Gone are the days of getting home, unloading, and then running back for that (crucial) item you forgot.

By Liz Steelman
Updated March 28, 2016
Grocery cart full of groceries - Landscape
Credit: Jose Luis Pelaez/Getty Images

Do you always need to make two trips to the grocery store—because you forgot something on the first run? A new study might offer a solution. Researchers looked at the habits of more than 700 consumers, trying to determine the most effective way to prevent forgetting something at the store. The findings, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, suggest that the following two tricks could leave you with a fully stocked fridge in your future.

  1. Make a list. This probably sounds like a no-brainer, but, turns out, 50 percent of shoppers don't do it. Even if you leave the house with a mantra of “milk, eggs, beets, and bread,” you could still forget something. To understand how this works, researchers gave shoppers a list of items to memorize and then asked them to predict how many items they would remember once they began shopping. After that, consumers were given 10 minutes to read an article before they went shopping. They did worse than expected. "One of our key findings is that people don't correctly anticipate when they are more likely to forget items," Daniel Fernandes, study author, said in a statement. "When we have something in our mind, it is hard to imagine that we will forget it." But we can and do—so it's a good idea to jot down your list and bring it along.
  2. Roam the aisles. Forget your list on the fridge? Plan to spend a few more minutes in the store—you might be less likely to forget that unusual item if you take the time to go up and down the aisles. To reach this conclusion, researchers gave a list of 10 to 20 fruits and vegetables to participants. They gave half the participants a list that contained produce they would usually pick up on a shopping trip, like apples and broccoli. The other half, however, received a list that contained items that were more uncommon, like coconuts and beets. The participants went shopping without the lists. Those who only needed to pick up apples and bananas were OK without the list and could go directly to the produce stand and then to the check-out. But for those who needed dandelion greens, cauliflower, and purple sweet potatoes, walking up and down the aisle was the most effective way to remember what was needed on the list.

Not sure what to put on that grocery list in the first place? We’ve put together a list of healthy staples that can be used to make quick and delicious dinners. Need some advice about how to navigate a grocery store (besides maybe the frozen food aisle)? Listen to this episode of Adulthood Made Easy, a Real Simple Podcast. Host Sam Zabell and Sarah Karnasiewicz, food editor, share tips and tricks on the simplest tricks and tips to getting the most out of grocery shopping—from meal planning to check out.