There's an easier way to make a shopping list—here's how to do it.

I’ll never understand how people can go grocery shopping without a list. Whenever I do that, I end up spending at least $50 on what most people would consider a very bad basket on Chopped. Anchovy paste, pickled peppers, rutabaga, and chocolate pudding, anyone?

I prefer to shop for an entire week of meals at a time, which requires some advance planning. On Saturday, my shopping day, I take a little time to figure out what we’ll be eating that week and make a grocery list based on that week’s recipes. Planning out a week of dinners saves me from making mid-week trips to the grocery store, and it also saves money because we’re not eating out.

The downside of shopping for an entire week (other than an overstuffed shopping cart and a very large grand total) is that you have to be a bit more organized about your grocery list. So I devised a list-making method that is practically idiot-proof. Even in my most tired or distracted state, I almost always come home with what I need and am able to find everything in the store quickly and efficiently.

Here’s what you do: Divide your paper into three columns, based on sections of the supermarket. One is for pantry items and household products (cleaning supplies, and anything canned, boxed, or frozen—the stuff that’s usually found in the middle of the store). The second column is for fresh produce. And the third column is for meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. That way, when I’m picking out ice cream in the frozen food aisle, I won’t have to go all the way back to the produce section to grab some apples.

Of course, you could go even more micro with this method, making columns for things like dairy, frozen foods, and cleaning products. But for me, three categories helps me keep everything straight and gets me in and out of the grocery store in record time.