5 tips for writing an effective shopping list

A pair of hands holding a pen and writing a shopping list

Towards the end of the calendar year I have to get serious about using a shopping list. Several important people in my life have birthdays in November and December. And then of course we’re into the festive shopping period…

I’m rather a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas shopping. I may pick up a small thing or two in October, but I like to wait until December before I get started in earnest. Even publishing this blog in the last week of November counts as early organisation for me!

Victoria Wood once did a piece about going Christmas shopping. She talked about finding a piece of paper in her coat pocket with the word ‘crackers’ on it and wondering “have I got to buy crackers or go crackers?”

While the joke was about the chaos and stress that the season can cause, I also like to think it gives us a cautionary note about lists. Like many things in life, I see the humble shopping list as an opportunity for communication – to myself or others. As such, there are some basic comms points to consider.

So how can communication planning help us with our shopping list?


What’s the purpose of this particular list? People write lists for all sorts of reasons.

  • To remind themselves what to buy on a specific day.
  • To keep all the things that are buzzing around their head in one place.
  • To stop them from spending too much money by buying things they don’t need.
  • And so on.

Whatever you need to achieve, knowing that from the start will be very helpful.


Writing a list for yourself is different to writing one for your husband, your children or your best friend. You (hopefully) know what you mean by ‘one of those shiny, pointy things for Grandad’, but someone else might need you to write ‘a Swiss army knife for Grandad’.

So understand who you’re writing for and adapt accordingly.


A Christmas shopping list can cover all sorts of things, from presents and decorations to food and visitors. Being clear on what your list is going to cover will help you to keep on track and stay focussed – as you write and as you head out to the shops, list in hand.


It is personal preference when you write your list. If you’re frightfully organised, you’ll have drawn it up in July; if you’re like me, you’ll leave it to the last minute. Some will be writing their list at 8.45am on Christmas Eve.

Finding the timing that works for you is the most important thing.


Again, this is a personal preference. Some people swear by apps and online task lists, others use fancy notebooks. For myself, a colourful piece of paper from my jotter block is the way to go.

There’s no right or wrong; use whatever works best for you.

So there you have it, tips for a super shopping list. Let me know how you get on!

Until next time

Leave a comment