Airtable: Advanced Technology at the Grocery Store

My wife and I go to the grocery store at 6 AM Sunday morning.  We do this because we have found over the last 17 years that this is the time when the store is the most empty.  As we’ve both grown older, age has begun to throw us curveballs.  The most recent being, we’re both losing our eyesight.  Interestingly, we’re both becoming nearsighted, which is the opposite of most people. My wife keeps a detailed list of her shopping needs, and this has evolved over the years from a piece of paper to Evernote to finally, Airtable.

Airtable’s tagline is “Organize Anything”.  They are basically an online database, but the ability to set up a database with a web browser, a mobile app, and a free price up to 5000 items are what drew me to test this product on my wife.  I set up a simple table with the item name, a “need” slider, a quantity field, an aisle location field, and an attachment that could be used to take a photo of the item.  My goal was to be able to have this set so that there could be a view of all the things needed from the grocery store, sorted by aisle, with pictures, so virtually anyone, even my 23-year-old son, could go shopping if needed.

My initial test was going very well, but some of the fields were difficult for my wife to use consistently. Let’s just say she’s not good at technology.  She’s good when she wants to be, but since this is just to make grocery shopping a little more manageable, it’s not a focus by any means.  So I had to change things like the “need” column from a checkbox to a slider.  The biggest change I made to make this our go-to app now is that I bought my wife the biggest iPhone she could get at the time, the 6Plus.  This is what finally made the difference.  So we now have a database for each store we shop in, but the grocery store one is the best because we actually found the master map of items to aisles a long time ago attached to one of the end caps at the store.  I took a picture of it, and we were able to correctly get items into the database.  So I have the main view where we enter new items, and the shopping view, which she uses when we go to the store, sorted by need and aisle number.  It works great.  A side benefit, since we each have Airtable on our phones, she can call out to me, “Can you add bread to the list?” and I can pull up the app, find the bread, and slide the “need” slider over.

I enjoy using technology to real-world world problems, even if that problem is frustration at the grocery store.

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