This is part of my series on How To Be A Good Person.

The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.
— Erma Bombeck

In college, I went to the store grocery every few days. I didn’t have a shopping list, and therefore I didn’t have a plan for what I wanted to buy. I wandered the store aimlessly, filling my basket with impulse buys, e.g., gummy bears and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I wasted a lot of time and money shopping. And I bought a lot of junk that made me overweight and unhealthy.

These days I keep a shopping list on my smartphone. It has a couple free tools to do this, and they come preinstalled. There are more sophisticated ones, too, that synchronize with a computer, like Evernote and Simplenote.

Personally, I like Simplenote and use it to manage my shopping list. I even go so far as to group items according to what aisle they’re on, i.e., the oatmeal and cereal are listed next to each other because they’re on the same aisle at my local store. This allows me to go through the store quickly and only visit each aisle once.

In fact, a shopping list has four significant benefits:

1. During the week, when I have one of those, Oh man! We need more spinach! moments, I don’t have to try to remember it later. I simply update my shopping list. And my mind is free to think about other things.

2. I don’t forget to buy things when I’m at the store. And I don’t worry that I’ll forget to buy something. I leave the store feeling confident that I have everything. As David Allen said, Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

3. I spend less time in the store and encounter fewer temptations (lemon meringue pie!) because items on my list are grouped according to the aisle they’re on.

4. I go shopping less often, which means fewer opportunities for impulse buys, e.g., jalapeño kettle chips. Less junk food in my house means less junk food in my body.

These days, I have a goal to go to the grocery store just once a week. I’d go less often, but I like to buy milk, bread, and produce, weekly.

In addition to a grocery shopping list, I have lists for a few stores that I visit less often: Costco, Home Depot, and The Dollar Store. This way, I keep track of what I need without visiting them every week.

So, try it out! Use your handy smartphone and make a shopping list. When you think of something you need, add it to your list. Make a goal of grocery shopping less often. You’ll buy less stuff and eat less junk. You’ll save you time, money, and pounds. And life will be better.

Be well, my friend.