I really dislike moving through a grocery store inefficiently. This month that dislike of inefficiency came to a head, because I’m spending the month in a place where the grocery stores are the size of football fields rather than my usual small and crowded local store.
I found myself wandering the shop from end to end and back again, like a stoned hippie at a Grateful Dead show, overwhelmed with choices and planning out my debut movie about consumer culture and alienation. So I made a grocery shopping map.
I saw this suggestion some years ago on Ask Metafilter — a master food shopping list that is arranged by the geography of the store. I took an extra 10 minutes one day and wrote down, by aisle, everything I buy in the store, in the order in which I walk through the aisles. I keep a copy on the fridge, where I can mark things as we run out, a copy in my car in case I’m making an impromptu stop, and a copy on my phone in case I forget the paper version. But usually, for the week’s big shop, I just take the copy off the fridge.
For example, the first aisle I encounter in my local store is produce/bakery/special cheese. So that’s the first column in my list: All our usual veggies, fruits and bread, and then space to write unusual items: The cinnamon rolls that I allow myself only occasionally, mascarpone, and so on. I have only a few items in aisles one, two and three, because those are pet food/wine/personal hygiene and office supplies, and I get those things elsewhere (and I don’t have a pet. HOW DO YOU PEOPLE CHOOSE DOG FOOD? THERE ARE TOO MANY OPTIONS, THAT AISLE IS TOO BIG).
I used Excel, but it doesn’t matter what you use as long as it has columns and rows. (And if you prefer to keep things digital, you could easily make a version of this in your to-do list app of choice.) This person on Pinterest has designed (designed! She’s a designer, and you know how they are) a PDF of her shopping list that you can probably adjust for your store, but it might be easier to zip through with a notebook and then type it up. A friend who is hyper-organised laminates her shopping map and uses a dry-erase marker to check off what she needs… but she is the kind of person who knows what she is doing from day to day and will have her laminated sheet with her when she heads to the store. I am the kind of person who is startled every day by the recurring event of “dinner”, so I need the redundancy of multiple copies. I anticipate updating it regularly too, so I don’t want to be locked in to the whole laminated thing.
So, no more doubling back for sour cream or peanut butter for me. My reward for my newfound efficiency? A 12-pack of cinnamon rolls.