“Yikes, where did my last grocery list end up?” is the question you’ll be asking after viewing this online collection of over 3,700 found grocery lists. Collected by founder Bill Keaggy since 1997, these lost, discarded, and incredibly personal scraps of paper are shared by random strangers and immortalized forever, and it’s charmingly uncomfortable to scroll through them.
Keaggy even wrote a book about the collection, Milk, Eggs,Vodka, which is about as much effort as I put into my grocery list each week. Written on shredded envelopes, dollar bills, receipts, holiday stationery, and iPod (yes, iPod?) screenshots, you will be convinced you’ve found one of you own by the second or third page and consider investing in a paper shredder–do you really want anyone to know about the time you put ____ , ____, and ____ in the same cart all at once? On the bright side, you could end up as the title of Keaggy’s next book. We’re hoping “cat litter, snacks, a new man” (see top photo) is in the running.
The hilarity of these lists aside for a moment, these grocery lists are a striking tribute to humanity’s capacity to care for one another in little ways each day. Some of these lists say “cereal for Mom” or “clementines for Nancy.” Imagine that time you went to the store for Valentine’s day candy and came out empty handed, only to inform your s/o at home that they were out. Or the time you persevered and went to three stores because you simply knew how her face would fall with disappointment.
The decisions we make at the grocery store reveal a lot about who we are as people and what we’re willing to do, spend, feed, and sacrifice for both ourselves and the ones we love. These lists also offer an intimate peek into life events, the way we eat, and even how we were feeling at the time…
Yet the true MVP’s of this collection are the well-organized, neatly-handwritten, grocery-list love letters that took longer to compose than your last 10 text messages combined. The elaborate calligraphy and the perfect check-off squares look like they came straight off a Pinterest study blog.
As for the more anthropological merits of this collection, collector Keaggy speaks to some of his findings:
More people than I thought like onions. Mayonnaise is difficult to spell. So is banana, apparently. And anchovies. And yogurt. A lot of people cannot spell very well. I try not to make fun of them too much. That’s not true. I make fun of them. A lot.
To spare others the embarrassment of writing “manaise” and accidentally ending up on his site, Keaggy has created his own fully comprehensive grocery list, with everything from kiwis to “random impulse buy.” You can download it here–it comes in vegetarian, PDF, and excel format. And last but not least, this little guy:
Ain’t life a mystery, folks?