Get organized with these shopping list ideas

Save yourself time and money with these top tips on how to create a shopping list to plan for your purchases.

8 min read

A great shopping list can take the stress out of just about anything—weekly food shopping, setting up a new apartment, or preparing for a new member of the family. Lists help you work out what you actually need and keep your supplies topped up, so you never get caught short. Best of all, they’ll spare you the frustration of returning home only to discover you forgot to buy a key ingredient or item. Whether you prefer to write lists on paper, in note-taking apps or in specialized shopping list apps, our shopping list template suggestions will help you get everything you need.

Grocery shopping lists and meal planning

We’ve all been there—you rush to the store after work with no idea what to cook, grab a bunch of snacks and random ingredients, and end up overspending. Good list-writing and meal-planning habits can help you to avoid this mad scramble and make cooking at home more enjoyable.

We recommend using a shopping list app to get yourself organized. There are lots to choose from, such as AnyList, Our Groceries, and Yummly. Some apps also have meal planning features and let you upload recipes from websites. You can then simply tap on the recipe ingredients you don’t have at home and add them straight to your weekly shopping list.

Good apps will sort your items into categories such as frozen, dairy, cleaning products, and more, which means you’ll spend less time running back and forth between the aisles. Your preferred supermarket might even have its own shopping app with a list function. If it does, you can probably even order online and arrange in-store or curbside pick-up.

Other handy hints for your grocery shopping list:

  • Plan at least three meals a week. Draw inspiration from cookbooks or cooking websites.

  • Prefer to be spontaneous? Make your list more general. Buy the types of vegetables and protein (meat or meat alternative) you normally tend to cook, then take an ad hoc approach. You can always go to the store again for a particular spice or other ingredient if you do choose a recipe at the last minute.

  • Plan meals based on what you already have at home. Check the freezer, fridge, and cupboards. Broccoli looks like it’s starting to turn? Then it’s broccoli pasta tonight!

  • Check your staples before you head out (e.g. canned items, salt, oil, pasta). Ideally you want to add items to your list when you’re running low—not when you’ve run out.

  • If you’re on a budget, check the supermarket website and base your meals around the items on sale.

Gift lists: note down key dates and possible gift ideas

Good lists can also make it easier to organize awesome gifts for your loved ones. Think about who you usually buy gifts for and when. Enter special occasions into your calendar and add reminders a couple of weeks in advance so you can start thinking about gift ideas early. This will help you buy better gifts and reduce the risk of accidentally overspending with last-minute impulse purchases. 

Special occasions could include:

  • Births, christenings, and birthdays

  • Weddings and anniversaries

  • Graduations and work promotions

  • Thanksgiving

  • Religious holidays, e.g., Christmas, Eid, Rosh Hashanah, Purim, Diwali

  • Valentine’s Day

  • Mother’s Day

  • Father’s Day

When brainstorming gift ideas, ask yourself—what do they usually do to relax? What are their favorite foods or drinks? Is there an activity we could do together? Is there a particular topic they’re really interested in or keen to learn more about? Do they have a favorite charity that I could donate to on their behalf? Or are there any practical things they need (e.g. supplies to work from home)? 

College shopping list (actually, it’s more like a budget)

Everyone’s study experience is different. So instead of tips about what items you might need or want to buy during your degree, we’ve put together some advice about how to organize your budget. With a good budget list and a little effort, you can cover your fixed costs and enjoy student life without worrying about money at the end of each month.

Your budget is basically a blueprint for your monthly shopping list. Calculate your total income (earnings, scholarships, student benefits, etc.) and make a list of all your expenses. Break down your expenses into categories and work out the average monthly cost for each.

Examples of expenses divided into fixed costs (unavoidable) and variable costs (nice to have) include:

Fixed costs:

  • Rent and utilities

  • Tuition fees or student loan repayments

  • Public transport or car insurance and fuel

  • Groceries

  • Textbooks, stationery, software, hardware

  • Mobile phone bill

  • Health insurance, medication

  • Clothing

  • Household goods (including repairs and replacements)

Variable costs:

  • Entertainment like concerts, movies, theater trips

  • Sports or gym memberships

  • Eating and drinking at restaurants, pubs, etc.

  • Music and film streaming subscriptions

  • Gifts

  • Holiday travel

  • Savings

(Note that several of these costs, like restaurants or travel, won’t really apply during the pandemic due to lockdowns and other restrictions.)

Track your spending and check whether your monthly estimates were realistic. If you’re spending more than you’re earning, go through your list and see where you can cut costs. Maybe you could order less takeaway or cancel an app subscription. Budgets are a work in progress, so it might take a few months before you find the right balance.

