Create a 'Master Grocery List' to Make Shopping Easy (Free Template)

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Make a Master Grocery List to save time and money, and all those extraneous trips to the store. Detailed instructions and a free sample template included.

What is your typical grocery shopping experience? 

Is it anything like some of mine?  I don't know how many times I've gone shopping, armed with a list that I hastily scratched on the back of an envelope, bought my groceries, and got back home only to find I missed some important ingredients that I really needed.  Or, on other occasions, I've scurried off to buy milk, eggs and bread (usually while I'm ravenously hungry)...and bought enough food to feed a small country.  (See my related article on weight loss for shopping tips if you want to eat more healthful foods.) 

Being ill-prepared before launching off to buy groceries can result in the shopper wasting both time - by making multiple trips to the store because something was forgotten - and money - using extra fuel, making impulse purchases when you don't have a list to guide you, or purchasing duplicate goods which may expire before they can be used.  So, I now rely on a Master List to keep me organized.

What is a Master List?

A Master List is a detailed, all-inclusive, itemized list of groceries - both food and household necessities.  This list includes all things that you use in your household, even if you only use them on occasion.  The categories I use are:  Dairy, Dry Goods, Canned Goods, Seasonings and Condiments, Breads, Fresh Produce, Frozen Foods, Beverages, Misc Household Supplies, and Personal Care.  My list includes anything that is consumable and will, sooner or later, need replaced.  (For a detailed list of non-consumables, you might enjoy reading Basic Household Essentials.)  Under each category I compile a list of all items I keep in stock or will use.  This doesn't necessarily mean that I will have or need all of these items at one given time, although when my pantry is fully stocked it does make meal preparation and feeding unexpected guests that much easier.  The main purpose of the list is to save time, eliminate unnecessary purchases, avoid missing some essential ingredients at the store, and to regain control of my grocery money.

How do I make my own Master List?

Start by identifying the categories of groceries you use.  Then go through all your cupboards and pantry, and write down what is already there (under the specific category); add to that if you think you've missed anything.  You can also browse through your grocers' weekly flier to help jog your memory.  (I have included a template at the end of this article for your use, to which you can add or subtract categories and items.) Once you have your own personalized Master List, there are a few ways you can utilize it: 

  1. Print the master list from your computer and get it laminated.  It would be helpful to have a tick box placed in front of each item.  Then, as soon as an item needs replaced, check it off with a dry-erase marker.  As the laminated cards could be cumbersome to take with you to the market, simply make a smaller hand-written list from the items you have marked as needed.
  2. Print and laminate the list as above.  Then, as you are making your menu plan for the week or weeks ahead, refer to the master list either first, to get ideas for the menu, or after, so that the list will jog your memory for ingredients needed for that specific meal...or do both!
  3. If you are computer savvy, keep the master list in a spreadsheet document that allows you to print off only the selected items you need, have your shopping list prepared!
  4. If you are really organized and like to buy in bulk, you can use the laminated master list as an inventory checklist; just tally how much you have on hand of a certain item, and record it in the tick box.  As the items are used up, change the tally to reflect the new total.  With this method, you will always know the exact quantity of your household goods, without having to search through your pantry and cupboards.

Of course, you can use your master list in whatever manner you find most helpful to you.  Personally, since I don't have a large family to feed anymore, I mostly use mine to create a weekly shopping list, or for ideas on menu planning (as I'm browsing the list and see pineapple, for example, I'll think - "Oh, I should make sweet & sour meatballs"). 

A Sample Master List

The following is my Master List.  Your's might look entirely different depending on your family's needs.  I hope this Master List template, and the ideas I've shared on its' use, will help you on your way to making grocery shopping an easier, more efficient task.


