The most efficient grocery shopping ever

I remember when my friend with two-year old twin girls told me that she had only gone grocery shopping with both of her daughters four times.  I thought, “grocery shopping with two kids  – how hard can that be?”.  Then I had two kids – turns out it is hard to bring them both to the store.  I realized I was going to have to make the whole process as efficient as possible.  Here are the ways I discovered to do this – I hope they’re helpful for you!  Please comment to let me know your time-saving grocery tips.

Go in with a List:

I’ve tried grocery shopping without a list a few times.  Not only was I wandering all over the store, but I had to go back about three times to get items I had forgotten.  Even if I had time to do that I don’t think I’d want to!  Before you make your list, however, you need to plan your meals for the week (check out this post for meal planning).

Master Grocery Lists:

One time-saving way of creating your grocery list is to create a master list, then each week after meal planning, you can cross off what you don’t need to get that week.  You can find some printables of master grocery lists at the end of this post that you can customize to your preferences.

If you choose to use paper grocery lists, I would definitely recommend organizing them by where the products are located in the store – this will cut your time in the store down big time!

You may also need multiple paper grocery lists if you shop at multiple stores.  In this case, I would suggest keeping a master list for each store.

Electronic-Based Grocery Lists:

I’ve tried a lot of different electronic grocery lists, and one of my favorites is ZipList (  I talk about using ZipList for meal planning on this post.  On ZipList you can search recipes, upload your own recipes, create your own recipe box, plan your meals, and create your grocery list.  There are even a few added bonuses: you can keep your recipes private (which is very helpful if you got it from a published and copyrighted cookbook), grocery lists will create themselves based on the ingredients from the meals in your meal plan, the grocery list is automatically separated by location in the grocery store, and you can get notifications of coupons and sales at stores you visit frequently.  Not only is the website free, but they offer a free app as well.  (As a disclaimer, I don’t know anyone who works for ZipList and am not being paid to promote them – this description is purely out of love).

My other favorite grocery app is Cozi, which also has a website (  With Cozi, multiple family members have access to the shopping list and can add and delete items from the website or through the Cozi app on their smartphone, iPad, or tablet.

Another option is to create your list electronically, then print it out to bring with you.  The site allows you to check which items you need, then creates a printable list for you.

Save Time at the Store

Online Item Subscriptions:

People tend to think that when they need something, they should just pick it up at the store, but that’s not true or efficient!  If you haven’t heard of Amazon Subscribe and Save, look into it and it just might change your life.  You can set up orders for almost any item you need, and have it automatically shipped on a schedule that you choose.  You can always cancel a subscription or a single shipment.  The items are discounted, and shipping is free.  If an item you use frequently isn’t offered on Amazon Subscribe and Save, you may be able to order it directly from the retailer, or schedule a day each month (or quarter) to order it online.  I use the service for almost all of my non-perishables and it just about cuts my grocery trips in half.

Join a food coop:

In a food coop, you order food as a group in order to take advantage of wholesale prices.  Most food coops order organic food from local farms and ranches, so you’re getting healthy food and it stays ripe longer.  I get most of my produce, eggs, and meat from my food coop, and no longer have to purchase these items from the store.  For a list of coops near you, visit this site: or do a Google search (the site isn’t always kept up to date).  A couple of other bonuses of a food coop are that you pay less for food, support your local economy, and load up on healthy food.

Buy Items in Bulk:

When there’s a sale on something you eat frequently, and you have the storage space, buy it in bulk.  Over time, this will save you a lot of money, and it’s one less thing you’ll have to buy at the store for a while.  Most stores send their weekly sales via e-mail, so it’s best to look over them before making your grocery list.

I also like to stock up on non-food items so that I don’t run out or have to buy them frequently.  Items I stock up on are cleaning supplies, toilet paper and paper towels, and hygiene products (such as toothpaste and floss).  I also keep a big stock of greeting cards and thank you cards so that I don’t have an excuse not to send one on time.

It may be worth it to purchase a membership at a wholesale grocery store, such as Sam’s Club or Wal-Mart.  You’ll need to make sure you have the storage space, and that you’ll save enough money to justify the annual fee.  Most families are able to save a lot of money by shopping at these stores.  Also – most of these stores give discounts to students, so take advantage of that if you can.

Keep Re-Usable Grocery Bags in Your Car:

Re-usable grocery bags are good for the environment, and usually earn you a small discount at grocery stores.  As far as saving time, it’s much easier to bring groceries into your house with re-usable bags than the paper or plastic bags from the grocery store.  I just keep re-usable bags in my car so I don’t have to try to remember them each time I go to the store.  Keep all your bags inside one of the bags so they don’t go all over the car!

Have a Plan for the Kids

Your grocery trip can be extremely prolonged with kids.  My toddler likes to get in and out of the cart incessantly, and my baby just cries out of boredom.  I have started bringing some entertainment for the kids so that I can shop in peace.  For my toddler I bring a book or an electronic toy; for my baby I bring a ring toy (a toy that you can take from the car seat handle and hook on to the grocery cart) or finger foods.  If I have a little more time, I’ll have my toddler help me with the shopping.  To do this, I’ll have her walk instead of sitting in the cart.  Then when we’re looking at an item we need, I’ll say something like “I need the yellow box” or “I need the box that has a W on it.”  It keeps her entertained and well behaved for the shopping trip.


If you have a smartphone, there are plenty of free apps you can download that will save tons of time and money on groceries.  You already know that I’m a huge fan of ZipList and Cozi, but here are some others.

Grocery iQ: This is the most popular grocery app.  It has a barcode scanner and coupon lists.  You can also use it to share your grocery list with others, and create favorite lists.

OurGroceries: On this app, all grocery shoppers in a household sync their phones to a single account.  When somebody buys something and marks it off, it will be taken off everyone’s list.  You can also enter recipes to sync to the grocery list.

Your grocery store’s app: Most likely, your grocery store has its own app with coupons, store locations, sales, and reward program information.  The following major stores have their own apps: Kroger, Giant, Wal-Mart, and Sam’s Club.


Master Grocery List: This is a comprehensive grocery list, organized by where items are located in the store (this is why deli meats and non-deli meats are separate lists).  Your grocery store might organize groceries differently, so change what you need to change to make it easier and faster for you.  You can open the Excel version to customize it to your own preferences, or just print the pdf version.  I suggest printing multiple copies and keeping them in your family notebook, with one posted in the house so you can reference and write on it for your grocery trip that week.

Here it is in Excel: Master Grocery List

And in pdf: Master Grocery List

Paleo Master Grocery List

This is the same as the Master Grocery List, but for people who follow a Paleo or Primal lifestyle.  This is not meant to be an educational tool on the Paleo diet, so it’s important to understand the principles before using the list.  For instance, I include honey on the list, but that doesn’t mean you can eat unlimited honey and be Paleo.  Because there are varying degrees of Paleo, I was lenient on this list and included items that aren’t included in everyone’s Paleo diets.  I also included cheese to accommodate the Primal Blueprint folks.

Here it is in Excel: Paleo Master Grocery List

And in pdf: Paleo Master Grocery List

If you prefer to make your own list, I would still suggest dividing it into sections of where the items are located in the store.  Here’s a printable for doing it this way: Blank Grocery List