Making A Decent Grocery List In The Not-So-Great IOS Reminders App


Making A Decent Grocery List In The Not-So-Great IOS Reminders App

Time is money, but time can also be a location


I dislike paper grocery lists. They are disorganized, messy, and take time to create. At the store, it’s not always easy to cross something off the list. I prefer using an app, but I haven’t found one I really like. Instead, I use the IOS Reminders app, which at first glance seems not very useful for groceries, but with a little cleverness, it can be quite good.

In Septemberish, Apple will gift us IOS and iPadOS 17. They’ll also hand over MacOS Sonoma, but right here I’m talking about grocery lists and I’m not taking my Macbook to the grocery store.

I’m mentioning IOS 17 not because you’ll need it for this grocery list, but because Apple thought it would be a neat idea to make a List in Reminders that would automatically break grocery things out into sections like Produce, Frozen Foods, Dairy and so on. That ability will be in IOS 17.

Spoiler alert: I think that’s a ridiculous idea for how and where I shop. However, it might be just jim-dandy for you. Different strokes, y’all.

Here’s what IOS 17 would do with my grocery list:

IOS 17 Grocery List

What’s wrong with that?

The store I shop at has a produce department, but the bakery is on the whole other side of the store and in between are many things I buy.

I want my grocery list in order by location.

Also, I don’t just sit down and write out a list. I treat grocery items like chores: they repeat. Milk repeats weekly, Almond Butter will need to be replenished bi-weekly, Vinegar monthly. So when I add new things to my Reminders grocery list, I add the due date and the expected repeat parameter.

Confused? The picture at the top of this post shows what it looks like. The times represent location; I explain that below.

That repeat frequency is not absolute, of course. We might not be out of vinegar a month after I buy it, we might not. But if I sort the list by due date, the items I most likely need will float to the top. Most of my list is ready to go in seconds. I can search for the rest, change the due date, and they’ll move to the top. So easy and quick!

This gives me a weekly grocery list that I didn’t have to type anything into, and it reminds me to check items that are probably running low. If they aren’t needed this week, I change the due date to later and may adjust Repeat frequency if we are using something up faster or slower than I thought.

Good so far. But I need location. I realized that time can substitute for location! My grocery store has less than 24 aisles, so 12 AM can mean the beginning of Produce, then 1:00 AM through 10:00 are aisles 1 to 10, and 12:00 PM is Bakery.

Individual items in each aisle will have times indicating approximately where they are in the aisle, so 3:15, 3:30, 3:45 and so on.

When I first went with this list, I had no times. I filled those in as I picked items. After a few weeks, I had all times filled in, which means I have everything’s location. If you look at the list at the top of the page, sorting by date and time puts everything in the order I will come to it while shopping and lets me skip aisles where there is nothing I need this week. Skipping aisles saves time!

Groceries do move things now and then; I update the time when that happens.

When I put something in my cart, I check it off as done. Its due date automatically changes as determined by its Repeat setting, which immediately moves it farther down the list. It will bubble to the top at or near the time we will need it next.

I can check the Completed list to see what I have already bought and checked off, which helps if I make a mistake. If I never clear the Completed list, I can see how often I buy things and when I last bought it if I’m curious. I do clear mine every morning, though because Reminders sometimes gets wonky if I don’t.

Making a grocery list is so easy now. I just scan through it, top to bottom, checking the fridge or pantry as necessary. When I get to the store, it’s all there, in order, and I get it done very quickly. Maybe someday we will have a better app, probably AI powered. We’ll probably train it by scanning receipts, and our refrigerator and pantry will know what they have, but until then, I’m using this.

By the way, aren’t you sick of paper receipts?

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