You’re standing in the middle of the aisle at the grocery store, holding a box of pasta, desperately wracking your brain: Do I already have this in my pantry?With inflation making all our lives increasingly expensive, one of the few things still in your control is how you shop. To avoid unnecessary spending—like on a fourth can of beans—you need to know what you already have on hand at home. The key is having an accessible, up-to-date list that you actually use every time you shop: A digital list on your phone makes this quick and easy, allowing you to save time and money in the long run.
Follow these steps to save money on groceries with a digital shopping list.
Choose an app
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There are several apps and services that allow you to make collaborative shopping lists that the whole family can access. Popular options include AnyList, Bring!, and Out of Milk. Choose one that works well for your needs and allows easy access from your smartphone. (Here is our collection of the best grocery store apps for every need.)
Set up categories in your list app to organize items. Typical grocery categories include: Produce, Dairy, Meat, Frozen Foods, Snacks, Beverages, Pantry Items, Bakery, Deli, Paper/Cleaning Products. Having categories makes the list neater and easier to manage.
Add frequently purchased items
Think through items you purchase on a regular basis and add them to your list app. This may include things like milk, eggs, bread, yogurt, fresh vegetables, granola bars, chicken, toilet paper, etc. Having these basics pre-loaded makes list creation each week quicker.
Conduct a home audit
I’ve previously sung the praises of a home audit to take stock of what you’ve got, so you can stop wasting money on things you don’t actively need. What I want to add here is that it makes sense to add to your grocery shopping list the moment you throw out the last of a food item.
Another tip is to look back at old grocery receipts to jog your memory about items purchased in the past that need replenishing. See patterns in items you buy regularly to add to your standard list.
Take time each week to plan out meals and add the needed ingredients to your digital grocery list. Planning meals will make your grocery shop more focused. Add needed meats, produce, spices, canned goods, and any other ingredients for your planned recipes.
Share with your household
If others in your household also grocery shop, share your digital list with them so you don’t forget items or double up. This ensures everyone is on the same page.
Actually use your list while shopping
Reference your digital list each time you shop to avoid impulse purchases or forgetting key items. Delete items as you put them in your cart. Most apps allow you to check off or delete items with one click.
With an easily accessible, up-to-date list, you’ll be able to make a more thoughtful decision as to what you really need. In the meantime, here are more ways to curb your unconscious spending.