And out of refrigeration as little as possible.