Grocery lists

We have an open source grocery list.

What that means is that rather than one person taking charge of the grocery list, we stick a used envelope up on the refrigerator and people can write things that we’re running out of or have a hankering for on there as we notice or hanker throughout the week.  On Friday evening or Saturday morning, we do menu planning and add other stuff to the list right before grocery shopping.

Open source is nice because nobody has to have the full mental load of this particular chore and if we want something, we can just put it on there.

Of course, if you’re on a really tight budget, this kind of open sourcing isn’t going to work– or you can only use it to put staples back up on there (rice, beans, canned tomatoes, frozen mixed veggies, etc.) when you’re running out.  When your every penny counts, a top down budgeting planned around your pantry and whatever the week’s sales are makes the most amount of sense.  Not having money can take more mental load.

I’m also waiting for DC1 to discover that ze can add things to the list at times other than menu planning.  If ze sticks to just writing ice cream (because ice cream is AOK in my book), that won’t be a big deal, but if ze starts adding things like cheetos, I may be lost forever, assuming DH buys them just because they’re on the list.  (“Hm, I wonder why DW put cheetos on the list?  I thought she was totally addicted to those and couldn’t have them in the house without getting sick.  Must be for a recipe of some sort…”)  DC2 will probably have even more interesting demands, knowing DC2.  (“How did lobster make it on the list?  DW must have it down for a recipe… I wonder if she knows it’s $30/lb right now.”)  Fortunately the amount of damage that can be done at a grocery store when you make a reasonably good amount of money is limited.  At least compared to say, if we had an open-source Target list.

How do you do your grocery planning?  Is it one person?  Multiple?  Do you bring a list?  How do you decide what to put on it?

41 Responses to “Grocery lists”

  1. Mrs PoP Says:

    I do most of the planning, but it’s not that extensive. Mostly making a list on the weekend after glancing through the Publix ad and getting an idea of what to prepare for food based off that. Then I make sure Mr PoP has no objections or additions (both of these are rare) and do the shopping. Inevitably, though, there’s something Mr PoP wants and he makes a couple of stops on the way home during the week for things like beer, chocolate, or milk… these are his necessities in life. =)

  2. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    I do all of the grocery shopping and planning because my husband is awful at it. On the rare occasion that he goes to the store, he buys a bunch of random ingredients that don’t go with anything. Then I spend the next week trying to use up random ingredients or make something out of them. Love him, but DAMN he is not allowed to go to the store anymore.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Sounds like he needs to learn how, as well as take on more of the cooking. It’s a life skill!

      • Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

        I’ve tried and it’s such a lost cause. It’s almost like he has no common sense when it comes to cooking. Basic meals like scrambled eggs are a struggle for him. He just doesn’t “get it.” He’s great at many things but cooking/laundry/grocery shopping don’t make the list. He’s lucky he’s adorable and a wonderful parent =)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I suspect there are benefits to “not getting it.” It’s amazing what people can learn to do over time if they have to.

        My DH had some pretty spectacular failures in the cooking and laundry arenas over the course of the first few years of doing them. A decade and a half later (and a formal cooking class) and he’s better than I am at these things that I’ve been doing since I was 7.

      • Leah Says:

        I heard the sage marriage advice once to just bite my tongue and redo stuff if truly egregious but otherwise just happily accept my partner’s help.

        I’m happy to report that my husband has got significantly better at both laundry and dishwashing over the past 6 months (hard for me to do a lot at the end of pregnancy — I could reach the bottom of the washer!). I do still let him know when, say, the little one’s clothes have a stain and shouldn’t go in the dryer until checked or when I have something delicate. I’ll often save up my sweaters and wash them in one giant load, as he’s not great with sweaters.

        Also, he was not a great cook when we first met. He has now gotten quite good! One of our fav things is cooking together. So excited for when our little one is old enough to help. For now, she sits in her rock n play in the kitchen, and we talk to her as we cook.

