Before the pandemic, we used to take our time in the supermarket. We might even have taken the kids along to wander up and down the aisles. If you forgot that scrap of paper with your handwritten shopping list, no problem. You’d remember that you wanted to stock up on pancetta or pickles when you strolled past those items on the shelves.
During the pandemic, supermarkets were no longer a place we wanted to spend a lot of time. As one industry observer noted, shoppers approached the weekly trip to the grocery store “like SEAL Team Six.” We suited up with masks and extra hand sanitizer and extracted our groceries with as little wasted movement as possible. In and out fast with zero casualties was the goal.
Knowing this, Walmart, Target, Kroger and the like amped up their app and online grocery shopping game, and delivery services like Postmates and Instacart have struggled to keep up with the increased demand.
But for many, there’s no substitute for in-store shopping. And before shopping, comes the list. In lieu of the handwritten scrap of paper that you won’t remember to bring anyway, there is now a grocery list app.
The use of grocery list apps, already growing, has been supercharged by COVID-19. Odds are good that most people will emerge from their pandemic experience using technology to help with shopping and meal planning in one way or another. While it will be a sweet relief to once again browse the aisles of a food market without worry or premeditation, these software-powered shortcuts — which save time, hassle and sometimes money — are habits we may never want to break.
And like the car you drive, the gym you visit or the reality shows you can’t abandon, the grocery app you use reveals quite a bit about you. Perhaps you’re a highly organized Virgo. Perhaps you’re a protein-focused vegan. Perhaps your crazy, free-spirited teenagers control the kitchen, or your friends are quirky potluck devotees. Maybe you have food allergies or specific dietary needs. Perhaps you love a bargain, or you love bacon, or you love bargain bacon. Whatever food tribe you belong to, there’s an app for you. Here are five foolproof favorites.
Out of Milk
For the Busy but Organized Parent
People love this app because it’s straightforward and easy — its categories are to-do list, pantry management and shopping — and has a clean design to keep you focused. They also love that you can type in your item — even misspell it! — and Out of Milk will categorize it for you (dairy, frozen, etc.). Even household items needed for cleaning and entertaining have their place in the app.
You can make lists for multiple stores and share those lists with anyone. Most helpful of all, once you enter an item, Out of Milk saves it to a quick-add list, making it easier down the road to put it on your shopping list.
For someone who needs a few things at the store, but it’s no big deal
Bring! is simple and civilized; probably not ideal for an advanced home cook sourcing rare or exotic ingredients, but great for practical shoppers needing to pick up no-frills essentials and treats.
The graphics are the opposite of intimidating and get straight to the point. The app also includes a highly digestible feature called Templates, which consists of recipes for various crowd-pleasing meals. Ingredients are clearly outlined and ready to add to your shopping list with the tap of a finger.
For big families who love big get-togethers
This multiple-list app is a hit for its intuitiveness and general ease of use. It also syncs well with digital assistants like Siri and Alexa, so you can yell, “Alexa, we need more wine!” and give the matter of adding it to your shopping list no further thought.
AnyList allows sharing, so spouses or roommates who make it to the store first can work from the same list as you. It also makes it easy to organize who’s bringing what to big holiday dinners. (There’s already enough drama without everyone showing up with a gelatin mold!)
For the basic (in a good way) grocery shopper
Simple and gimmick-free, Our Groceries is another app that lets you keep lists for different stores and share them with, say, your kids walking home from school who won’t mind running an errand for you … if you sweeten the pot. For them: Justin’s® dark chocolate peanut butter cups. For you: the Herdez® taqueria street sauce for that new chicken recipe your best friend sent you.
You can also add and check off items in real time, in case you’re all shopping simultaneously.
For home cooks who take meal planning seriously
Mealime is considered the best choice for devout meal planners in that it provides the recipe, the ingredient list and the tools to get everything you need at your grocery store. Its tag line, “Plan your meals for the entire week in minutes,” really is possible with this app.
Mealime was created to promote healthy eating and make cooking less stressful for everybody, and it succeeds in doing both. The app is also incredibly personalizable, drafting suggested meal plans for everyone from flexitarians to shellfish-free eaters. It even includes a no-no list where you can exile your disliked ingredients. What’s not to like about that?