Thursday, October 30, 2008

A List or Two

I don't have a lot of time to write this afternoon, so I thought I'd write a couple of list posts.

This first one is about lists--grocery lists, to be exact. I'm generally a "list" sort of person, and like to organize my thoughts or keep track of things by using lists; unfortunately, though, that habit hasn't carried over into my grocery shopping habits.

I really only have one way of grocery shopping: the guerrilla shopper method. It works like this:
  1. Think of one to ten things I need at the store.
  2. Go to the store.
  3. Stagger out of the store an hour and a half later with eight to twenty grocery bags whose contents cost anywhere from twelve to fifteen dollars a bag.
  4. Get home, unpack groceries, and realize that anywhere from one to nine of the things I went to the store for didn't end up being purchased.
  5. Repeat steps one through four the next time I get to the store.
Not exactly the best method, as you can imagine.

With budgets being what they are, and so on, I've been wanting to improve my grocery shopping efficiency. A while ago I found a list generator online (which has probably been shared by others before) and I bookmarked it; there were two things I didn't like about it, though, so I didn't try it. Those two things were:
  1. It came from a "working mother's" website and had "working mom"** in its title;
  2. I didn't write it myself, so the categories were arranged differently from how I would have done it.
I thought I would use it as a template for the creation of my own perfect organized shopping list, but since that never happened, I decided to try it today. The generator is here for anyone who'd like to try it, too.

It really couldn't be easier to use: clickable items, big boxes to type in your own items, and then a "submit" button which creates your own trip-specific list for you to print. The categories are still arranged in a way I find slightly counterintuitive, but with the ample space to add your own things and the ease of creating different shopping lists every time it's not a bad list, overall. I did find one big flaw: the list doesn't mention toilet paper at all, which is a pretty big omission--though that's one item I don't usually forget to buy.

Is it any easier to use than the old-fashioned half-sharpened pencil and back of random envelope? Only in that the categories are a helpful reminder of things you know you're out of but aren't thinking about: I knew I was out of ginger, a spice I use frequently, but I wouldn't have thought to write it down if I hadn't been using this list.

And if it cures the "guerrilla shopping" habit, I'll let you know!

**UPDATE: No offense to the moms who work outside the home meant. I just hate the phrase "working mom," because it seems to imply that moms who stay at home with their children and even teach them somehow don't work. We're all working moms; the only non-working moms I'm aware of are the ones who both stay at home and can hire full time live-in help, and I don't know any of them personally. :)


Siobhan said...

Hi, Erin - I love your blog, and as a convert to Catholicism I find it so educational. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.
I'm not sure if I got this idea from, but when I was absorbing some of her organizational strategies I came up with a good grocery listing method. I basically typed up all of the things I routinely buy at the grocery into an excel spreadsheet with a check-box next to each. Then I arranged it into three columns, and by grocery aisle. At the bottom I leave space for meal plans, Sunday through Saturday. I put a blank list on the refrigerator every week, and when I run out of something (or get close), I check it off on my list. Before I actually head to the store, I write out my meal plan, and then check off the items I need to buy to get those meals on the table. It's quick and it keeps me focused on what I need, greatly cutting down on the impulse buying.
Of course after I perfected this method my grocery store was remodeled and they moved everything; this was a year or so ago and I have yet to re-arrange my grocery list......

Anonymous said...

From Scotch Meg

siobhan has good suggestions. I hate spreadsheets (heck, I can't even figure out how to do the google/blogger thing). So I use a two-part system: on Fridays when I get my circulars, I figure out meal plans and write my shopping list, divided by the stores I shop, together with main dishes day-by-day, on a 3x5 index card. During the week, I keep a running list on my frig of things I need to get or am running out of, so that my sieve-like brain does not choke at the obvious moment (when in the store). This list is transferred to the 3x5 on Fridays, too.
I used to improvise instead of shopping in between, but since I am now under doctor's orders to get more exercise, I will walk to one of the nearest stores if I need something midweek. Walking means I'm not inclined to buy extra, because I'll have to carry it back; but also, I keep telling myself that the primary purpose of the trip is exercise, not shopping, which also helps.