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Organizing Your Shopping List for Success

by Tara Kuczykowski on March 16, 2009 · 27 comments

Mandi of guest blogs today.

grocery-shopping-list-cart-coupons-organizedPhoto by Bruce Turner

Whether you're grocery shopping on a strict budget or simply trying to stretch your budget as far as it will go, chances are you know exactly which deals you need to take advantage of and what is and isn't in your budget each week when you head to the store. A key part of making deal shopping work for you – without stress and frustration – is to have an organized shopping list so that you can still shop quickly without having to backtrack along the way to pick up items you've forgotten.

The easiest way to do this is to simply write your list in the order of the store aisles so that you can go down your list item by item. I've been writing my shopping lists this way for several years and have gotten so used to thinking this way that I'm now able to write my list by aisle without a second thought (which makes going to a different grocery store "fun"!), but I didn't start out doing that way.

When I first started writing aisle-by-aisle grocery lists, a friend and I drove to our local store and wrote down the aisle headers in order. I then created a master shopping list that we could both each use to write our lists , and it worked perfectly! (And it's especially helpful to write a list this way when sending your husband to the store for you because he knows if he's missed something before he gets to the end of the list.)

I've linked to two shopping list templates for you to use, and here are 3 tips for getting the most out of them:

1. Go to each of your regular grocery stores (and it's not a bad idea to include CVS, Walgreens and/or Rite Aid if you regularly shop at them as well) to create an aisle-by-aisle "map". HINT: Before you start writing down aisle descriptions, stop by the customer service desk and ask if they have a layout you could have. Many stores do! If they don't and you need to write your own, be as brief as possible. For example, instead of "Cake, Spices, Muffin Mixes, Pancakes" (all of which might be on the sign hanging over the aisle), simply write "Baking." Generalize as much as possible to save time and save space on your list – "Dairy," "Meat," "Frozen," "Soups/Mixes."

2. Create a key for yourself so that you can mark the items you absolutely need to get that week (because the sale is too good to miss or your coupons expire) as well as size restrictions and brand names.

3. Print out several copies of each blank list so they're ready to use when you start compiling your shopping lists, coupons and deal scenarios. Use the smaller half sheets if you want to write each store's list separately, or use some of the cells on the larger sheet for your smaller stops instead of creating a separate sheet for each store. HINT: If you're looking for a "greener" solution, try inserting your lists into protective sheet covers and using a fine tip dry erase marker to write your list each week. You can simply wipe it clean after each use (but be careful it doesn't get wiped away while you still need it! )


      Do you have a system in place to organize your shopping lists? If you've shopped with and without an organized shopping list, what are the biggest differences you've noticed?

      Mandi Ehman is a wife and momma to three little girls (4, 2.5 and 1 years old). was born from her belief that getting organized only lasts if you do it your way – to fit your needs, your preferences and your lifestyle.

      { 27 comments… read them below or add one }

      1 $ Money Savin' Momma $ March 16, 2009 at 8:14 am

      I love the shopping list by aisle method. I try to do this, but sometimes forget. One of the problems is Walmart (we live in a place with Walmart and that's about it!) keeps changing the aisles.... so you never know WHERE you will find stuff every time you go. Does anyone else run into this at their local Walmart?

      $ Money Savin' Momma $´s last blog post..Freebie rundown - list of 15 current freebies


      2 G Picha February 2, 2013 at 11:40 am

      That way you have to "search" for an item, forcing you to go past a lot more headers, there by hoping you will impulse buy something. Thats a major reason that milk & eggs at one end with bread at the other.


      3 Michael.Terence March 16, 2009 at 8:55 am

      With the exception of holiday items, our Walmart stays pretty static. They’re also good at placing the holiday items in the same location each year.

      Michael.Terence´s last blog post..March ‘09 Membership Drive


      4 Amanda March 16, 2009 at 9:08 am

      I started organizing my shopping list by aisle a while ago, and I love this method. It sure makes getting in and getting out much faster.

      I actually started out by using a spreadsheet and listing all my aisles with a few lines in between each aisle. This made it really easy just to add or take off items each week.

      The only reason I don't still use my spreadsheet is because my wonderful husband wrote me a computer program for generating my list by aisle.

      Amanda´s last blog post..Llama, Llama Mad at Mama


      5 Condo Blues March 16, 2009 at 9:20 am

      I'm going to have to try this once I get reaquainted with Meijer! They recently changed their store layout and made it a little easier to find some things and harder to find others.

      Condo Blues´s last blog post..10 Ways I Greened my Home for St. Patrick’s Day


      6 SuzysSavin March 16, 2009 at 12:11 pm

      You guys are awesome. I have been trying to come up with a list like this for a long time. Funny how when someone else does it it looks so simple!!! Thanks for a great post.


      7 Amphritrite March 16, 2009 at 12:43 pm

      My grocery stores change aisles so often that doing it in this order is of no benefit to me. BUT! I do take a page from this particular book and order my items by category - produce, canned, dry, freezer, etc.

