Automate Your Grocery List Using QR Codes

Introduction: Automate Your Grocery List Using QR Codes

About: Programmer and poet at

Add a sticker with a QR code to your jars and containers. When you notice that you´re getting out of that product, scan the QR code with your smartphone and it will be added to your grocery list in a Google Spreadsheet. When you are going to the market or creating a shopping order you will have your list ready and you will never forget to buy what is missing.

If a member of your family scans the code again it will not add the product twice to the list. The quantities that you are going to buy are those that you are accustomed.

No programming skills required.

Step 1: Create a IFTTT Recipe

IFTTT is a free web-based service that allows users to create events that are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest and others. IFTTT is an abbreviation of "If This Then That". If you have never used this service before, you will have to Sign In and follow the demo.

Signed in IFTTT, go to My Recipes and press Create a Recipe. Press this and search the channel called Maker. If this is your first time using the Maker channel, it will ask you to press Connect and it will open a window where you will need to press Done.

Choose the trigger Receive a web request. As the Event Name, enter the name of the product that you want to make a QR code for. For example: Coffee. Press Create Trigger.

Step 2: Set the Grocery List Spreadsheet

Press the button "that" con set the triggered action. Search the channel Google Drive. If this is your first time using the Google Drive channel, it will ask you to Connect and it will open a popup window where you will have to Allow IFTTT to interact with your Google Drive documents.

Select the action Add row to spreadsheet. For Spreadsheet name, write "QR Grocery list" or whatever you prefer. For Formatted row just let {{EventName}}.

For Drive folder path enter "IFTTT/QR Grocery List" or whatever name and path you like, but remember this path because you will repeat the same spreadsheet name and path with every item.

Step 3: Get Your Url and Create the QR Code

Go to in your browser, to know your key. Copy it and open in a different tab the url:{event}/with/key/{yout_key} replacing {event} with the name of the product that you already set in a previous step, for this example it will be Coffee, and {yout_key} with the key in your clipboard. If everything is working well you will see the text "Congratulations! You've fired the Coffee event" and the spreadsheet will be created in your Google Docs.

Go to Google Drive, in the path that you previously set to see if there's a new spreadsheet with the item Coffee.

Now search Google for a QR code generator. There are many and they are very easy to use. Just paste the url that triggers the event and generate the QR code.

If you have not already done so, download an app on your smartphone to scan QR codes. Test it with the QR code on the screen. It will update the Google Spreadsheet in real time, adding a second Coffee item.

Print the QR code on a sticker and put it wherever you find it useful.

Repeat these steps for every item that you want to automate.

Step 4: Before Going Shopping

Whenever you want to get the final grocery list without repeated items. Write in any empty cell the function =UNIQUE(A:A).

To empty the list when you have already bought the items, just delete the cells in the first column.

Be careful not to share photos of any of your QR codes or "Maker channel key" because anyone with the url can add items to your list.

I hope you will find this useful and fun. If you find other clever uses for this idea, write it in the comments. Bye.

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    5 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Would it be possible to create a qr code with several items on it, such as ingredients in a recipe? Then you could paste the qr codes in a notebook, and when you are planning your menu for the week, scan the appropriate cades to generate you shopping list?


    Reply 3 months ago

    you sorta could but say you scan the recipe for granny's tater salad and it shows it needs rubber gloves, a wooden spoon, a gallon of mayo, etc... you'll still have to look into your pantry to see what you actually have. Especially in households with kids that are likely to use stuff up and not scan or at least let you know they used it up. :)


    4 years ago

    Great idea. Voted.


    4 years ago

    Great idea! Why not scan the bar code from the bottom of the package as you finish using it up?


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thanks. In the QR code, you can write a full url that will be triggered when you scan the code. The bar code is just a number. You can use an app with a huge database that identifies every bar code number with a product, but this is a simpler approach.
    Besides, you can use this custom QR codes for tasks or products that don't have bar code, such as fresh vegetables or even "clean the cat litter".