What Is a Reverse Grocery List? Here’s How to Save Time at the Store With One

Updated: Jan. 12, 2024

Grocery day can be a major chore, but a reverse grocery list may change shopping forever.

Grocery shopping can feel like a kind of endless task, and maintaining a grocery list can be a chore in its own right. We want to create a list of what we need so we don’t overbuy, duplicate items or forget an important ingredient. But remembering everything to add to that list can be pretty overwhelming at times.

One solution we’ve recently discovered? A reverse grocery list.

How to Make a Reverse Grocery List

Handwritten grocery list on white note-paper, hand writing with pen on a wooden counter backgrounddan_alto/Getty Images

This sort of grocery list is a way of looking at the same shopping list in a different way. Essentially, this is just keeping a list of everything in your house and marking out what you’ve run out of. It’s sort of like maintaining an inventory rather than starting a fresh blank list each week. My own family does it in a shared notes app on our phones, but it can be a living document anywhere on your computer or phone, from Google Docs to Microsoft Office. This list can be divided into categories and subsections, from pantry staples to things that stay in the freezer to items such as dairy and produce.

Maintaining such a list can be so helpful with budgeting and meal planning, but it also just keeps a sort of running tab of your kitchen and what it has or is missing so you’re always prepared come grocery day. This reverse grocery list is time-consuming to create outright but once you do, it’s simply a matter of adding to it as needed. You just mark things off when you’re running low, and you’ll never forget to buy ginger or vanilla extract again.

Why Should You Use a Reverse Grocery List?

We’re all so busy, it’s very easy to forget items. This is especially true for the minor items we use less often, like those specialty ingredients. Maintaining a reverse grocery list will save time and make sure all those ingredients are accounted for, and just may save your next dinner party.