AnyList: A Better Way to Create Grocery Shopping Lists

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of grocery shopping. It’s tedious, you have to deal with people blocking your way in nearly every aisle, and it’s just a hassle, plain and simple. Unfortunately, it’s a necessary part of life (like laundry or dishes), so if there’s anything that can make this otherwise unenjoyable experience better, I’m willing to give it a go.

The simplest method to maintain your sanity, as well as reduce overspending, while grocery shopping is done by creating a list of items to buy. If you remember correctly I’m a big fan of ListBook, which works well for creating grocery lists. But as an app connoisseur of sorts, I’m always on the lookout for something better. In this particular instance, AnyList by Purple Cover, Inc. sets the standard for grocery shopping list apps. Find out why after the jump.

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Starting Out

When you fire up AnyList for the first time, you’re greeted with a brief introduction to the numerous features the app includes. From there, you’ll need to create an account (which requires your name, email and a password), which is used for sharing lists (more on this in a bit) and not spamming your inbox, fortunately.

You can preview the app by tapping "Skip for now" and sign up later.

You can preview the app by tapping “Skip for now” and sign up later.

The Creation of Lists

Once you’ve completed the signup process, you’re ready to dive head first into list creation. By default, you’re provided pre-created lists (My Grocery Lists and Party List), which are accessed by either swiping right anywhere on screen or tapping the Lists button located directly right of the list’s header. You can create a new list by tapping the Create New List button or the + button in the top right corner (having two methods for the same procedure seems a bit redundant from a UI perspective, but doesn’t hinder the experience). Tapping the Edit button allows you to delete lists one at a time, but oddly enough doesn’t allow you to sort your lists.

From my experience, there doesn't seem to be a limit to the number of lists you can create.

From my experience, there doesn’t seem to be a limit to the number of lists you can create.

In addition to standard lists, AnyList also sports a feature called Starter Lists, which allow you to save a list of items that you routinely buy for certain occasions; for example, if you have an annual family gathering and tend to make the same thing every year, you can create a Starter List that includes all those items. So, when the event comes around, you can simply go to the list and tap the Add All button to put every item on your shopping list. Truth be told, I probably won’t have a lot of use for it, but it’s a feature I can see being a bit hit with a lot of users.

The "Return to List" button at the bottom of the screen allows you to quickly jump back to your list.

The “Return to List” button at the bottom of the screen allows you to quickly jump back to your list.

Starter Lists are accessed in the Favorites menu by tapping the + button in the top right corner and hitting the blue Favorites button in the Add Item box.

Adding Items to Your List

One of the main user experience drawbacks in a lot of list creation apps is the process of adding items to a list. It’s the main functionality of the app, but some developers make it a tremendously tedious process (and as I stated earlier, grocery shopping is tedious enough as it is). Luckily, Purple Cover, Inc. have made adding new items to lists incredibly convenient. If your list is empty, you begin the adding process by tapping the No Items button in the center of the screen (if you’re already have items on the list, you’ll need to tap the + button in the top right corner).

When you're ready to add your first item, tap the No Items button.

When you’re ready to add your first item, tap the No Items button.

When the Add Item box transitions on-screen, begin typing the item you wish to add. As you begin typing, you’ll notice that a list of possible matches begins to display (similar to Google’s autocomplete search feature), allowing you to simply tap on the item of your choosing. You may not believe it, but this feature will save you a lot of time over the course of creating your lists, and is easily one of my favorite features. When you’ve tapped on the item, the Add Item box stays on screen, allowing you to quickly type in the next item.

I really love the ability of tapping a few letters and then tapping from a list of options.

I really love the ability of tapping a few letters and then tapping from a list of options.

Another feature that I quite enjoy is the auto-categorization of items once they’ve been added to a list. I typically shop by department, so having the items divvied up allows me to focus on each department individually. If you come across an item that’s added to a category you don’t feel is right, you have the option to permanently change the item’s department by tapping the blue disclosure arrow to the right of the item, tapping Category and then choosing a new category.

After tapping the blue disclosure arrow for an item, you can also add a note (e.g. if you’re purchasing meat, you can add a note about how many pounds you need) or add the item to your Favorites (allows you to easily add commonly purchased items to your shopping list).

Most pre-selected categories are spot on, but it's nice having the option to change them.

Most pre-selected categories are spot on, but it’s nice having the option to change them.

While you’re shopping and finding the items you need, you’ll need to check off said items on your list, which is done by tapping on the item. If you’re viewing your list in the All tab (next to the Remaining tab at the top of the screen), a red line will cross out the item, which is a really nice visual cue compared to what’s used in most list apps (a checkmark in a box). If you’re in the Remaining tab, once the item is crossed off it’s automatically removed from the list, only leaving products you still need to get.

You have the option to see or not see the items you've crossed off. Options are nice.

You have the option to see or not see the items you’ve crossed off. Options are nice.

Sharing is Caring

One of the biggest features AnyList boasts is its’ ability to share lists between users. The feature may not sound all that impressive, but iCloud syncing has one major drawback, which is it needs all devices to use the same account. AnyList takes a different approach by using email addresses to share lists, which allows you to share lists regardless if you share iCloud accounts between devices, or even use iCloud at all.

If you wish to share a list with someone that doesn’t have the app (and doesn’t want to download it) or doesn’t have an iPhone, you can email or text lists using the Share feature.

You can share the same list with multiple people.

You can share the same list with multiple people.

I found the process of sharing list is to be quite simple. Start by tapping the Share button at the bottom of the list you wish to share, tap the Share This List” button (or the + button in the top left corner) and enter the person’s name (if they’re in your contacts) or their email address. The recipient will receive a notification if they already have the app, and if not, they’ll receive an email that will include a link to download AnyList. From my experience with sharing lists between devices, once you add an item on your list it appears instantly on the other person’s device nearly every time — something I wish iCloud was more consistent with.

Final Thoughts

I currently have a lot of productivity apps on my iPhone, and one that already creates lists quite well, so the thought of keeping an app that’s geared specifically towards the creation of grocery shopping lists doesn’t seem like a necessity. But after spending time with AnyList, it was apparent that when it comes to grocery shopping, the normal rules of list creation don’t really apply.

When you’re buying a lot of items, being able to select from a list of products after typing a few letters has a tremendous amount value to me, as does the fact that items are sorted automatically into categories. One missing feature that I know some people rely on is the ability to easily enter a quantity of an item (e.g. 2 pounds of chicken), but I feel the notes feature does a decent job providing a similar functionality.

With these features and more, I can easily say that AnyList is a great tool that will inevitably make grocery shopping a less stressful ordeal.


Easily create and share grocery shopping lists.