I am a chronic list-maker. I keep an active to-do list on my whiteboard at work and on my fridge at home. Since I've been in charge of my own kitchen and pantry, I haven't been to the grocery store without a shopping list.
Just as to-do lists keep my schedule on track, grocery lists keep my food budget in line. Sticking to a list at the supermarket is a good way to guard against temptation in the cookie aisle and to avoid impulse purchases in the gourmet sauce section.
The classic shopping list started losing popularity as more women entered the workplace and busy families came to increasingly rely on takeout menus. Now, , lists are making a comeback as recession-wary consumers try to trim flabby food budgets.
The article quoted a February study, by market-research firm Information Resources Inc., that found three of every four shoppers are making food decisions at home rather than in the store. During good economic conditions, only 30 per cent of shoppers think about what they'll buy before they get to the supermarket.
I have seen evidence at my local grocery store that lists are in vogue again. More people are consulting scraps of paper and handheld devices in the aisles. Crumpled leftover lists are littering the carts and checkout lanes.
Among many of my friends, the shopping list is back in style.
"I'm definitely getting back into the habit of using lists again," says one, a mother of an 18-month old boy. "We found that without a list, you end up spending twice as much, and sometimes you forget to buy what you actually headed out for. Lists are definitely the way to go for us now."
Another woman I know, a mother to two young kids, makes lists for almost every household-related task, especially grocery shopping. "I have a weekly template on my computer that I fill in throughout the week and that I print off and take home at the end of every Thursday," she says. "The grocery list is based on my meal plans for the week. I couldn't live without this kind of organization."
I usually tap my list out on my BlackBerry while standing in front of my fridge to see what I need. This week, I downloaded an application called that lets me manage grocery lists and recipes from my BlackBerry. The app, by SimpleLeap, cost me $12.36 and has a handy one-touch feature to add shopping items.
For those that like making lists the old-fashioned way, there are downloadable lists online that you can print, check off and take with you.
Kerry Taylor, the blogger behind Squawkfox, that focuses on all the main food and home product groups as does .
I've discovered, though, that some shoppers are starting to the take the grocery list a step further and are also creating comparison price lists. One friend with a newborn at home has just started making shopping lists and is tracking prices alongside it, especially on baby goods. She uses comparison shopping websites such as to get the best prices on diapers, wipes and formula.
not only offers free shopping list software, but posts specials and coupons from U.S. grocery chains on its site.
Another tool on its way to market aims to do all of your comparison shopping for you. When it launches, will compare local grocery prices and match coupons to your grocery list. Founder Gerald Buckley plans to roll it out in the Tulsa, Oklahoma market first, with plans for the rest of the U.S. and Canada as well.
"The market timing could not be better because of the recession," Buckley says. "Even when we come out of this, people will still have the sting of the economy on their minds."
It will be interesting to see whether the shopping list trend sticks with us, even when we aren't watching our food budgets quite as closely. For my family, the list is here to stay.