Before I show you how to create your shopping list, I first need to tell you how to organize it. Before using Plan To Eat, I was creating my lists manually on the computer so I could reuse them again. It took a long time to set up and didn’t provide the flexibility that Plan To Eat does. But, whether you create your shopping lists in an app or you make them manually on the computer or by hand, there are two steps to organizing them that make your store trips faster and easier.
Organize by each store and how you walk through them
First, you need to sort the items by store. Second, you need to sort the items by how you walk through each store. A lot of people suggest grouping similar items together, like dairy, but that usually isn’t efficient. Milk and yogurt are kept several aisles apart at my Costco. Canned soup and canned tomatoes are in different aisles at my Ralph’s. Have you ever tried to backtrack through a grocery store on a Sunday? Oy vey.
My lists are sorted by how I walk through specific stores because no two stores are laid out the same way. At my regular Trader Joe’s, the cereal is in Aisle 3 (my designation – not the store’s) but it’s in Aisle 1 at another TJ’s near us.
This is why I suggest that, for maximum efficiency, you always shop at the same stores. Create your shopping list for one specific Costco and always go to the same one. It will save you time and frustration.
Creating your store “maps”
Make a special trip to your stores and write down the flow of each one. Write what’s generally in each aisle so that you know how to sort your weekly shopping lists. Then create a digital document in whatever word processor or spreadsheet you use, like Google Docs or Microsoft Word or Excel, that you save and print for your binder to help you organize your shopping lists. You can even draw up your own picture of the store if you have some artistic talent. (Again, that’s not my skill set.)
When I sort my ingredients on my shopping list, I can scan my store “map” to see what aisle or section each item is located in.
And yes, I know that stores change their layouts. In my experience, it’s usually not a big massive re-organization, although sometimes it feels that way at Costco. Usually it’s just a small number of items that have been moved. Make note of what moved and then spend a few minutes updating your store map when you get home. And even if it is a massive re-organization, the store’s not going to do it every week, so just make a special trip and write down the new layout. It’s still better than wandering all over the store each time you go.
Tip: If your store has moved items around, take a deep breath and ask an employee where things are.