Super-Shopping: My Two Favorite Grocery-List Apps

I'm a sucker for a really well-made iOS grocery app. One smart enough to arrange my shopping list in the order I pick up items at the store. And one that can live on my Apple Watch, so I don't have to juggle my phone along with my shopping cart.

Until recently, my go-to grocery app was Capitan (free). (The App Store title is “Grocery Shopping List by Capitan.”) It arranges items under standard supermarket categories--fruits, vegetables, dairy & eggs, etc.--which you can easily customize and reorder to suit your own store's layout. If you typically buy the same items week to week, Capitan offers a handy menu of previous purchases to make compiling your next list easy. As you shop with your Watch, a touch will add a strikethrough to each item on Capitan's list.

Capitan Watch menu

Capitan Watch menu

It's the perfect grocery-shopping app, except for one thing: Capitan does not integrate with Apple's Reminders app.

For me, that's a real drawback. I like being able to tell Siri to add items to my grocery list throughout the week. Those items end up in Reminders. If those Reminders items are then going to appear in Capitan, I have to add them manually. (Of course, the Reminders app itself is not yet available on the Watch.)

Then I was reminded about Grocery (free; $2.99 to remove ads). (The full App Store name is "Grocery - Smart Grocery List" by Conrad Stoll.) While it does not have Capitan's categories or pleasant color scheme, it offers several benefits Capitan lacks.

Grocery Watch menu

Grocery Watch menu

Grocery lets you pre-order your list before heading to the store. But once you're there, it pays attention to the order in which you check off items from the list. That's the order it remembers the next time you create a list that includes past purchases. (Capitan only remembers the order of your categories, not the specific items in those categories.) And Grocery allows you to have multiple stores and multiple lists saved, should you happen to shop at different locations with different layouts. (Nothing says they even have to be supermarkets.)

Best of all, Grocery integrates seamlessly with Siri, via Reminders. Add anything to a grocery list in Reminders, and it will automatically show up in the Grocery app. Select an item as purchased in Grocery (which, instead of striking through it, makes it vanish from the list) and it will be removed from Reminders.

Neither of these apps is well known or typically included on the many "best grocery apps" lists you'll see. They can even be tough to find in the App Store. But if your needs are anything like mine, they'll be worth seeking out. For me, they're the cream of the crop when it comes to grocery-shopping convenience and utility.

Apple Watch: My First Year

You've probably heard of the Apple Watch, a device you wear on your wrist that pairs with your iPhone to provide a wide range of functions, offering utility that goes far beyond merely telling time. But odds are you've also been skeptical about how such a glorified wristwatch—or wrist-based iPhone extension, if you prefer—can possibly be worth the $299+ price Apple is asking.

Everyone has different needs and interests when it coms to technology, so my patterns and preferences may not match yours. But after using an Apple Watch every day for nearly a full year, I am 100% hooked. The Watch doesn't really handle any task I couldn't already do using my iPhone (with one exception). It just makes it easier to do those tasks throughout the day.

Email. Most email I get doesn't require a response; it's a receipt, a newsletter, a press release. Before, I had to pull out my phone everytime to see that these had arrived. Now, I get a tap on my wrist, I look down at the Watch, and then go back to whatever I was doing. Other mail just requires a simple acknowledgement; I can handle that on the Watch as well, scrolling through a list of canned responses to quickly pick the one that works. If the canned responses don't fit the situation, I can tap the Siri icon on the Watch to dictate my reply--or switch to my iPhone or iPad to type one out.

Texts and Facebook Messenger. Like email, I get a tactile tap when these come in. It's the rare instant message that I can't handle entirely on the Watch.

Siri. To access Siri, I only have to raise my wrist and say, "Hey, Siri" to set an alarm, add a Reminder, add items to my grocery list, check sports scores, etc., etc.

Weather. I'm obsessive about following the weather, so I keep a Complication running on the Watch face that gives me the temperature and alerts me to imminent rain. (Weather is just one of dozens of available Complications. Others include a world clock, alarm status, battery status, live sports scores, moon phases, and sunrise/sunset times.)

Grocery shopping. I'm the grocery shopper and cook in our family. Now, instead of juggling my iPhone—or, worse, a pen and a piece of paper!—while maneauvering a grocery cart, I use a Watch app called Capitan that manages my shopping list.

Apple Pay. I love using Apple Pay, Apple's wireless payment feature that works at thousands of credit-card terminals, including grocery and retail stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, vending machines, pharmacies—even the London Underground. Now, instead of pulling out my phone to pay, I just hold my Watch to the terminal, get a confirmation tap, and I'm done.

Phone calls. Yes, you can actually make and receive phone calls entirely on the Watch, as long as you don't mind everyone else hearing your speakerphone conversation. At home, this can be invaluable if you're doing the dishes or are otherwise occupied. Even in public, though, the Caller ID shows up on the Watch, giving you the option to decline the call or, if you choose, answer it on your iPhone.

Maps. Any route I've begun in Maps on the iPhone is echoed to the Watch, including a series of wrist taps that indicate whether I should turn left or right. This is particularly useful when walking through an unfamiliar neighborhood and you don't want to be staring at your phone all the time.

Voice Recording.Just Press Record is another Watch app that can be invaluable, allowing you to record anything the mic can hear at the touch of an on-screen button. (It can also be an always-available Watch-face Complication.) 

Other useful or interesting features include the Watch's ability to automatically change time zones as you travel, a variety of customizable Watch faces, its use as a remote for playing iTunes music, and (one thing an iPhone alone cannot do) its ability to be a highly accurate heart rate monitor and fitness tracker.

What You Should Know

Currently, Apple Watch must be paired with an Apple iPhone (5 or higher) for full functionality. Otherwise, it's pretty much just an expensive watch.

It comes in two sizes: 39mm and 42mm. I have somewhat small wrists, so I assumed I'd get the smaller version. However, the larger model didn't look ridiculous on me...and I appreciated the larger screen. I bought the 42mm and couldn't be happier. 

The Watch needs to be charged every night. Although it's rare for my battery to fall below 70% after a 15-hour day, I don't use some of the functions that can eat up battery life, such as the heart rate monitor/fitness tracker. 

WatchOS 2.2.1 is the current version of the operating system. WatchOS 3, with a number of significant enhancements, has been announced for fall 2016 release.