Whether you’re worried about what will be in stock, how to buy food your kids will actually eat, how to manage shopping with rambunctious kids, sticking to a budget, or something else entirely, these tips will help you simplify food shopping and manage feeding your family with a little more ease.
Food Shopping Tips
Going to the store for groceries can feel overwhelming when you have to manage the various logistics and preferences involved, but having a system in place that starts before you head out to food shop can help to take some of the stress out of the equation. And while everyone shops differently and I can’t provide tips that will work for every single family, I do home that some of these help your situation.
TIP: We talked through all of these tips and what we’re each doing right now to ease our anxiety on this week’s Comfort Food podcast. You can download this episode from iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, TuneIn Radio, or wherever else you get your podcasts. or listen to it right above.
How to Manage Grocery Shopping
Here are some tips to help you get a system in place to streamline groceries, particularly if you’re trying to length time between your trips to the store. This is the process I use and it’s been working pretty well for my family of 5.
#1 Keep Track of Foods As You Run Out of Them
Whether it’s on a piece of paper hung on the fridge or in an app, simply writing down items as you run out of them can save your sanity when trying to make a grocery list. It’s much easier to remember what you need when you toss the empty container than to think of it days later!
2. Plan Meals, At Least a Little
Even if you don’t specify the type of quesadillas, knowing that you need tortillas and cheese to make some sort of quesadilla is a big help. Plus, this lets you be flexible with produce and meat items that may be on sale when you get to the store.
3. Make a List, Divided Up By Section of the Store
Put all of the produce together, the dairy together, and on and on to make it easy to cross things off as you go through the aisle of your store.
4. Know Your Delivery and Pick Up Options
It might be easier on you to use Instacart or to do your food shopping online and pick it up outside of the store. Maybe you alternate pick ups and going into the store to shop. See what options you have and do what feels best and easiest. (I’m currently trying out a system of doing an online order to pick up of all of my pantry items, then getting produce at another store so I can choose my own apples and bananas…which is something I’d rather do myself.)
5. Check Store Hours and Restrictions
Check store hours, any special times reserved for elderly or at risk patrons, and whether you might want to go early to replenish supplies of in demand items like flour and toilet paper. I admit that I’ve found it hard to adjust my usual weekend shopping (because I want to avoid crowds) simply because I’m used to shopping on Saturdays, but I’m working on it.
7. Shop Sales, Especially for Produce and Meat
While you may know that you need carrots and celery for a soup on your meal plan, you can save money and find inspiration by waiting to decide about all of your produce picks until you get to the store and see what’s on sale. Same goes for meat. Maybe you want to make beef tacos, but you could get ground or flank steak, depending on how the prices look. You never know!
8. Buy Some Produce that Lasts Longer
If you’re trying to go to the store less often or you just want to make sure that you have some produce that’s fresh later in the week, consider these items, which tend to last longer.
- English cucumbers (individually wrapped in plastic)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Cauliflower heads (they last longer than precut florets)
- Butternut squash
- Pears (keep in the fridge until a day or two before you want to serve them—they’ll soften at room temp)
TIP: Store all of these items in the fridge except the potatoes and butternut squash, which will last for a few weeks at room temperature as long as the room isn’t too hot.
9. Double Up on Staples that Are On Sale
Save money come future weeks by buying twice as much of your staples when you find them on sale if it works for your budget—especially ones that can sit in the pantry for future weeks.
10. Stock Up on Ingredients for Easy Lunches
We’re living on bean and cheese quesadillas, mac and cheese, and muffins for lunches these days, so as long as I have a few items on hand each week, I can make any of those without much notice. Decide what your go-to lunches are and get the things you need to make them.
11. Include Easy Pantry Meals in Your Plan
I don’t know about you, but come dinnertime, I am usually pretty spent energy-wise. Which is to say: You 100% do not need to be making complicated meals each day and these Easy Pantry Meals may help you to get meals on the table quickly.
12. Replenish Your Freezer Stash
I keep frozen vegetables and fruit, tortillas, milk, shredded cheese, bread, meat, chicken, greens for smoothies, and pesto in my freezer most of the time so I always have easy ingredients to use in easy meals. Be sure to replenish your freezer each time you clear it out!
13. Ask to Have Similar Foods Bagged Together
If all of the frozen foods are in the same bag, it’s much faster to put them away. If all of the snacks or condiments are together, again, it’s easier to unpack the grocery bags. I prefer to bag my own groceries for this reason, but it’s also as easy as putting the categories of foods onto the conveyor belt at the same time and communicating with the person bagging your food.
14. Set Aside Some Favorite Snacks for Later in the Week
One of the best things I’ve been doing to make sure we have some snacks later in the week or for the second week if I’m only shopping every other week is to set aside half of the favorite kids snacks in the basement. This way, they’re out of site and the kids can’t eat all of the Veggie Straws in the first three days after shopping. It also ensures that we’re excited about the food we have even when it’s been a while since we went to the store.
15. Include Fridge Forage Meals
You don’t have to cook every night and one of the best ways to save money and simplify your life is to have nights when everyone serves themselves, cleans up leftovers, or has easy meals like sandwiches or snack plates. This is also a great time to check on the produce in your drawers and use anything that looks like it’s about to start to turn.
I recently put together a free two week meal plan that includes grocery lists, budget-friendly ingredients, easy cooking methods, and kid-friendly recipe ideas for each meal of the day. It’s an easy way to let me do some of the work of planning meals for you!