6 Expert Tips on How to Make an Organized Shopping List

Be better organized for your next grocery store run with these genius tips that'll save you time and money.

Sure, making a simple grocery list isn’t exactly rocket science; just jot down a few items you need to stock in your pantry and bring the list to the store. But when you’re coordinating dinner for a crowd, shopping in bulk or simply short on time, a well-organized list can make a huge difference. It can save you time, money and, most important, ward off stress during your supermarket haul. We asked several shopping experts their advice for before-the-store prep.

Use last week’s receipt

Self-proclaimed supermarket guru Phil Lempert suggests starting this week’s grocery list with last week’s grocery store receipt. With that in hand, dig through your cupboard, your fridge and your freezer and cross off the items you don’t need. Be sure to look in the back recesses, because our cupboards tend to have lots of blind spots.

That said, Lempert understands we all need a few impulse purchases here and there, so he suggests drawing three horizontal lines at the bottom of your old receipt. These are for three impulse items you’ll allow yourself to buy. But limit them to three, because impulse purchases add up quickly (as much as 40% of your typical grocery bill!).

Here are grocery shopping tips to shop the supermarket like a pro.

Use grocery list apps

Kendal Perez, a savings expert at CouponSherpa.com, suggests maintaining your shopping list digitally (she uses Google Keep for hers). This way you can simply copy and paste the ingredients of your favorite slow cooker recipes into a list. Each week, print out the list and check off the items you need. “This way, you don’t find yourself buying duplicates ‘just in case’ or failing to realize you need something after you’ve already left the store,” Perez explains.

To level up, Perez suggests planning the week’s meals before going through your list. And then, once you’ve got that routine down, start using an online coupon app like Flipp or other grocery shopping apps to craft your weekly menus based on what’s on sale that week.

Organize your list by aisles

Jenny Butler owns a small business writing family histories and is a supermarket super-saver. “Plan your trip to the grocery store strategically,” she advises. By that, Butler means envisioning a plan of action for once you get to the store. “Organize your shopping list in terms of aisles so you’re not constantly going back and forth within the store to pick up desired items.” This will reduce the chances of having a grocery store trick you into buying more and it’ll help avoid impulse buys.

As for the list itself, Butler enhances it with the Out of Milk shopping list app on her phone, which further guarantees she will not skip items. It also allows her to maintain different lists for different stores.

Organize by your budget

Natural living blogger Maat van Uitert agrees with Butler’s method of aisle-centric organizing, but she adds another layer: order the aisles in terms of your budget. “Plan to pick up the least expensive items first, the items that are the most versatile (such as canned tomatoes), and items you can buy in bulk. If you reach your budget before finishing your list, you can rest assured your cart will be full of items you can use in more than one meal.” Try one of these budget-friendly dinners that’ll be sure to incorporate some of those items.

If you’re grocery shopping on a budget and want to get more out of your money, try shopping at one of the cheapest grocery stores near you.

Check for coupon items

It only makes sense that this tip comes from savings expert, Cherie Lowe, who is also known as the Queen of Free by her many online fans:

“Once you’ve settled on the items that are to be on that week’s shopping list,” says Lowe, “figure what coupons you have and place asterisks beside the corresponding items.” Because you’ve made the list first, you won’t be tempted to buy things you don’t need just because you have coupons.

Check out these other ways to save money on groceries.

Take photos of your inventory

Mid adult woman ordering food shopping on digital tablet10'000 Hours/Getty Images

You know that feeling: you’ve made your shopping list and checked it twice. But once you’re in the store and standing in front of myriad items, you start to doubt yourself. Did you really see basil in your spice rack? Or was that oregano? If that’s you, then the founder of PromotionCode, Mike Catania, feels your pain and offers the following solution: Take photos of what’s inside your cabinets. If it seems like overkill, ask yourself if you’d rather purchase that third bottle of dried basil leaves instead.

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Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly in The Huffington Post as well as a variety of other publications since 2008 on such topics as life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. She is also a writer of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.