How to make grocery shopping easier is one of those top questions on the minds of moms. It’s as relevant today as it was when the MIAW’s first owner wrote this post. We have to feed our families but time, money, and energy seem to fight against us getting it done well.
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Groceries, or should I say lack of Groceries?
(From Teresa, published August 15, 2011) Updated February 2020.
One of the things I hate about working nights is that I am not home to gauge the food supply. It isn’t that I ration it out, but I have a good idea of what we have, what we don’t have, and what we need.
On the weekends, I am totally out of the loop. From Friday until Monday morning, I limited time at home for sleep and getting ready to go back to work. Although I may be in the kitchen a couple of times, it is brief at best. If I get out of work before my husband goes to bed on Sunday, I call and ask if we need anything so I can stop by the store on my way home. His usual response is either “I don’t know” or “Worry about it in the morning.” There is an exception, though, and that is when we run out of toilet paper, LOL! He will call me right away when that happens.
After working long hours on the weekend, Mondays consist of food inventory, errand running, and piles of never-ending laundry (that seems to multiply over night sometimes). I wish I had an app on my phone that kept me updated on what is used and what is needed in my kitchen. That would make my Mondays much easier. That way, I could plan a Sunday night grocery trip and NEVER have to get home to discover that the bowl of frosted flakes I have been craving all day at work will have to wait till in the morning AFTER I go grocery shopping.
How to Make Grocery Shopping Easier
Her experience sounds very familiar, don’t they? For about 5 years, when my daughter was a toddler to kindergarten age, I worked full time for several weeks at a time. Even though the teaching job let me bring my daughter, I still had all the duties of a mom and wife at home. So meal planning was sometimes very hit and miss. Weekends were busy with running errands, church, and getting housework done. When it came to grocery shopping, I had to rely on a shopping list, or I’d forget things. We developed a habit of eating out more times than we should have because of lack of meals in the house or sheer exhaustion from running after a room full of preschoolers all day!
Now, years later (my daughter is now 25! Boy, time flies!) I am still honing my grocery shopping skills. But there are a few I rely on a lot and some others I’m learning or testing out. Here we go:
1. Make a Meal Plan
Before you write a list, have in mind what meals you need food for the upcoming week. It can be as simple as notepaper (that’s my go-to) folded in half. One half is my meal plan, and the other is for listing ingredients. You can also print a meal plan and shopping list. Planning for a week at a time helps you need to shop just once a week, saving you time and money.
Tip: search Pinterest to find free printables.
Check your current food supply for meal ideas. Check the grocery sales ad for good deals, too. Some weeks I had enough food stocked up, and we only needed to shop for weekly perishables like milk and bread.
Include all meals your family will be home to eat. I like to make fun themes like Monday Meatloaf or Meatless, Tuesday Tacos or Mexican dish, Friday Pizza Night. etc. After I write down meal ideas,
2. Make a Shopping List
I check through the menu plan, writing down on the shopping list items we need. And then, I add any other items we need aside from the meals plan. I also keep items grouped by order of how they are arranged in the store I usually shop. Use your list while at the store. I know this sounds a little odd to mention, but you don’t know how many times I used to make a list and leave it at home. Double-check your list before heading to the checkout. Let’s say that’s another lesson I’ve learned the hard way!
Tip: Always losing your list? Could you put it on your phone? Use an app to keep track. Check to see if your favorite store has one. I use my Kroger app to make a list. It divides up items by category for me.
3. Choose a Good Time to Shop
Picking the best time to shop can help you save time, stress, and money. Go when you’re aren’t tired and hungry. You’ll feel less stressed and less tempted to grab junk food, not on the list.
Shop when it isn’t crowded. This might be harder depending if your work or not. I know at one time I could only go shopping on Saturday and it was always busy. But if you have daytime hours free, you’ll be able to get your shopping done faster and with less stress.
Take into account if you need to take children with you. The last thing you want is to take children that are tired or hungry. That’s a set up for meltdowns in the cereal, cookie, and candy aisles! If you do take children with you, give them tasks to help with. It will teach them responsibility. Plus, it keeps them occupied and less focused on those fun, happy characters printed on the boxes and begging them to buy some.
4. Consider a Delivery or Pickup Service
We love having grocery pickup now. I make my meal plan, shopping list and then order our groceries from my phone or tablet while relaxing on the couch. We’ve learned it’s better to request pick up times that aren’t at the busiest (5-6 pm Monday – Friday and Sunday 12-1 pm tend to get back up with delays at our store).
There are also many meal delivery services available where you choose the meals, and they send you all the ingredients and recipes in a fresh kit. I definitely plan to try some of these in the future and will be sure to share my experience here at Making it All Work.
5. Take Meal Planning to a New Level
Once you have the meal planning habit established, take it to a new level and make meals ahead of time. MyFreezEasy helps you get started preparing delicious family meals to save time and money. Meals are prepared in small batches so you can stock up your freezer with yummy dishes your family will love. They also offer Grocery Budget Makeover that’s great for learning to save on your groceries.
Final Take Away
So why bother with a list and meal plan? Doesn’t that use more of my precious time? Well, yes and no. When you spend those few minutes (it takes me about 30 minutes to plan meals and make a list unless I’m looking up new recipes, then more time), you save a lot more time later. You don’t have to backtrack in the store nor return to the store later in the week.
You save money because you are shopping smart, checking your supplies, checking what’s on sale, and buying what you’ll actually use. How many times have you bought many fresh foods have them spoil before you use them? Fewer trips save on transportation and reduce compulsive shopping. You also save money eating out less because you have delicious meals already at home.
By learning how to make grocery shopping easier, your stress will decrease because you’ll know, and your family will know, what’s available to eat for any given meal. No worrying about what’s for dinner when it’s already been planned and paid for.
You’ll be healthier eating well-prepared home dinners instead of fast food or dining out. Planning meals helps to see what you’re feeding your family more clearly. You’ll make more informed decisions on what meals to plan based on each days’ menu. It doesn’t mean you have to toss out all the more indulgent family favorites. Instead, you’ll be allowed to balance meals out between those and some healthier choices.