Easy Ways to Simplify Your Grocery List
Frugal Living Homemaking

Easy Tips to Simplify Your Grocery List

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Grocery shopping can be overwhelming, especially when you have a long list of disjointed ingredients to track down in every corner of the grocery store.

When you get your grocery haul home, you suddenly realize you have no clue what to make with the random ingredients you bought.

As busy moms, we can all benefit from simplifying our daily tasks to save us time, money, and head space.

It might seem like making a grocery list and going shopping is just a necessary task because we all need to eat, but there are ways to make it easier and less stressful.

And best of all? Simplifying your grocery list can save you time and money!


1. Choose Simple Ingredients and Recipes

The easiest way to simplify your grocery list is to not try to make complicated meals.

When you try to make fancy meals, you can end up with lots of ingredients you wouldn’t normally buy with plans of only using them in one recipe.

Not only can this lead to increased food waste from ingredients going bad from not being used in time, but it can lead to a lot more time spent in the grocery store tracking down special ingredients.

Now, don’t get me wrong, fancy meals definitely have their place, especially for holidays and other special occasions. However, if you want to simplify your grocery list and shopping, it’s better to keep those meals on special days.

By choosing simple recipes, you can also save time in the kitchen since you won’t have to work through a 30-step recipe to get supper on the table.

If you love cooking, maybe that’s your chance to relax. If so, go for it!

I’m the kind of person who needs to be inspired to spend long periods cooking, so I’m all for quick, easy meals that feed my family and give me more time to do other things.

2. Use Ingredients Multiple Ways

How often do you buy an ingredient with grand plans for how to use it and then you:

  • Use part of it but never finish it?
  • Don’t make the dish again because your family didn’t like it?
  • Or, don’t use the ingredient again before it goes bad?

One way you can keep this from happening is to buy ingredients that you can in a variety of different ways.

This way, if you try a new recipe and figure out no one in your family likes it, you can use the ingredients in other ways.

Some very versatile ingredients you can use in creative ways (but also in simpler depending on your family’s taste) include:

By keeping simple “base ingredients” like these on hand, you can mix and match them with other ingredients to keep some variety in your meals without extending all that variety to the items on your shopping list.

When you learn which of these base ingredients you use frequently, you’ll know how often to buy them and how much you need.

3. Try New Recipes (but keep them simple)

Don’t know multiple ways to use an ingredient? Try something new!

Trying something new doesn’t mean you have to go “all out” in terms of flavor or complicated recipes.

However, it can help keep you out of a cooking rut when you’re trying to keep your grocery list simple.

By learning how to combine ingredients you already have in your pantry in new and creative ways, you can maybe even find some new family favorites!

Not sure how to combine what you have to make new dishes? Here are some helpful sites that can get you started:

  • Shelf Cooking (helps you learn how cook with what’s in your fridge or pantry and make substitutions if you’re out of  something)
  • Super Cook (input the ingredients you have and it will give you recipes that use them)
  •  My Recipes (similar to Super Cook)

4.  Keep a Master List

When you start your grocery list from scratch every time you go shopping, it can seem like you always forget something.

By making a master grocery list, you can have a one-stop place to see what you’re out of, without having to look through the fridge and pantry and try to see what’s missing.

How do you make a Master Grocery List?

A Master Grocery List might seem overwhelming at first, but it can save so much brain power in the long run.

Starting a list of your own pretty much just requires you to pay attention to what you’re already buying. Nothing fancy here!

If you’d like to make your own, here are the steps I would take.

  1. Keep track of the foods you buy (and actually use) for a month or so.
  2. Look at which foods you buy every shopping trip (or most times).
  3. If you have bulk items such as baking supplies like flour, sugar, baking powder, etc. include those too. Even if you don’t buy them quite so often, you don’t want to figure out you’re out of vanilla when it’s time to make chocolate chip cookies!
  4. Organize your list so you can easily find what you’re looking for, leaving some extra room for other things you might not get quite so often but realize you need to buy on your next shopping trip.
  5. Laminate your list or stick it in a page protector (Check out your local library if you don’t have a laminator) and hang it on your fridge or somewhere else where it’s easily accessible.

Now that you have a list, simply use a dry erase marker to mark down items as you run low or out of them. That way, when it’s time to go grocery shopping, you already have a premade list!

Another bonus? Having a centralized list to refer to can help eliminate those extra trips back to the store for those items you forgot.

5. Divide Your List by Type

Simplifying your grocery list won’t help much if you still end up running from one end of the grocery store to the other trying to find everything.

By dividing your items into like kinds, you’ll be able to see what you need from that area of the store and hopefully eliminate the need to circle back at the end of your trip for that one last item.

How you divide your list and which order you get your items in will vary from store to store. If you start with broad categories, the items you need should at least be in the same general area of the store.

Here are some general categories I would recommend starting with:

  • Meat
  • Dairy and Eggs
  • Produce
  • Baking Supplies
  • Canned Goods
  • Dry Goods (think pasta, oatmeal, rice, etc.)

If you would rather have a digital list so you always have it with you, there are lots of free apps available that are great for grocery lists! Just keep a master version and duplicate it so you still have your original after you mark off items as you shop.

6. Add Variety with Seasonings

Simplifying the amount of ingredients you buy when grocery shopping doesn’t have to mean you’re doomed to flavorless foods for the sake of simplicity and saving money.

Spices are a wonderful way to take basic ingredients and turn them into any type of cuisine you’d like.

While the initial purchase might be a bit more costly (depending on the type and amount you’re getting), a little bit goes a long way, so you won’t have to restock your spices for awhile.

Want to recreate the flavors of a certain cuisine but don’t know which spices to use? Just use Pinterest or another search engine to find spice mixtures. For example, you could search “spices for Chinese food” or “spices for Jambalaya”.

Don’t have all of the spices listed? Depending on how crucial a spice is to the overall flavor (like chili powder in taco seasoning), you might need to add it to your list for your next shopping trip. If it’s not a major component of the flavor, simply leave it out or search for substitution ideas to see if you have any on hand.


Simplifying your grocery list can save you time, money, and brain power.

By simplifying your grocery shopping, you can focus more on other things that matter, like your family.


How do you simplify groceries and cooking for your family? What are your go-to meals for when you need a quick, yet healthy, way to get dinner on the table?

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  1. Wonderful tips! I can’t wait to try some of them 🙂

  2. This is a great resource because I think all of us at some point want to cut down our grocery bill. I have done some of your tips before, like the master list, and it helps so much!

    1. Agreed! I think even if we aren’t spending a lot on groceries, it’s always nice to save some money on the groceries we are going to buy anyway. Then we can use that money for other things. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and it sounds like you have some good experience getting groceries on a budget.

  3. Great tips for streamlining meals and saving a few dollars along the way!

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