Family Dinner Dilemma: Tools for Easier Supermarket Shopping

by Bettina Elias Siegel on August 25, 2010

Part of the hassle of getting dinner on the table is, of course, shopping.  Short of having your groceries delivered (and of course, there are lots of ways to do that now), shopping still involves sitting down and making a list and then trying to get in and out of the store in the least amount of time, without managing to forget that one critical item on which an entire recipe depends (something I’ve done too many times to count.)

To streamline this process, I’ve experimented with the various grocery iPhone apps – some free, some costing a few dollars –  that are supposed to make grocery shopping a breeze.   I can’t link you directly to the iTunes store but the most popular such app is “Grocery IQ,” and that one, along with several other leading grocery apps, is reviewed here.  [Ed. Update: Here's the Grocery IQ link.]  The advantage of the best of these apps is that they contain a vast brand name database, so that you only need to type in a few letters of the item you need, check it off when it appears, and your list is soon complete.  Grocery IQ (and other apps) also have the neat feature of allowing you to organize your list according to the layout of the supermarket you shop at most.  And you can easily check off the items on your phone as you move through the aisles.

It all sounds great, doesn’t it?  And yet, inevitably I always fall back on scribbling needed items on a slip of paper.  For some reason, I’ve just never been able to make the high-tech switch.

So if you’re a Luddite like me and prefer a paper list, there are still ways to simplify your life.  For example, there are literally hundreds of free, downloadable grocery list templates on the web that you can print out and post to your fridge.  To highlight just a few, here’s one from my friends at Meal Makeover Moms which focuses on the healthful ingredients you ought to be buying, and here’s a really simple one that doesn’t list the food categories for you, but has a clean layout that appealed to me.  And here’s a site that let’s you generate and print out a list with just the items you need each week, so there are no unchecked items to clutter up the list.

The other advantage to a paper list is that, unlike your phone or other PDA (which is presumably in your purse or pocket or briefcase most of the time), you can keep the list in a central, visible spot so that you (and the rest of your family) can jot down items as you run out of products or as you think of something you need.

Do you have any tips or tricks to make grocery shopping more efficient?  Let us in on your secrets!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dr. Susan Rubin August 25, 2010 at 9:19 am

We make grocery shopping more efficient by staying the heck out of the super market whenever possible! Our family does that by participating in a CSA and visiting the farmer’s market each weekend.

Another thing we did which also helped is we sat down as a family and brainstormed out favorite meals. They change seasonally so we do that sort of brainstorming session 2 or 3 times a year.

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Em August 25, 2010 at 10:24 am

This isn’t in the least bit helpful, but I always wish we had more of a western European system, with small convenient food markets in every neighborhood. But as Dr. Rabin says, in place of that, we use a CSA and local farmers’ market and stay the heck out of the supermarket as much as possible– though, of course, a person does still need things like toilet paper.

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Donna August 25, 2010 at 10:32 pm

The key is remembering to take the list! I find I usually shop the store ad, which usually features seasonal items. Then I wing it when I get home. It isn’t quite a CSA, which I can’t quite wrap my brain around, but it does help focus meals around seasonal produce.

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