I kind of covered this in my post Tips to Reduce Food Waste and Save Money on Groceries, but I wanted to get right to the nitty-gritty of making a grocery list. Yes, to some, that may seem basic.

You write down what you think you need so you remember why you went to the store. But how many times have you gone there and got home only to realize you forgot something important?

So, more or less, this is how to write an effective grocery list that will help prevent that from happening. Plus, you’ll:

  • Save money on groceries
  • Prevent food waste
  • Spend less time going to the store
  • Avoid getting takeout

First and foremost, to make a grocery list, you need to know what meals you’re shopping for.

Decide What You Want to Eat

When you ask someone what they want to eat, you could get various answers from I don’t know to I don’t care, and possibly whatever, followed by not that. By deciding what you want to eat for the week ahead of time, you’re not only reducing the amount of decision fatigue you might face, but you’ll also have an idea of what ingredients you’ll need to make that happen.

First and foremost, check your fridge, cupboards, pantry, and so on for food you already have. Also, check the flyer to see what’s on sale. Doing this will help with inspiration when creating a menu for the week. You can also keep a list of your favourites—similar to browsing a restaurant menu.

You can do this for every meal or dinner only if you find breakfast and lunch are pretty routine (but don’t forget you need ingredients to make these too).

Write Out Your Grocery List

Now that you’ve looked at the ingredients you already have, checked the flyer, and made your menu, make a list of any the items you’ll need to cook your meals. Make sure you include the quantity and any specifics like flavours, colours, textures, etc. if there are several options.

You’ll also want to keep a running list in your kitchen to write down food and ingredients you run out of—and write them down as you think of them. An important thing to note here is you want to avoid keeping multiple lists. If you have more than one, it’s easy to think that’s everything when it’s not.

If you live with someone else, you’ll want them to have access to the same list you do. If you need to write it elsewhere in the meantime, remember to put it on the main list when you can.

Using the Bring! app on your phone is helpful. It’s free, and you can share lists with others. All you do is click icons to make your list and click to remove them. I have no affiliation with the app, I just like it, and you might too.

Go Shopping

At first, planning meals to write a shopping list might seem like a lot, especially if you’re new to grocery shopping. But as you go, it’s something that will get easier.