Shopper: The Most Useful App I Have



Of all the apps I have, Shopper might be one of the most useful and most-used on my iPhone. It’s not exciting, unless you are super-weird about organizing your grocery lists by store and aisle. Which you don’t need to do, though I know some people who have publicly admitted to being that crazed about organized shopping.

I won’t name names, but you know who you are, don’t you?

My younger sister got an iPhone before I even had an iPod Touch, and the first thing she told me to do was to download the 99¢ Shopper.  And I’ve never been sorry.

Before I go any further, let me bring back the people who are about to just click away because of my crazy need to have a list organized by store, category, and aisle.  Don’t go!  Listen up for a minute!

You do NOT need to use every organizational tool on this app for it to help you.  *I* might like that, but my sister is not even remotely that organized, and I’m guessing she uses it to just put the list in her phone so she doesn’t lose the paper with her list on it.  So, if you need a way to make a list that won’t get lost in the depths of your purse (assuming, of course, that your phone or iPod isn’t lost in the depths of your purse), this app is also for you!  But if you like being super-crazy organized (or dream of being organized), stay tuned!  Because this app is also for you!

Before I get into the details of Shopper, let me tell you a story, just to lure those people who are still not sure they want to hang out with crazy me.  Once upon a time, we were small business owners of the MLM kind.  We went to business seminars, and people would motivate us and talk to us about the future of shopping.

“One day,” this man told us, “people will be able to take their empty container and, before they throw it away or recycle it, scan the barcode and their computer will be able to add that item to their shopping list! No more trying to remember things to write down!  Everything can even be auto-ordered!!”

We all thought how amazing it would be if there was some device that could scan barcodes and remind us to order stuff we were low on.  I thought, “Finally! I won’t be wandering around the store wondering what I needed, buying whatever looked good to me because – hey, it’s not a bad thing to shop hungry!”

(See? I didn’t used to be organized!)

It looks like that day is here!  Now there are lots of apps that you can use to scan the UPC code on your groceries and the app will tell you all kinds of neat things about it.  Heck, some apps will tell you what the nutritional content is and calculate how it fits into your diet plan.

Let’s focus on Shopper and how you can use it there.

When you scan a barcode, especially when you have internet access, you’ll often get a search result for the code.

Now, I’d already done a scan on this big canister of Slim Fast while I was shopping, so it shows up with my previously-used entry first. When I scanned it the first time, I also personalized the entry a bit.  I snapped a picture of the canister (which can be very helpful if I’m sending someone else to the store for me and I want a particular thing).  I put down where in the store you can find it.

I even added it as a favorite, so when we need more, it gets stored in the app under the “Reminders” link for quick-adding.  (Note: It bugs me that it’s called “Reminders” on the homepage and “Favorites” on the Item Info page. Small annoyance, but I deal with it.)

Under the price, I can make a note of what units it’s sold in (helpful for things sold by the pound) and what the tax on the item is, as well.  If your state has multiple tax levels that depend on what you’re buying, the app even handles that for you.  Oh, and see the line that says “coupon”? You can put that in there, too. Shopper reduces your price automatically.

You can also have more than one list. I can get a little (ahem) obsessive about keeping lists for different things.  Let’s see what kinds of lists I have, shall we?

Um, there are actually two more lists that aren’t showing there, one of which is for when we are visiting family in Florida and I need to go shopping for groceries there. (What? I eat on vacation, too!)

As you can see from that picture, though, aside from my odd need to micro-categorize everything, I also have a variety of stores, and I can even make one particular store the default for one particular list.  After all, that “Sam’s Food List” wouldn’t be an appropriate title for stuff I buy at Target, would it?

One of my favorite features is the ability to organize the categories things fit into depending on your store.  You can add stores, then go through the various categories (produce, deli, meat, soups, grains, snacks, etc.) and move the categories to match the aisles in each store.

Mind you, people do look at you a little cross-ways when you’re first setting it up, but having everything listed in the order that you walk through the store saves time.  After all, if the sunscreen is on one side of Super Wal-Mart and the bread is on the other, and then you realize you forgot your shampoo (back to the beauty aisle!), that takes up time, time that you can be spending doing other, more fun stuff!

Another terrific thing is the way you can keep track of your total as you go. I have been giving this task to my kids as we shop, and they’re both well-trained to not go grab something off the shelf without coming back with a price for me. “Honey, go grab that two-pack of peanut butter, please. DON’T FORGET TO CHECK THE PRICE!!”

Even though Shopper doesn’t keep a running tab of the prices (I wouldn’t mind seeing a chart with the trend because, well, I’m a geek), you can see from one store to another and from the last trip to this one how things stack up. Even though being the one to input all the prices for me has lost its luster to my girls, they do get a little kick out of getting to announce when milk has dropped by 10¢.  (Yes, we are ALL geeks.)  Plus, they’ve also learned just how much money we spend on groceries and such, which we think helps them understand about running a family budget.

Some other features that I see in Shopper but don’t necessarily use:

  • An ad-finder, which I think is more useful for people in larger cities than mine
  • A recipe-builder, which lets you build recipes so you can add ingredients with a quick touch
  • A coupon-finder, which allows you to select coupons & print them off on your computer to bring to the store
  • You can even add friends to share lists with.  I frequently sync my list with the online Shopper, which also sends it to my husband’s iPod Touch.  This way, if I need him to go to the store, he just pulls out the iPod and uses my list. Hence my other obsession: taking pictures of stuff to use in Shopper.

Shopper has also been making improvements in the newer builds of this app.  My favorite improvement last time around is that it prevents your phone from going to sleep for 15 minutes while you’re using the app.  No more waking up the phone if I’ve walked for 2 minutes through the store without touching the app!  Hooray!

One last thing about Shopper: Their customer service is outstanding.  I know, usually you don’t deal with that on an app, but before I got my iPhone last year, Shopper had an update that was supposed to work on my iPod Touch and didn’t. I was one of a handful (and I do mean a handful) of people whose iPod didn’t play well with the update. I was so sad. Well, not sad … really, kind of distraught. This is a nearly-daily app for me!

I wrote to support and told them about my problems, and they worked with me personally to try to help fix it for me, all the while working to make a general fix that would work for everyone. For two weeks, we e-mailed back and forth, and they even did some custom builds for my specific iPod. (I was so dependent on having some kind of shopping app for lists, I tried two other apps. None were as complete as this one.)

Finally, a new update came out for everyone, and it worked for me again. Shopper e-mailed me AGAIN to see if the general update worked! Unbelievable! Who says customer service is dead!?

The Shopper app is available for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry.

Read more of our Tech Talk columns.

Copyright 2012 Christine Johnson


About Author

Christine Johnson has been married to Nathan since 1993 and has two daughters whom she homeschools. They live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia, where she tries to fit in as a transplanted Yank. She blogs at Domestic Vocation about her life as a wife, mother, homeschooler, and Lay Dominican.


  1. Christine – this is great! I cannot wait to check it out. Growing up, my siblings and I would play “grocery store” — complete with an old cash register. We all went on to work in a grocery store through high school and college. My brother is now in management at that same chain – a very popular one here in Iowa! And yes, we all organize our lists by aisle! 😉

    Cannot wait to check it out and share with my family!

  2. Lisa, glad to be of assistance! I really love this app so much. Price tracking would probably be the only thing I’d want it to do that it doesn’t. And I love having my list organized by aisles so I don’t run around the store willy-nilly. (That actually saves money, too. Less wandering = less impulse purchases.)

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