You know it's a good idea to shop with a grocery list. Yet even when you make a list, do you still forget to buy some of the foods you need? Just in time for the holidays, here is an idea to help to make grocery shopping trips more quick and effective. Use a master grocery shopping list and it will increase your odds for getting out of the store with everything you need.

Start by developing a master list with similar items placed together. Grouping foods by category on your grocery list helps you remember food items and avoid a return trip to the store.

Also, by grouping foods together, you're less likely to have to double back in the store for a food missed in a particular section.

To save time, you might develop a form you can photocopy or print from your computer for weekly use. Keep your list in a central location where your family can add to it as needed.

I keep my shopping list on the refrigerator with one of those strong magnetic clips. Other people store theirs in a cupboard drawer. Wherever you keep the list, just be sure there's a pencil nearby!

Developing Your Master List

Here are some tips for developing a master grocery list for ongoing use. Modify as works best for you. One way to organize your list is by categories based on the MyPlate food groups. This helps assure that your meals include a mix of healthy foods.

Some people like to arrange the categories in their list around the order in which food are found in the store. Their master list may include such headings as "canned goods," "frozen foods," "fresh produce" and so on.

The best way to develop this type of list is to go up and down the aisles of your store and record headings that describe your food purchases. (Be aware that stores do change where they place foods. Also, this type of listing works best if you shop mainly at one or two stores.) Add some type of catch-all groupings for condiments, baking staples, ethnic foods an other items that don't fit anywhere else.

Include categories for non-food items that you purchase at the grocery store such as health and beauty aids, household products and cleaning supplies. Grouping these together has an added benefit of helping you see how much of your "grocery" bill is going for items other than food. In reality, it may be toilet paper or toothpaste rather than tomatoes or tuna that add the most to your "food" costs.

Using Your Master List

If there are foods and other items that you purchase regularly, give yourself a reminder by making them a permanent part of your master list. For example, if you always like to have some carrots in the house, write "carrots" under your vegetable category heading. Then, if you need carrots that week, circle that item.

Sometimes, you may wish to wait until you're at the store before deciding what specific foods to buy within a category. For example, you may wish to view the quality of fresh fruits or check out meat specials before deciding on your purchase. To assure that you get enough foods for your meals, simply write how many items you need from that group. For example, if you need meat for 7 meals, write "7 meats."

Test your master list for at least a month to find what works best for you and adjust as needed. Remember that time spent developing a master shopping list is usually less than the time spent returning to the store for a forgotten item.