It was fun to watch Conrad Stoll’s Grocery evolve over the years. The app started out as a relatively simple shopping list app on the iPhone, but has evolved into something much deeper. Today, Grocery is available on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch and offers a comprehensive feature set that also covers meal planning, recipes, and inventory tracking. This week’s Grocery 3.0 release takes the app’s formula further with a fresh, modern design, tighter integration between inventory management and shopping lists, and other new inventory features for a better tracking of what you have on hand. This is a great update that takes advantage of the latest features in Apple’s operating systems to deliver a holistic approach to grocery shopping.
I’ll focus this review on what’s new in Grocery 3.0, but you can read more about the app’s main features in my previous reviews.
For starters, the Grocery design has been updated throughout the app. The changes aren’t drastic departures for the app, but they affect nearly every screen. The overall effect of new typography, modern toolbars and navigation bars, and things like context menus, give the app a fresh feel that stood out to me the most on the iPhone.
My favorite iPhone-only design touch is the ability to customize the app’s top toolbar. By default, the top toolbar has six buttons for Shops, Recipes, Meal Plan, Inventory, Settings, and the More menu. In the Themes and Display Settings section, Grocery now lets you eliminate buttons for any features you don’t use and replace them with other features. As an app that can serve as anything from a simple grocery list manager to a fully integrated meal planning, cooking, and inventory management system, the new customization features make a lot of sense.
All versions of Grocery also support customization of the app’s More menu. There are 10 different actions supported by the More menu when viewing your shopping list, with eight displayed by default, but you can choose which ones you want. The button in the lower right corner of the iPhone screen can also be customized with any of the app’s main features, but it defaults to your purchase history.
Context menus, which are available by long-pressing or right-clicking on items in a shopping list, are also customizable. The available actions are divided into the following categories in the Grocery settings: Inventory, Edit, Other, and Delete, for a total of more than a dozen actions that can be included. On the iPhone, context menus are also available for toolbar buttons. Of these, my favorite is the Store button context menu, which makes it quick and easy to switch between listings associated with multiple grocery stores.
Besides the design changes and new customization options, the biggest changes in Grocery 3.0 can be found in the Inventory section of the app. Inventory is Grocery’s system for tracking what you buy on each shopping trip. Your inventory is linked to your shopping list, so when you check off something on your list, it’s automatically added to your inventory. As you use up the foods you’ve purchased, you can mark them out of stock and use this list to create your next shopping list.
Version 3.0 also integrates your shopping lists more closely with your inventory in other ways. When you add something to your grocery list, you can specify a unit of measure, add notes, and specify a price per unit. Each of these details can also be set as default for an item from the More menu of an item’s Inventory Details view, where Grocery 3.0 also allows you to track the quantity of each item you have on hand. The detailed inventory view also supports a description for each purchase. Checked items populate that item’s inventory history, so you can also view past purchases in chronological order.
I’ve been playing around with Grocery’s inventory features, and with the 3.0 updates, it’s possible to tightly manage what you have on hand and need to buy more than ever. However, the feature isn’t something I personally plan to use as it’s a level of detail I’ve always felt the need for. However, it’s a great way to manage purchases, and no other shopping list app I’ve tried offers this level of tight integration between your shopping list, what you have at home, and the meal management.
On the other hand, another new feature that I expect to use a lot is “Next trip”, which is a nifty way to manage items on your shopping list that you don’t buy because they are not available. Instead of checking off an item or deleting it when it’s not available, Next Trip skips an item by automatically adding it to your next shopping list. Long-press an item and choose “Next Trip”, removing the item from your list. When you’re done shopping, tap the More menu and select Completed Shopping, which clears your list of checked items and generates a new list with everything you skipped using Next Trip.
Groceries is one of the most powerful reminder-based apps I’ve used on Apple’s platforms, and the most comprehensive shopping app I’ve used. The latest update is a fantastic evolution of the app’s existing functionality that extends grocery inventory tracking and customization much further than ever before. Coupled with a new design that preserves the familiar Grocery UI but adds a modern twist, Grocery 3.0 is a great update to one of my favorite apps worth exploring.
Grocery is available as a free download from the App Store and offers its premium features including the inventory management and toolbar customization options described above as a monthly or yearly subscription which is on sale up to WWDC for $2.99/month or $7.99/year. There is also a one-time payment option for $24.99.