How to Share a Family Shopping List by Keeping It in the Cloud

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If you live with other people, you know the problem: On Wednesday you notice that you’re out of milk, but you’ve forgotten about that by the time your spouse goes shopping on Friday. Or you write a note on that pad on the fridge, but your handwriting is illegible. Or what if the two of you go shopping at different stores and both buy milk?

We’re used to living with these problems, but we don’t have to any more. Cloud-based shopping list services combined with smartphone apps ease shopping chores. When you use your smartphone to mark what needs to be bought, the rest of the family will see it on their phones as well.

Grocery Gadgets: On the Web and In Your Phone

At least you can do that with the service I’m recommending, Grocery Gadgets. You can access the service on your browser for free, but that’s of limited use because the web site isn’t mobile-friendly. You probably don’t want to create this week’s shopping list on a computer, and you certainly don’t want to take one shopping.

So you’re best off using Grocery Gadgets on your smartphone. And while that’s not free, it’s not exactly expensive, either. The iPhone app costs $4; the Android one, $3. These apps are almost functionally identical, although the iPhone one is prettier to look at. Apps are also available for BlackBerry, Nokia, and Windows Phone handsets.

(LIST: 50 Best iPhone Apps of 2011)

There are free apps, as well, but they’re too severely crippled to be useful. There are also no ongoing charges for the service. Grocery Gadgets syncs the data on your phone to the data in the cloud. You and your family will have the same shopping list on all of your phones.

Grocery Gadgets has one other fault I want to bring up right now: The user interface isn’t as obvious as it should be, especially if you’re moving between the website and a phone app. For instance, the web version has a “Favorites” list which contains every item on every other list. That list exists on the iPhone or Android Apps, though the word Favorites never appears.

Lists, Stores, Categories, and Aisles

Although you’ll probably use Grocery Gadgets almost exclusively on your phone, it’s easier to initially set it up on the web. Either way, you can create any number of lists, and assign any number of items (milk, oranges, bread, and so on) to them. You can assign an item to one, any, or all of the shopping lists. Most of the information about a particular item (name, barcode, and so on) is universal to all of the lists that item is on, but the quantity setting (how much you need to buy) is shopping-list specific.

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