The assortment started sometime in 2014. I didn’t make a acutely aware determination to start it. I cannot bear in mind the first listing I picked up, other than the actuality that it contained only a couple of merchandise. It experienced been left in a basket and, in a person of people clarity-of-eyesight times, I instantaneously thought about the searching list in a fully new way. It appeared as if someone’s overall world had frozen and been captured in a single, modest entity. This considered have to have remained with me because I remember that, inside a comparatively small room of time, I experienced pocketed a couple of more lists. I had the feeling that I was on to a little something.

Photograph: Ingrid Swenson

It is astonishing how several searching lists one can find as soon as you get started to appear in earnest. To the untrained observer, they appear exceptionally scarce, but when you “get your eye in” you get started to see them with far increased frequency. On a few occasions I identified as numerous as four or 5 in a single visit. To attain this could at times involve scrabbling about in the ranks of shopping trolleys saved both equally in the motor vehicle park and substantial entrance space, or strolling unusually gradually by the aisles fixedly centered on the flooring. No person appeared to observe or treatment that there was this woman behaving in a weird way. The supermarket is a wonderful position to behave oddly in: persons just appear away.

A shopping list on Guardian-branded paper with items such as whiskey, fish fingers and UHT milk listed in pen
A buying listing on Guardian-branded paper. Photograph: Ingrid Swenson

Although I under no circumstances gave that significantly thought to whether or not there were being other procuring checklist collectors out there, I have grow to be knowledgeable of a small neighborhood of us in the previous couple of several years. Collections in the United kingdom, the US and in Europe have been the matter of textbooks, sites, an exhibition, a weekly newspaper column, even a Ted Converse. This has led me to believe that that there ought to be collectors worldwide – in North Korea, Nigeria and New Zealand. Sure, the intrinsic fascination of procuring lists is beguiling and universal.

A busy shoppig list with several columns and tablets, including Lego, sketchbook, pesto, lentils and many other items, plus travel plans for Stonehenge in one corner
Photograph: Ingrid Swenson

Despite the fact that it seems that I’m in great organization, I am quite self-assured that my selection is exceptional. My searching lists have all been collected according to two elementary, self-imposed rules:

  1. They have been all identified at the Waitrose supermarket on Holloway Street, London N7.

  2. They were being all observed by me.

A shopping list on paper with the heading “Jamie’s Barmitzvah” and the date “22/23 March 2014” at the bottom, with items such as eggs, Shreddies and kitchen towel written on in pen
A buying checklist on memento barmitzvah paper. Photograph: Ingrid Swenson

The lists have typically been deserted or missing, not maliciously littered. Simply just still left behind, wholly further than use and overlooked about. I’ve generally checked the rubbish bins for them, pondering that people today would dispose of them responsibly, but it is shockingly rare to find lists that have been thrown away deliberately. Individually, I am not aware of at any time owning shed a purchasing listing. Still left at household, commonly, but not misplaced although buying. The probability stays, having said that, that possibly some shoppers may have remaining their lists intentionally to be witnessed by some others. Potentially they are intended to be observed and examine as a way of marking territory, and to share with the world their gastronomic preferences? It is doable to establish many illustrations of lists as becoming by the same hand – shoppers who continuously abandon, drop or misplace their list. In these instances, the things on the lists as nicely as the bodily sizing and form of paper applied also have a tendency to be very consistent. A single shopper in particular leaves their lists behind with such frequency – generally in the trolley, generally on the exact same observe playing cards and usually in the exact same big, cursive, fashionable, self-assured script – that one can only believe that these are a deliberate kind of communication. Their author is saying: “Look at my planet of wonderful food stuff that I like to take in.”

  • Procuring Lists: A Consuming Fascination by Ingrid Swenson will be published by Cheerio on 14 September (£9.99). To support the Guardian and Observer get your copy at Delivery prices may apply

By Amalia