  3. Alicia Says:

    I’m responsible for most of the list and the meal planning. I’m the better cook, and I have a better running inventory in my head. We do have a list on the fridge that we can add to willy-nilly, but honestly… all he’d do is add his junk-food kicks :) I’m okay with taking that responsibility, because whenever he comes to the store, the grocery bill is at least $20 higher, if not more.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That sounds like us when we first got married, but then we started earning more money (and paid off his student loans etc.) so $20 isn’t that big a deal, and DH became a much better cook (practice!), and got used to eating healthier, and learned how to menu plan/use cookbooks. Now he takes the kids to the store most Saturdays so I can get some me time to work or sleep or do other chores.

  4. Kellen Says:

    Here’s hoping DH can tell your handwriting apart from your children’s :)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      DC1 is rapidly getting better handwriting than mine…

      (Also, I can totally forge my mother’s handwriting… can’t most people? Not that I would ever do that without permission, but if the school doesn’t want kids to learn forging, they shouldn’t send home so much crap for parents to sign.)

      • Leigh Says:

        I can’t forge my mom’s. I can forge my dad’s though and he totally forged mine once when I was out of country…

      • Leah Says:

        We actually practiced forging each others’ handwriting as a family. Comes in handy when, say, my brother was in the military and unreachable. I almost always forged stuff for school. Then, in the evening, I’d say “oh, mom, you signed for permission for XYZ.” Super convenient. It works in a trustworthy family.

  5. gwinne Says:

    Ah, yes. LG has recently figured out she can add stuff to the list. Mostly it’s reasonable–grape juice, cream cheese, etc–but occasionally it gets junk food heavy. But since I’m the only shopper I can ignore. On the car on the way to the store, we go through the categories on the list and add anything that we might have forgotten otherwise.

  6. Debbie M Says:

    Like you, we have an envelope on the fridge to which we both add things as they come up. We keep the coupons in the envelope. Unlike you, we cook almost completely separately, so my stuff is on one side and his is on the other. We each buy things only from our own side. We generally shop at the same time (no kids), each getting our own stuff, plus he shops many additional times on his own (because he’d love to go shopping every single day and I’d rather go once a week).

    (Why separate foods? His favorite food groups are meat and veggies and his favorite cooking style leads to food with flavors that are typically described by others as “overwhelming.” My favorite food groups are grains and dairy, and although I also like too much cheese in things, I do not like things doused in hot sauce, pepper, red wine, or fish sauce and I do not enjoy giant hunks of meat or veggies in things. Also, with very few exceptions, he doesn’t like sweet stuff at all. We still do occasionally feed each other, and we often give each other tastes of things.)

  7. NessieMonster Says:

    Heh, we do this at home now, Mum and myself and my brother. All of us are adults and have enough overlapping tastes that shopping isn’t difficult. We take it in turns to cook when all of us are in, but there are also plenty of times when only one of us is home due to shift work schedules. Also we don’t as a general rule buy junk food so If I’ve got a hankering for chocolate/crisps, I have to buy my own.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this works out if/when I eventually move in with my partner. I don’t meal plan as such but keep staple carbs in the cupboard and buy enough different veggies/meat that there are multiple options, whereas my partner still hasn’t really figured out the life skill of making your own meals regularly. Admittedly, they work some crazy long hours at the moment, and after a 12 h day, having enough brain power left to cook is a big ask if you haven’t planned in advance. We do food shopping together quite well otherwise. We only squabble if we’re shopping hungry since neither of us like making decisions at the best of times! This results in endlesss rounds of “i dunno, what do you want?” while staring at an aisle full of choices.
    Anyway, things to work on in the future!

  8. Leigh Says:

    I do most of the meal planning. My boyfriend just isn’t a planner. We keep a list of things we run out of and I set up a delivery for a weekend morning usually. I suggested he do the planning in October and the grocery deliveries were never set up and we had to go to the store a lot, super stressful (to me). So I think we’re going to stick to me doing more of the meal planning, but he does do it every once in a while.

    I agree with you that everyone can do it and that’s why I convince him to do it sometimes. He does add things to the list and puts the groceries away far more than I do and does all the chopping and is very easily convinced into doing the cooking when I’m hungry. He’s just not…the best at remembering things sometimes. I’m so thankful for technology as I mostly don’t have to remind him about things!

