I’ve got a confession to make: I’ve only really started using Siri recently. Prior to setting up a proper, paperless shopping list using Apple Reminders, Siri was a novelty to me. Now the digital assistant is one of the most useful Apple features in my life.
This is partly due to upgrading to a new iPhone 7 Plus and having access to the unimaginably useful “Hey Siri” hands-free functionality, but it’s also because iCloud shopping lists work really, really well.
Don’t waste your money on a third-party app — just use Apple’s free iPhone and Mac apps.
Creating a Shopping List
Creating a list is really easy, and because our smartphones generally take an organizational role in our lives, we’ll be running through the process on an iPhone. Thanks to Apple’s unified design philosophy, the process is virtually identical on a Mac or the iCloud website.
- Launch the Reminders app and display all of your lists (tap the name of the currently-open list to close it).
- Assuming you don’t already have a “Shopping” list, pull down from on the list to reveal the plus “+” icon.
- Tap it, select List, name it “Shopping”, choose a color, and hit Done.
You can also rename any of your other lists by tapping one, hitting Edit and calling it whatever you like. You can then add things to your list the old-fashioned way: tap the next blank line, type something, hit enter to move on to the next item, repeat.
It’s also possible to Show Completed items on your list, which is great for quickly re-adding old items. If you tap on an item you can hit the i button to do other things, like set location reminders or be alerted at a specific time. You can also add notes about the item if you want to, but that’s about as deep as the app goes.
Use Siri to Add Items & View Your List
You can add items to your list by telling Apple’s assistant something like, “Add bread to my shopping list”. Access Siri by holding down the Home button, or use the feature to its fullest potential with the hands-free “Hey Siri” command. This is especially useful if you’re cooking or doing something that means you can’t tap away on your phone.
You might need to set up Hey Siri under Settings > Siri first, which will tailor the feature to your specific voice. You should also speak naturally when adding items. There’s no need to pause after saying “Hey Siri” to wake the assistant up — just speak your full sentence. This feature only works on the iPhone 6s or later.
One limitation to adding items to your list using Siri is the inability to add multiple items at once. If you ask Siri to “add bread and wine to my shopping list” then you’ll get a single item for “bread and wine” — and based on my testing, instructions like “comma” or “plus” make no difference.
Siri can also be used to quickly show your lists, simply by asking the assistant to “show my shopping list”. This removes the requirement to stop what you’re doing and launch the Reminders app. Unfortunately Siri is a bit over-zealous and starts reciting the entire list aloud until you check items off or ask something else.
You can use Siri to manage all kinds of lists, and this works because we specifically created a “shopping” list in the reminders app. If you’d prefer to use terms “grocery” or “food” instead, create lists with these titles. Other ideas include “household” or “holiday” and even store names if you find yourself frequenting the same retailers.
Make Your List Collaborative
What makes the feature really useful is the fact that you can share your lists with other people who can add items and check things off. This obviously works best if all members have iPhones, particularly where groceries are concerned. To share your list with others:
- Launch Reminders and find your list.
- Hit Edit followed by Sharing.
- Use the Add person… button to share via email (use Apple ID emails for best results).
Anyone you invite will receive an invitation on their device, and once accepted, they will be able to add items and mark others as completed. You can also revoke access via the Edit panel if you ever need to.
When another person makes changes to the list, changes will be reflected for all other collaborative users. For instant changes, make sure you enable Push under Settings > Reminders > Accounts > Fetch New Data. Fetch might be easier on your battery, but your lists will take longer to sync. For household items like groceries, that’s could cause problems.
Access Lists on Mac and Windows
macOS also comes with a Reminders app. Provided you’re using the same iCloud account under System Preferences > iCloud, your lists will sync here too. You can add items quickly by typing, just as you can on iOS, or use macOS Sierra’s new Siri integration to do so with your voice.
Windows or Linux users will have to login via iCloud.com using their Apple ID, then select Reminders to view the list. Unfortunately, there’s no desktop app integration available via these platforms. If you’re most likely going to be organizing things using your iPhone, though, this won’t be a dealbreaker for you.
The Best Shopping List for iPhone Users
Apple’s own Reminders app, coupled with iCloud sharing, is the best list management solution for iPhone users. Deep integration with the rest of the OS, access from Siri, and the ability to sync with Mac and web clients makes for a surprisingly robust package.
Sure there are more feature-rich solutions on the App Store, like AnyList (Free), but the core functionality isn’t necessarily any better than Apple’s own free app. The app that everyone with an iPhone already has, that makes sharing a breeze.
How do you manage your shopping list? Do you use Siri half as much as you should? Let us know what you think in the comments.
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