I Organize My Grocery List by Aisle, and It Saves Me So Much Time and Money

It’s not rocket science, but it makes a big difference.

The first time I bought groceries on my own, I learned the first commandment of grocery shopping the hard way: Thou shalt not go to Publix without a list. Eighty dollars, a box of sprinkled sugar cookies, and a hodgepodge of ingredients later, I left Publix with plenty of food but nothing for dinner. I've come a long way since that expensive trip to the store, and today, my grocery shop is more efficient and budget-friendly than ever: Thanks to a trick I learned from a friend on Instagram, I now organize my grocery list by aisle.

No, it's not rocket science, but until I saw my friend's approach to grocery shopping, it had never occurred to me to organize my list in such a way.

Unrecognizable woman shops for produce in supermarket
SDI Productions

Just as my mom has always done, in between trips to the store, I keep a running note of items I need to pick up, jotting down things as I think of them (which often happens mid-dinner prep, when I realize too late that I'm out of a crucial ingredient). While that's helpful for ensuring I don't forget anything the next time I go to Publix, there's no rhyme or reason to the organization of the list.

Now, before I head to the store, I take my running list of to-buys and my meal plan for the week and make a third and final list that's sorted by section of the grocery store and aisle. Given the layout of my neighborhood Publix, I like to start with the bakery, make my way through the deli and produce departments, and then tackle the remaining aisles from there.

While I can organize much of my list from memory (I tend to buy the same things over and over), Publix also has a super handy tool on their website that helps me find the ingredients I buy less often, like arrowroot flour or jalapeño pepper jelly. If I plug in my store location, it will tell me on exactly which aisle I can find a certain item. Yet another reason Publix is the South's best grocery store, no contest.

Yes, organizing my list requires a little more time on the front end, but it shaves off time from my trip to the grocery store as it minimizes unnecessary loops around the aisles or backtracking to pick up forgotten items. It also saves me money, as I find myself only on the aisles I actually need to be on and I'm consequently less tempted to pick up a new-to-me nail polish shade or try the new flavor of expensive veggie chips.

Given the time and money I've saved with this simple tweak to my list-making method, I'm proposing a new first commandment of grocery shopping: Thou shalt not go to Publix without a list that's organized by aisle. It's a tiny change that's made a big difference, and that's the gospel truth.

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