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Always accessible family shopping lists with OneNote

Nicholas Kerr works on Bing Rewards at Microsoft and writes a personal blog at

Nicholas Kerr portraitOneNote solves the shopping list frustrations my wife and I used to have. Our previous method involved sticky notes in the kitchen, and usually neither of us was near the list when either of us thought of something to add. But with a To Do list in OneNote, we can add items wherever we are and always stay up to date.

At the store, I’d inevitably find myself without a pen to check off items, and I’d forget to buy items I’d mentally checked off the list. Or if I’d taken the list with me, my wife would call me to add an item, and then I’d forget it by the time I got to the store.

wp_ss_20140528_0001Then it hit me that using OneNote’s To Do list feature on our Windows Phones and PCs could solve all these problems and more. We always have our phones handy and can update a shared list wherever we are. OneNote automatically syncs across all our Windows devices, and now that it’s free everywhere and available on the Mac, practically anyone can take advantage of how we use it.

Other things I love about this solution: When I find a recipe on a website, I can easily copy and paste all the ingredients and their quantities to our grocery list, so we no longer handwrite or print recipes to take to the store. Recently, my wife and I were shopping in a huge warehouse store, so we split up to save time. Because we both had the list in OneNote, we knew what the other person already had checked off the list.

Here’s how you can recreate this OneNote solution for yourself and share it with anyone:

NewThe set-up: Create a shared OneNote notebook and save it to OneDrive .



ShareCollaborate: Now invite people to share the notebook. I entered my wife’s email address and then selected Can Edit so she can add and delete list items and create new pages herself.

She received the email invitation to the notebook on her phone, and with one click she opened the new notebook and could instantly see the first pages I’d set up.

wp_ss_20140528_0005Create lists: Once your first page is set up, create a list. To do this, click the check mark icon at the bottom left of the screen as shown.

I love that the moment something we need pops into my mind, I can pull out my phone and jot it down before I forget, whether I’m out walking the dog or riding the elevator at work. Before we used OneNote, I’d inevitably get home and have forgotten what I wanted to add to the sticky note in the kitchen.

The other day my wife called me while I was driving home and we realized we needed some things from the store. Rather than rattle them off and hope I’d remember them, she pulled out her laptop and added them to our shared OneNote notebook. When I looked at my phone in the parking lot, the list was right there.

wp_ss_20140608_0001Windows Phone Live Tiles

At first, my wife was skeptical of this whole idea, but she changed her mind fast when she saw that OneNote instantly relieved all of the frustrations of our old method of keeping track of our everyday needs. In fact, shortly after we started using OneNote, she created Live Tiles on her Windows Phone for our two most common lists. Now she can access them with just a tap on her phone’s start screen.

To create a Live Tile for a specific page in a OneNote notebook, open the notebook with the list of all the pages. Select the page you want to make a Live Tile, then tap and hold until a dropdown menu appears. Tap pin to start and the tile will appear. Now you can place and resize it as you desire. Kudos to my wife for discovering that!

Try it for yourself and let me know what you think in the comments.

–       Nicholas Kerr


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