  9. Leah Says:

    We also have an open source list, and then we discuss the list before someone goes grocery shopping. We go together a lot (this might change with the whole kid thing). Just because something is on the list doesn’t mean it gets bought immediately, even though we can theoretically afford whatever is on the list.

    We like to meal plan but have not been good about it. Evening sports practice cuts into time for shopping and cooking. Hoping we can cook more at home over the winter. I’m much better about eating veggies when I’m cooking them. I like veggies a lot but am rather particular about how I like them.

  10. omdg Says:

    DC1 sounds like he must have fantastic handwriting if your SO can’t tell it’s him. ;-)

    We usually do one trip to the store per week — Trader Joes — and buy basically the same set of food every week. We go as a family because we also buy lunch at the Farmer’s market right next door and eat together as a fam right after. It seems to work well for us. If my husband goes by himself, we tend to get the same 5 things every week… which is ok but gets old after a while, and if I go by myself I get bitter and jaded. I actually like this ritual for the time being.

    For other staples, I’ve compiled a list of things that we need to inventory and potentially buy when a Target trip is made, since those items (Skippy Peanut Butter, Hellmanns Mayo, etc.) are not available at Trader Joes. That list is on the fridge. When my husband goes (I never have the time anymore), I remind him of the list’s existence,and he (theoretically) looks it over before he heads out the door. It works reasonably well. I just wish he was able to take a bit more initiative and remember himself.

  11. bogart Says:

    We use an app (“our groceries”) and our current system (it has gone through numerous iterations) is that DH buys anything that is on the list called “household groceries” from our local grocery store. I recently bought a Costco membership, which I am loving, but Costco is near my work and far from our home, so I go there every couple weeks and stock up on things I want from there. Mostly I manage that list, though nothing precludes DH adding stuff to it (he usually just buys what he cooks for meals at the local store).

    We sort of take turns on meals. DH’s solution to not having a meal handy is to take us out, way more often than I would like for both time and money reasons. My new solution to this is to have on hand stuff that can be thrown on the table if he has nothing prepared — right now I have easily one supper’s worth of crockpot chicken and about 4 (if not more) of crockpot pork. Both frozen, but easy to microwave and serve with some quick starch (Costco Naan or couscous both work well) and veggie.

    DH doesn’t particularly like those meals, but my feeling is he can step up and cook, or deal.

    We both put things on the household groceries list as we notice them missing, and I have told DH that he needs to check for basic staples himself (he is AH I am not), and he now does (I also add them as I notice, but they are chiefly his responsibility).

    I also sometimes go to Trader Joe’s and a local co-op because each has items I want that nowhere else does. But those are pretty much things that just I, or just DS and I when DH is not home for supper, eat.

  12. J Liedl Says:

    We have a check-off & write-in list on the fridge. My partner and I do most of the writing and before either goes to the store, we consult to ensure we’re getting what’s wanted. I also coordinate with the loyalty scheme at our favourite grocery which can offer really good deals on a changing array of products (zucchini, broccoli, bananas, pork, beef, pasta, frozen foods, etc.).

    Autistic Youngest will make grocery suggestions but she still hasn’t cottoned onto the fact that the list is right there. On the other hand, we’d both be well aware that ice cream sandwiches or chocolate chip cookies were never a request from the other adult in the house, so if she tried that, it would soon be obvious!

  13. cfroning Says:

    We use an app. It works quite well, actually, though there are times we forget to check it when entering the store.

  14. Ana Says:

    We use an app. We theoretically can both add to it throughout the week but actually we sit down some time in the few hours before the store run and think through our weeks meal plan and add everything to the list. We take turns going, usually taking one kid (the younger one, more often) with us (he loves eating the samples & falls asleep in the stroller on the way home) on Saturday afternoon. We go to trader Joes because the stuff is good, reasonably priced, and only a mile away. If we are too busy, my husband will go in the evening while I get the kids to bed (I can’t really carry everything home without the stroller!). If we are really really busy & have planned ahead, we do grocery delivery but that is always more expensive and more limited.

