I hate going to the grocery store. Hated it when I was single. Hate it now as a family man. Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. But while promoting myself on Twitter (yeah, I do that, but I’d like to think I’m not obnoxious about it) I was asked “What do you recommend for a good Shopping List application?” I was stumped because, well, see the beginning of this paragraph. So I started browsing. If I was going to promote myself as a reliable resource for quality iPhone apps, I needed to go shopping for that which will help me shopping.
I was amazed to find how many apps were developed for grocery shopping. Seriously?! I mean, this is grocery shopping! And I know I’m not the only one that hates doing this, but there’s a wide array of apps all dedicated in helping you fill your fridge. After careful consideration of them, I went with Grocery Gadget (by Flixoft, Inc. and priced at $4.99 with a Lite version for free), an app that appeared to take a lot of pain out of the mundane. So I downloaded it and started to play.
Three trips later, I’m still playing with it like a kid and his new toy on Christmas morning.
Never hear “That’s the wrong brand!” again.
When shopping for the family, that is my worst fear: buying the wrong brand of anything. I can say without a doubt there is a difference between Ken’s Steak House Honey Mustard, and Newman’s Own. Grocery Gadget offers you the option to take pictures of the item you’re about to buy and store them in the app. Note: I said in Grocery Gadget, not in your Gallery. This means you won’t be importing into your computer an exhibition that only Foodies can appreciate. So when you’re buying for particular tastes or you’re sharing with others (more on that later), you can make sure that the right item is picked up without fail.
Multiple Lists, Multiple Needs
When I first set up my Grocery Gadget, I was disappointed with the fact that I couldn’t set up the Grocery Items between stores. At least, that was my first impression. In Grocery Gadget, you can set up a new list and label it as a different store. In setting up the new list, you can pull up an item you have previously entered, change the price, and not have the price change in other lists. So while White Asparagus is 3.99 at Harris-Teeter, you can have it listed at $2.99 in a Safeway list, but still with the same image you stored in the app’s database. Now you can manage shopping and prices across multiple stores.
The built-in database does not only include a variety of items and name brands, but also Pharmacy Items and Office Supplies. Shopping is shopping, no matter what you are shopping for. You can even set up Christmas and Holiday lists on Grocery Gadget; and if you can’t find it in the database, set it up in your app. Take a photo, enter in a description, enter in a price, and your custom item stays in your Grocery Gadget until you remove it. Even when removed from a particular list, the custom item remains in the database, on call if needed.
Sharing with the Group
Grocery Gadget has also been designed to easily share your lists with other iPhone and iTouch users through its website. If you have a group a friends who share the shopping duty or if you are sharing the responsibilities amongst your family, you can set up a group and swap the lists (pictures, prices, and all) between portable devices, again making sure that everyone is shopping for the right things.
Having my grocery list on call is absolutely sweet. That is the best way to sum it up. While you do not always have your grocery list handy (and how annoying it is when you head out to the store only to realize you forgot your list on the kitchen island, where you put it so you wouldn’t forget it…), you do have your iPhone within reach; and as Grocery Gadget allows you to “clear” a list, your shopping list (that, when you think about it, tends to be the same items again and again) remains intact at the end of the trip. You set your items at “0” and then compile your next trip as time passes. And if you need to add items and impulse buys to your Grocery Gadget, you can do so from the “Shop” mode by clicking on the “+” (Add New Item) button.
Grocery Gadget’s interface is a textbook example of intuitive and user-friendly. Under “Prepare” you do just that: enter in items, enter in prices (if you happen to have them handy), and take pictures. Prep yourself for the trip by setting up what you need and how many you want. As you add to your list and the prices are entered, Grocery Gadget will do the math and gives you the total cost of the list in the lower-left corner. Tap over to “Shop” and your interface now has in the lower-right corner how much is currently in the cart. Tap an item’s checkbox once, and the Cart’s value increases. Tap the checkbox again for an “X” to remove the item from the Cart’s value.
As far as estimates go, Grocery Gadget is well within an acceptable range. In a recent trip, my end results were:
GG estimate: $100.17 (without taxes) Actual Receipt: $94.07 (with taxes)
With its visual aids and ability to share shopping within groups of iPhone and iTouch users, and a handy “Notes” feature to remind you of which aisle the item resides, this app really does make errands to the grocery store more efficient and expedient.
The first trip with Grocery Gadget is nothing less than an epic trip to the store. I don’t think there is any way you can get around this as each store is different, prices offered online are different from what is in the actual store, and depending on what your buying, the taxes with them vary beyond the two options you are offered in the app’s preferences. In that first Grocery Gadget-enhanced errand, the “quick trip” took about 60-90 minutes as I was stopping to take pictures, enter and confirm prices, and take notes if needed. Once you get past that initial setup, it’s smooth sailing after that…
…unless you tend to eat healthy, and this is where Grocery Gadget tends to fall short as it does not calculate food by the pound, only by the item. I’m not certain if “there is an app for that” but it is a flaw in the app that its only work around is to either buy all your produce in pounds or do the math and figure out the price in half-pound increments. Between that and trying to figure out which tax rates (if applicable) go with which items, it is going to throw off your estimates.
Grocery Gadget did what no one or no previous tech gadget could do: It made me want to go to the grocery store. Whether it is the “new toy” aspect to the app, or just having the convenience of that all important list(s) for the grocery store, the mall, or Office Depot only a tap away, Grocery Gadget is a surprisingly versatile, amazingly powerful, extremely user-friendly application that, while hardly accurate to the penny, can keep you well within your budget. I would have never thought I would get so giddy over something that helps me shop, but there it is.
And now, please forgive me for cutting this review short. I need to go through my fridge and see what we’re low on.