Baby shopping list for parents-to-be

When your newborn arrives, it can be a pretty overwhelming time. You want to minimize any stress factors and spend as little time shopping as possible. If it’s your first child, you’re in uncharted territory. How quickly will they grow out of their clothes? How much will they eat? 

Break down your shopping list into categories to make it more manageable:

  • Breastfeeding e.g. breast pads, maternity bras

  • Formula feeding e.g. bottles, sterilizer

  • Clothing e.g. bodysuits, tops, pants, hats, socks

  • Bedtime e.g. crib, sleeping bags, baby monitor

  • Toilet time e.g. diapers, rash cream, wet wipes, changing table

  • Bath time e.g. baby bath, baby shampoo, massage oil

  • Heading out the house e.g. car seat, baby stroller, sling

For more a specific shopping list covering pregnancy to 12 months, check out this baby checklist.

Moving? Here’s your apartment shopping list

Let’s say you’ve already got the “big stuff” like a bed, couch, desk, wardrobe, vacuum cleaner, washing machine, dining table, and chairs. Here’s some inspiration for all the other bits and pieces you might need:

Food items

Pantry staples (dry goods), fridge staples, fruits and vegetables, condiments and spices, sauces, baking ingredients, baked goods, frozen food, meat or meat substitutes 

Cleaning products

All-purpose bathroom cleaner, toilet cleaner, glass cleaner, dishwasher detergent, dishwashing liquid, sponges, paper towels, garbage bags, laundry detergent, mop and bucket, broom and dustpan

Entrance area 

Welcome mat, coat rack, shoe rack

Kitchen

Toaster, microwave, coffeemaker (moka pot, French press, AeroPress, etc.), kettle, storage containers, chopping board, bottle opener, can opener, utensils (spatula, ladle, tongs, etc.), sharp knives, cutlery, crockery, pots and pans, glasses, mugs, trash can, recycling containers

Bathroom

Towels, hand soap, body soap or shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, moisturizer, deodorant, razors, feminine hygiene products, toothpaste, toothbrush, toilet brush, toilet paper, shower curtain, trash can, first aid kit, clothes drying rack

Bedroom

Bedding, curtains, bedside tables and lamps, laundry basket, clothes hangers

Living room

Nails or hooks, prints and paintings, rug, lamps, bookcase, cupboard 

Quarantine shopping list template

During the pandemic, you might unexpectedly need to go into quarantine at home. Maybe you’re feeling unwell, waiting for the results of a coronavirus test, or have tested positive. 

It’s worth keeping some essentials on hand to make you less dependent on expensive deliveries and also take the pressure off the friends and relatives who are supporting you. Here are some ideas for your quarantine shopping list:

Food and drink

  • Dry goods like pasta, beans, nuts, rice, dried fruit 

  • Canned vegetables and soups

  • Cooking oil

  • Dried herbs

  • Coffee and tea

  • Fresh vegetables with a longer shelf life (e.g. potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, onion, garlic, ginger, lemons)

  • Long-life milk or milk alternatives

  • Frozen meat, vegetables, ready meals

  • Feel-good snacks (e.g. chocolate, chips)

Household cleaning 

  • Laundry detergent

  • Dishwashing liquid and sponge/brush

  • Disinfectant cleaner or wipes

Medical 

  • At least two weeks’ supply of any prescription medications

  • Pain and fever relievers (e.g. paracetamol, ibuprofen, aspirin)

  • Disposable gloves and face masks

  • Thermometer

  • Throat lozenges

Personal hygiene

  • Hand soap

  • Toilet paper

  • Tissues

  • Body soap or shower gel

  • Feminine hygiene products

Baby 

  • Baby food and formula

  • Diapers and rash cream

Children

  • Books, coloring books

  • Craft materials

  • Board games, card games, jigsaw puzzles

  • Sports equipment (if you have a yard)


Keep track of your shopping list spending with N26

N26 bank accounts feature several handy tools that help you keep track of your spending. For instance, you can add personalized tags to your purchases (e.g., #takeaway, #groceries, #birthdaygifts) to separate them into categories. At the end of the month, check out the Statistics page in the app for an overview of where your money went—and where you might be able to cut costs. 

Each N26 premium bank account comes with Spaces sub-accounts that let you put money aside for gifts or larger purchases. Spaces also has a function called Rules that is particularly useful for budgeting. With Rules, you can set up a recurring transfer that automatically moves your rent money (or other fixed costs) from your main account into a sub-account after you get paid at the end of the month, then create another Rule to automatically move it back just before your rent is due. That way, you’ll always know that the money in your main account is safe to spend.

By N26

The Mobile Bank

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