      Amphritrite´s last blog post..February Spending Report


      8 monica March 16, 2009 at 1:59 pm

      I couldn't agree more - if you make a list but still have the run back and forth around the store, you certainly won't save any time, and it's likely you'll won't save much money either.

      Great post!

      monica´s last blog’s a thought


      9 Mandi March 16, 2009 at 2:37 pm

      How frustrating for those of you who shop at stores who change the aisles on you – why the heck would they do that??? We shop at the same Wal-Mart as Michael, and I'm not sure our aisles EVER change, which is just the way I like it! LOL!

      Mandi´s last blog post..Quick Tips: Using Your Laundry Basket Around Your Home


      10 Rebecca March 16, 2009 at 3:28 pm

      This is a great idea! Of course when Alice launches, you won't need such lists for household products :) I definitely rely on the layout of the grocery to help me not forget food items. So much so that it's difficult for me to go to a new grocery! Thanks for the tips.

      Rebecca´s last blog post..Spring Cleaning Giveaway - iPod Shuffle!


      11 Marie March 16, 2009 at 4:13 pm

      Another benefit to having an organized shopping list is being able to mark what you need as soon as you run out of it. I have my "aisle order" list always posted on my fridge and whenever we run out of an item whoever "finished it off" can just make a tally mark next to that item. I can also highlight items that I want to use coupons on so that they don't get missed! Works like a charm!


      12 Frances March 16, 2009 at 4:15 pm

      What a great idea! Why didn't I think of that? Great post, I got a lot out of this one. Thanks for doing such a wonderful job!

      Frances´s last blog post..Meat Pricing 3/16 Deals


      13 Sara Anders March 16, 2009 at 6:08 pm

      A thought when you are creating this list template... take your camera (or cell phone with camera) and take a picture of the aisle headers (with aisle # and list of items) to help you get started.

      And the reason that they change everything around is to get you to have to hunt for items and increase the chance that you will impulse buy more than if you go directly to aisle 5 for your green beans!


      14 D March 16, 2009 at 6:59 pm

      So funny that you mention this - since just last week I was thinking, maybe I should start writing my grocery shopping list aisle by aisle - definitely will now! Thanks so much for the ideas!


      15 Christy March 16, 2009 at 10:57 pm

      Our Wal-Marts never leave the aisles alone either. The only things that tend to stay in the same place are the toys and of course, the kids know exactly where that is. Everything else gets moved around with the seasons, holidays, etc. I've also noticed that it is hard to find the same items time after time. It's much easier and simpler to shop closer home for us.

      Christy´s last blog post..Menu Plan Weekly for 3-15 - 3-21


      16 Jessica March 17, 2009 at 12:55 am

      I recently started doing this to help with my coupons, I write down aisle by aisle what I know we are going to get, I take out all the coupons that I am interested in using and organize them aisle by aisle. When we go grocery shopping my husband and I tag team it optimizing our savings as much as possible.


      17 Nicole March 17, 2009 at 5:53 am

      This is how I organized my coupons. I mainly shop at Kroger. With CVS and Walgreens on the side. Seems to work great and know I know the layout of the store.


      18 Sarah Berry March 17, 2009 at 10:07 pm

      Great idea! Thanks for sharing.

      Sarah Berry´s last blog post..Potty Time Tuesday


      19 Brianna @ Heart(h) Management March 18, 2009 at 2:17 pm

      Oh my goodness, Mandi! I just wrote a post today on this very topic! Only it probably took me a lot longer to figure this out than it should have! It has saved me so much time, it's ridiculous!

      Brianna @ Heart(h) Management´s last blog post..Making Grocery Shopping Work for You


      20 Julie March 18, 2009 at 4:12 pm

      Do you recommend organizing your coupons this way too? I -right now - have them alphabatized but sometimes i put them in wierd spots and forget where they are until they are expired?? I have a 7 month old and try to get in and out - but sometimes i am searching for a coupon that i know i have and cant find!!! ANY SUGGESTIONS!!!!!!


      21 Rachel A March 18, 2009 at 7:48 pm

      I would organize my coupons by the department/category rather than alphabetical. They also have those little plastic file things - a little bigger than the size of a checkbook at places like Target in the section with school supplies, binders, etc. I like putting labels on those like: Household (cleaners, toilet paper, etc), canned food, coffee (creamers, etc), baking and separate them that way. It's a lot easier. Also, if I can I always go through the ads on one day and I will pull out the coupons I will be using. I still bring my "coupon purse" with me in case I get something unexpected, but I don't want to search for coupons at the counter or in the store - so having them ready help a lot.


      22 Sarah H. March 19, 2009 at 9:55 am

      I organize my list by aisles too. I shop primarily at Walmart and have created a template I use each week when I shop. Backtracking is the worst and this list helps make sure I never retrace my steps. Great post!

      Sarah H.´s last blog post..Five signs you have a decluttering problem


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