If you're looking for the perfect grocery list app, check out Grocery iQ (free, iPhone/iPod touch and iPad versions available, app2.me/227). It has every feature you might need, it's easy to use, it's available for both the iPhone and iPad, and it's free! Use this app once and you will never do your shopping without it. The best way to describe the app is to walk through how my wife and I use it.
Step 1: Enter the items you purchase regularly
After installing the app, enter your "Favorites" (i.e., the items you purchase regularly).
Type in favorite products
My wife started to read items from her shopping list while I typed them in. Grocery iQ has a database of millions of items, and most of the time you have to enter part of the product name before it appears on the list. When you see it, tap the item and the details are entered into your favorite items list.
Scan barcodes to enter information
You can also enter items by using the barcode scanning feature. After manually entering a dozen items, we decided to try it out. We walked through the kitchen grabbing items, pointing the camera at their barcodes, and clicking the Scan button. An image of it appeared with superimposed on-screen guidelines. Move the image with until the bar code lines up with the guidelines and wait for the app to automatically "read" the barcode. Grocery iQ found every item we threw at it within just a few seconds. However, if the app can't process the bar code, you can manually enter the UPC.
Step 2: Build your shopping list
After you've finished entering items, you're ready to build your shopping list. In our newly created Favorites list, we tapped on the button next to each item we wanted to add to our shopping list. After we had selected the desired items, we hit the "Add to List" button to enter them in the List tab. We then tapped on the item in the List tab to add product details—such as the amount or weight of the item. You can enter one-time purchases— one's that aren't in your Favorites—directly into the List tab.
Step 3: Share shopping lists
The killer feature of Grocery iQ is list sharing. Shopping lists can be shared (and automatically synced) among multiple family members. One user acts as the "host" and shares their list with one or more people by e-mailing them an invitation to sync with them. If anyone makes changes to the shopping list, everyone's list will be updated. Setting up list syncing took all of five minutes. You can even configure the polling interval (i.e., how frequently it checks to see if changes have been made). I set ours to the shortest interval—to check every 30 seconds. My wife added a few items to our shopping list and half a minute later I received a notification that my Grocery iQ list was updated.
Step 4: Shop
With our list built, we headed out for our weekly shopping trip. Lists are organized by grocery aisle which speeds up shopping, especially with a long list. When you pull an item off the shelf, tap on it in your list; the item is moved to your virtual checkout cart. (Tap again to return it to the list.) When you're finished shopping, hit the "Checkout" button to move the items you've purchased to the history list. Items you didn't find or purchase remain on the list.
Takes the drudgery out of shopping
The company behind Coupons.com purchased grocery iQ in January 2009. They made significant changes to the program and released version 2.0 as a free app. However, you are required to sign up for a free account at Coupons.com.
Surprisingly, one highly touted feature of the 2.0 release—integrated coupons—doesn't work very well. The feature is supposed to find coupons for items in the shopping list you've built in the app, but it never has for us. It does find coupons for (vaguely) related items. In addition, redeeming coupons is too cumbersome—everything must be done before you leave home, unless you have a Safeway Club Card. Two obvious improvements would be the addition of more loyalty card programs and the ability to display a coupon on your iPhone screen and have the checkout person scan it.
Some fans of the original Grocery iQ think the app has gone downhill since being acquired by Coupons.com. Reviews in the App Store complain about syncing problems, slowness, and the intrusiveness of the coupons feature. I can only report that we suffer none of these problems. Grocery iQ saves us time and takes a lot of the drudgery out of shopping.