As I continue to come up with ideas for single-panel gag cartoons and, specifically, come up with effective captions (going on 19 years now), I continue to see the value of making lists of words and phrases. If I were a painter, it would be like having more paint colors to choose from. The longer the lists, the better the writing. And, it's not just the words that everyone would think of. You have to make lists which include small things, minor things, that maybe no one else would have thought of.
Let's say I want to write gags about food. It's not enough to list beef, chicken, fruit, vegetables and potatoes. You have to get specific: Beef Stroganoff, Chicken A La King, Kung Pao Chicken, papaya, mango, smoothie, organic, fat free, gluten free, sugar free, tofu, fish taco, meatball sliders, quinoa, cucumbers, winter squash, summer squash, spaghetti squash, eggplant, seedless grapes, bok choy, cloves of garlic, iceberg lettuce, Romaine lettuce. The list could go on and on. Think of walking through a farmer's market and the fruits and vegetables you'd see. Write down the odd items - the ones you don't see everywhere. Think of walking around a large supermarket and the various departments: meat, fish, cheeses, the bakery, the bulk foods aisle, the dairy aisle, the frozen food aisle, the prepared food aisle (items to grab and go). All these items can go on your list.
If you're writing about Chinese food, think of the various foods on the menu: the Hot and Sour Soup, the eggrolls, the Lo Mein dishes, the Sweet and Sour Dishes, the Chow Mein dishes, the fortune cookies, the chop sticks, the fried noodles and duck sauce. Kind of makes you hungry, doesn't it?
The thing is, you have to get specific. You have to make lists of things that people identify with, and also the obscure, the things that only someone "in the know" or "on trend" would know about. That's why I try to keep up with the latest trends in food, fashion, digital devices, etc. That's why I read a lot of contemporary magazines and newspapers. I make lists.