Collecting other people’s shopping lists may sound like a strange thing to want to do but there are many advantages to the budding enthusiast.
Lists can be gifted from friends or family, or lists can be found discarded in shopping trollies and baskets. Here are 7 compelling reasons for joining the niche hobby and becoming a shopping list collector.
1. Shopping lists are Socially Significant
A person’s grocery list is a window into their life. Not only do you get literal insights into people’s buying habits but you also get to see something of the person when you analyse a list. Do they have a pet, are they vegetarian, are there ethnicity clues? The humble shopping list can capture a picture of wider trends and events. Are people buying budget items? Are they buying turkey at Christmas. Is there barbecue food in the Summer?
During the coronavirus pandemic there was a large reduction in the number of shopping lists generated as people embraced online shopping and home delivery. When there were shopping lists, they often contained PPE items like face masks. Hand sanitiser was a very popular item.
2. A Niche collection – small community
There are two types of collections, those which are open and those which are closed. For example, a closed collection could include a signed first edition of each of the Tolkien Lord of the Rings books – there are a finite number of things to find. An open collection is the opposite, for example beach glass, stamps or concert tickets. Within reason, there is not a limit to the number of items you can collect.
Shopping list collections are open. There is no limit to the number you can collect, each one a signpost to further information. An invite for Holmesien analysis and further thinking.
What is more, if you collect shopping lists you will likely be the only person who you know who is doing so. That said, there is a small online community out there who appreciate the ‘art’ and who are willing to share and discuss their finds. Just Google ‘Found Shopping Lists” and see what turns up.
3. Free To Keep and Collect
Grocery lists are great to collect as it costs nothing to find, or keep, them. You can find them anywhere, not just Tesco, Lidl, Morrisons, Cole’s or Walmart but up a cliff, on a dog walk, blowing in the wind. This quality can not be said about many collections.
You do not need to buy insurance, visit specialist collector fairs or spend hard earned cash on the most prized specimens – it is all FREE!
4. Lists are Great to display online, in a book or a gallery
Once you have your collection, however small, you will find there is a very visual aspect to enjoy. With each list being different, in terms of paper, pen and content, you will see an individual and group aesthetic emerge.
One list enthusiast in California entered her grocery lists into a competition at the San Diego County Fair and won first prize.
5. Shopping Lists are Physically Small
Shopping lists are very easy to store. You have two options, firstly you can take a photo of a list, archive the image, throwing away the paper list itself to meet its final end. Alternatively you can take a photo and keep the list too.
As each grocery lists is pretty small, you can store a huge physical collection in a folder, envelope or even a shoe box. Some collectors enjoy a photograph of the list where it was found in situ, as well as then keeping the physical list.
6. Each List is Unique
Like faces and fingerprints, no two shopping lists are the same. There are common trends, for example many shoppers like to use Post-it notes for smaller shops, some like to use purpose made list making note paper, others, the back of envelopes. In terms of writing implement, the common black ball point pen is a firm favourite, along with the pencil. Some people use coloured pens or Sharpies.
In just about every archive, no two shopping lists have the same list of contents. There are favourite items of course; bread, milk, eggs, butter… but very quickly people’s individual requirements come to the fore; sauce pan, birthday card, Breathright, mouse treats…
According to www.TheShoppingLists.com, the top 10 shopping lists items are:
- Crisps (potato chips)
7. The Shopping List May not be around forever
As people shop online more often, or have electronic grocery lists on the phones, either as emails, notes or specialist apps, the art of making and using a written shopping list is likely to be lost.
The role of home economics, as in household management, is increasingly taken less earnestly than it was a generation ago and supermarket food prices, although on the rise, are still mostly affordable as a proportion of income. People do not need to be so diligent about planning and executing their grocery shopping.
Further, people are eating out more often than in previous decades. Some shopping lists have weekly meal planners jotted down on them, Monday – pasta, Tuesday – Caesar salad, Wednesday – Eat out, Nandos. In the 1980’s and before, eating out was for many, a rare occasion, it is now a multi-weekly event.
In themselves of course, shopping lists are naturally ephemeral. Those which are made today, are tomorrows recycling or land fill. Many just fall to tatters left outside in the wind and rain.
With shopping lists, being a social record of the times, geography and circumstance in which we live, being free to collect and a being at threat from extinction, what better time is there than NOW to start a found shopping list collection.
Next time you are at the supermarket, have a look around the trolly area – you never know what you might find.
TheShoppingLists.com is an online archive of over 150 shopping lists, with searchable tags for items and locations. Submissions can be made of your own lists for others to view. For submissions and PR please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.