  15. hypatia cade Says:

    We use an app – mealboard (http://mealboard.com/) now though we’ve used my groceries and ziplist in the past (I loved ziplist til it abandoned the meal planning part). Mealplanner lets you uhm plan meals and then autoadds things to the grocery list that are in the recipes. My husband is responsible for adding things he eats for lunch and breakfast and I usually add things for the baby. We both contribute to meal planning but I orchestrate it and make sure that easy meals go on busy nights etc. Meal planning is also when we check in for the week’s activities. I care a lot about how menus are planned and how food is stored and leftovers handled so that’s my job at home most weeks. He often beats me home and an app with the recipe attached leads to dinner getting started. recipes in my head or that I know where to find in cookbooks not so much.

  16. xykademiqz Says:

    I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I don’t do grocery shopping lists. Lists generally really stress me out.
    (I find that rough outlines help in a lot of areas, but detailed lists, especially of mundane stuff, really pain me, in a very visceral way. Go figure.)

    It’s easier to just keep things in my head. I do all the cooking and shopping, and when I leave to go to the grocery store Sunday morning, usually the family will yell if they want or need something special. Otherwise I buy the same artisan bread, three kinds of milk (lots of allergies, so I buy soy, coconut, and cows’), deli meat, organic apples (we go through about 14-15 lbs of apples per week, I kid you not) and bananas, cereal, and other fruit that’s in season. Then there’s the stuff I need to cook for the week, but usually I have them in my head in broad categories: for instance, there is usually 2 nights of what would fall under stew/thick soup (e.g. green beans with beef, or peas with beef, or bean soup), 1 night of rice with stir fry (I go for vegetables that look appealing), 1-2 nights of a pork roast with roasted potatoes and vegetables, 1 night of something that’s a family favorite and usually involves pasta (baked homemade mac’n’cheese with feta, or lazy pasta bolognese), 1 night leftovers or soup and salad. If I have time and am inspired, I will try something new on the weekend. When I was in a time crunch, on Sunday I would cook three things that could be reheated during the week, and then DH would take them out and reheat for himself and kids while I was at work.

    DH does go to Costco on occasion for some staples like goat cheese, wine, and some frozen stuff.

  17. Cloud Says:

    I had a management training once where they had little thought exercises to show the difference between different personality types. It was Myers-Briggs based, but I think the basic point would apply regardless of how you classify people’s personalities. There was one exercise for each of the four metrics, and they divided us into two groups for the two different options on that metric. There was one where the two groups each had to describe how they go grocery shopping. I was in the planning-oriented group (of course) and I will never forget the looks of utter horror on the faces of the people in the other group as we described how we wrote menu plans, then wrote a list organized by location in the store, etc., etc. It was hilarious- and quite a powerful demonstration, really.

    Anyway, to your question: I do the menu plans for the weekdays. My husband is in charge of the weekends. I have a rough pattern that I follow now, and once I landed on that it made menu planning much less stressful. This old post talks about the pattern: http://www.wandering-scientist.com/2013/08/the-method-to-my-meals.html

    We keep a running list on a whiteboard on the fridge. Right now, that is too high up for the kids to reach. Maybe I should move it lower. On grocery shopping day (usually Sunday), I take my menu plan and the running list and write a list, filling in the things we need almost every week just by checking their status as I do the list. My husband then comes and fills in his stuff for his lunches and anything else he notices I forgot, and then one of us goes grocery shopping. It is usually me, because I don’t mind it and can’t do the yardwork due to allergies so it sort of evens out. Sometimes I take one or two of the kids with me, which I think constitutes me doing a major favor to my husband, because it makes grocery shopping take twice as long, but gives him peace and quiet.

    My husband can’t be bothered planning ahead, so always has to run up to the store on Saturday to get the ingredients for Saturday’s dinner. This suboptimal arrangement of going to the grocery store twice in the weekend bothers me, but I have learned to live with it because he owns the weekend dinners so he can do it however he wants, and I for some reason cannot get my act together to have the full list ready on Saturday.