  • White flour
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Pastry flour
  • Rice flour
  • White sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Powdered sugar
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Yeast
  • Salt
  • Cream of tarter
  • Corn starch
  • Tapioca
  • Rolled oats
  • Wheat bran
  • Oat bran
  • Cornmeal
  • Flax seeds
  • Barley
  • Cracked wheat (bulgur)
  • Brown rice
  • Pearl rice
  • Basmati rice
  • Wild rice
  • Spaghetti
  • Linguini
  • Rotini
  • Penne
  • Lasagne noodles
  • Egg noodles
  • Rice noodles
  • Unflavoured gelatine (Knox)
  • Skim milk powder
  • Cocoa powder
  • Pure dark baking chocolate
  • Flaked coconut
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Raisins
  • Dried cranberries
  • Graham cracker crumbs
  • Soda crackers
  • Breakfast cereal


  • Whole peppercorns
  • Ground white pepper
  • Ground black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Paprika
  • Chilli powder
  • Dry mustard
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Bay leaves
  • Dill weed
  • Chives
  • Caraway
  • Fennel
  • Coriander
  • Celery seed
  • Anise seed
  • Poppy seed
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Turmeric
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Nutmeg
  • Allspice
  • Ginger
  • Mace
  • Vanilla extract
  • Almond extract
  • Lemon extract
  • Rum flavouring
  • Beef bouillon
  • Chicken bouillon
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Kitchen bouquet (gravy browning)
  • Soy sauce
  • Dry onion soup mix
  • Prepared mustard
  • Ketchup
  • Relish
  • Mayonnaise
  • Olive oil
  • Grape seed oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • White vinegar
  • White wine vinegar
  • Peanut butter
  • Honey


  • Stewed tomatoes
  • Fire-roasted tomatoes
  • Tomato paste
  • Tomato sauce
  • Tomato soup
  • Salsa
  • Sundried tomatoes
  • Mushroom soup
  • Chicken broth
  • Beef broth
  • Vegetable broth
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Oysters
  • Cocktail shrimp
  • Clams
  • Black olives
  • Green olives
  • Green beans
  • Water chestnuts
  • Pineapple tidbits
  • Crushed pineapple
  • Apple sauce
  • Pumpkin (unsweetened pulp)
  • Coconut milk


  • Milk
  • Cream
  • Sour cream
  • Yogurt
  • Butter
  • Cheddar
  • Parmesan
  • Specialty cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Feta
  • Eggs
  • Vegetable shortening


  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Green onions
  • Sweet peppers
  • Lettuce greens
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Mushrooms
  • Baby spinach
  • Fresh vegetables in season
  • Garlic
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Banana
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Fresh fruits in season
  • Fresh herbs in season


  • Lean ground beef
  • Beef steaks
  • Beef roasts
  • Stewing beef
  • Ground beef
  • Pork chops
  • Pork roasts
  • Ground pork
  • Lamb chops
  • Whole chicken
  • Skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • Chicken drumsticks
  • Turkey breasts
  • Whole turkey
  • Salmon
  • Other fresh seafood


  • Green peas
  • Spinach
  • Corn
  • Green Beans
  • Mixed vegetables
  • Frozen pastry dough
  • Icecream
  • Frozen juice concentrate
  • Berries
  • Perogies
  • Fish sticks or fillets
  • Chicken Fingers
  • Jumbo prawn
  • Scallops


  • Sandwich bread
  • Artisan bread
  • Kaiser rolls
  • Pita bread
  • English muffins
  • Tortilla shells
  • Bagels
  • Muffins


  • Coffee beans
  • Tea bags / loose tea
  • Hot chocolate mix
  • Bottled water
  • Orange juice
  • Grapefruit juice
  • Tomato juice
  • Ginger Ale
  • Wine
  • Beer


  • Toilet paper
  • Tissue
  • Paper towel
  • Dish soap
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Pot scrubbers (SOS pads)
  • Laundry detergent
  • Fabric softener
  • Bleach
  • Toilet bowl cleaner
  • Lemon/orange oil (furniture polish)
  • Foil wrap
  • Plastic wrap
  • Parchment
  • Wax paper
  • Cheesecloth
  • Batteries
  • Scotch tape
  • Masking tape
  • Tea light candles


  • Shampoo
  • Hair conditioner
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Dental floss
  • Deodorant
  • Hand / body lotion
  • Liquid hand soap
  • Bar soap
  • Personal toiletries/cosmetics
  • Cotton balls
  • Cotton swabs
  • Band-aids / first aid
  • Vitamins
  • ASA
  • Ibuprofen


This is an example of how you can set it up as a checklist :

Copyright by Sharla Smith, September 25, 2010

Main Photo Sourcephoto1photo2


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