Save time and $ with a backwards grocery list

Have you ever grocery shopped impulsively or found yourself in a state of uncertainty at the supermarket? If yes, a backwards grocery list may be just what you need. Saves time, energy, and even money, and it helps keep your family’s cooking and dining realities in mind as you shop.

What is it?

Unlike the usual grocery list, a backwards grocery list is NOT a haphazardly handwritten note listing milk, bread, or whatever else you’ve just run out of. Instead, it is a master document that you carefully create ahead of time to use every week. It lists all the food items in your kitchen that you typically use and groups them in categories by type.  Take a look at my own backwards grocery list.

How to use it

  1. Print out a fresh copy of your own* backwards grocery list.
  2. Stand in your kitchen and review the list, item by item. Are you running low on anything? Have you completely run out of something?
  3. Use a highlighter to indicate the food items you need to buy on your next trip to the store.
  4. Be honest with yourself about what you’ll be able to cook during the week, and what you/your family will actually eat.
  5. Tuck the list into your purse or wallet so you’ll have it handy. Once you’re at the store, just whip out the list and put those items in your basket. You’ll never again have to wonder, “Now what else was it that I needed?”

If there’s a specialty item (i.e., non-staple ingredient) you need for a recipe you’re making this week only, it’s no problem. Simply hand write that food item in the appropriate section of this week’s printed list.

* How to make your own backwards grocery list

  • Inventory your cupboards, refrigerator, pantry, fruit basket, root cellar, etc. Record on your list only what you consider to be your (or your family’s) staples – i.e., the items you really need to have on hand to get through the week and make several decent meals.
  • Prioritize. You’ll notice that my own backwards grocery list includes some “staple” items in boxes. Having carefully monitored our cooking and eating habits, staple items were determined to be the most frequently used food items in our kitchen. Other items not in bold or boxes are used less frequently. Indicating these on my list helps me prioritize and keep cooking and dining realities in mind as I shop.
  • Group. Shopping efficiency is maximized when you group the foods on your list according to the layout of your grocery store. For example, the produce section is the first part of the store that I encounter when I walk in. Thus, I make this item first on my list.
  • Refine your list over time, and it will only become more efficient and helpful. Save your file electronically in a convenient location so it can be printed and used each week.

Why a backwards grocery list is great

  • Saves you time by listing your kitchen staples in advance. No need to re-invent the wheel every time you make a list!
  • Preserves your sanity. Hungry, tired, stressed out? No matter. Your pre-made list will keep you focused and on task.
  • Cuts waste and saves money by reminding you of your cooking and dining priorities. Impulse buying averted!

Have more ideas to share? Post a comment or write to Crystal and let her know!