  18. Rosa Says:

    my kid has learned he can add things to the shopping list, but none of us add things aside from meal planning and running out of staples, so he doesn’t do that. He DOES get one “extra thing” (and so do I, for that matter) every shopping trip, so there’s room in there for cheetos or whatever – he generally uses it for hot pockets or pop tarts, but sometimes a strange new fruit or eggnog crowds those off the list.

    My partner has some sort of mental problem about food – he will go to great lengths to hide that he finished any food, like putting back a package with just crumbs in the bottom or just a drip of milk in the jug, and that affects his willingness to put anything on the list. Short of therapy, I don’t see any way to change this after a decade of complaining, so the grocery list is me & the kid’s. I do make him do the extra shopping trips that come from him eating stuff and not putting it on the list, though, (like, oh shit, we have to pack school lunch for tomorrow and you ate the stuff that was supposed to go in it! Guess you have to go to the store.) because neither of us likes doing the shopping and he’s the one requiring the extra trips.

  19. SP Says:

    I think is we did this, my husband would only ever add milk (which we buy every week….), and maybe cereal or beer. Or ice cream. Like, he’d just see it as a “wish list” opportunity. I guess if we did it every week, that would wear off, right?

    Still, someone has to take responsibility for knowing if the grocery list is going to add up to a weeks worth of meals. The list itself is the easier part, I think. Sounds like you do menu planning as a family?

    My husband is a decent cook (better than me, really), but he’s just less interested recipes, trying different things, healthy cooking, etc. Except maybe on weekends when we cook together as an “event” and make more elaborate meals. He’ll make most any recipe I put in front of him if I want help cooking, but he rarely finds recipes. I’m basically OK with this, although for the sake of equality, I’m tempted to tell him that he is 100% responsible for food for a month and see what happens! (But it would unnecessarily stress him, and I’d be disappointed with our food options, and it seems kind of lose-lose since I usually like finding and trying new recipes!)

    But maybe it is an investment worth making? Forcing him to learn the adult skill?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It is well worth the investment, as is a cooking class if he needs, say, better knife skills. That link up in the comments on mental load and menu planning has suggestions for mechanizing menu planning.

      Maybe as a winter or summer project.

  20. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I remember my mother used to do this and it was great. I have made a couple of very half-hearted attempts at this and I don’t know why. I am definitely going to reinstate this at my house. It really is super helpful especially as SO and I have a shared account for living expenses.

  21. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    All this time I shouldn’t have been concerned about DC1– DC2 just told DH to put jello and gummy bunnies on the list and is now going through item-by-item with DH at hir insistence. Fortunately she approves of the chicken and other things on the list so far.

  22. chacha1 Says:

    I do 99% of the meal planning, grocery-shopping, and cooking, so I do a list. DH is the Keeper of the TP and buys it in bulk, so he goes to Smart & Final occasionally, and while there he also gets kitchen trash bags & beer. He also buys his own milk (raw) from the hippie grocery across town.

    Generally speaking I do a kitchen inventory on Friday night or Saturday morning, whip up a plan, and try to get myself over to the good supermarket before 11 a.m. (It’s in West Hollywood, and nobody else is up that early. Heh.)

    My mental load is reduced by having a short list of regular preparations. Basically the only time DH asks for something different is if he is craving fish. He knows by now that if he wants fish, because it has to be bought the same day, he has to tell me during the day so I can make a dedicated stop on the way home from work.

    I don’t love being the Chief Cook and Bottle-Washer, but with DH being under extraordinary stress at the moment I am mitigating *my* stress by getting more cheat items: roasted turkey breast, frozen veggies & sides, stuff I don’t actually have to prepare. I am not being silent about the imbalance though. He’s a good cook, and likes cooking when he does it. He’s just at the No More stage. Once it passes (and it will) I’m going to tip the scales back a little.

    We are very fortunate in having four excellent markets within a mile of our apartment, and in not needing to be particularly vigilant when spending on food. But it’s still a high-traffic area and we both work full-time, so minimizing grocery trips is important to me.


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