Big Families: How Do You Do It? {Grocery Shopping}

grocery shopping tips for big families

“How do you do it?” Series hosted by Lolli from Better in Bulk, Lisa from Crazy Adventures in Parenting, Christine from From Dates to Diapers, Kadi from Our Seven Seeds, and Kate from The Guavalicious Life.
Join us each week for more tips from moms of big families!


Grocery shopping is a seemingly monumental task whether it’s for yourself, your family, or a family size like mine. There are many working components in a house, and many things that need to be shopped for as a result. Over time, we’ve created a system that helps us manage to get everything we need in one shot.

Make a List

We have two magnetic lists on the fridge; one is a wipe-off board where we can write things we have run out of during the week (as well as reminders for things), and one is a rip-off type of checklist where we can copy the list down, rip it off, and take it with if we need to make a quick impromptu trip to the store for something.

grocery shopping list on the fridge

We do our best, though, to ensure we DO NOT make those brief trips to the store. Those trips cost the most, because they are made out of convenience, so we do our best to make the most comprehensive list when we do our weekly grocery shopping on Sunday. To make this easier on ourselves, we’ve created the Shopping List Notebook.

To create our Shopping List Notebook, we shopped discounted school supplies last year and found a cheap notebook at Target for $1. In this notebook we create our weekly shopping lists, where we can go back to see past lists, giving us ideas for things we might need, and to also help keep them all in one place.

When compiling our weekly shopping list, we have three columns. The first column is for various items we use and need weekly, including dairy, pantry, dry goods and personal care. The second column is our dinner ingredients column, with the third column being our weekly menu broken down by day.

grocery shopping list notebook We use the store fliers to help create our menu, basing it somewhat on their sales. We also check our schedule to see how busy we are, to see if we need to make some nights “easy” nights, also referring to the weather, in case it’s too hot to use the oven, or too cold or rainy to use the grill.

Once we’ve done that, we begin creating the list. First, we jot down the items we are out of from the fridge and cupboard in the left column. Then, we move on to creating our weekly menu in the third column, so that we can write down those ingredients needed for those meals in the second column. We refer to our saved recipes to ensure our second column is accurate.

To help ensure we’ve got everything we need, we walk the entire house, peeking in and out of cupboards, to ensure we haven’t missed anything. We search through our coupons, too, to see what we have for what we’re shopping for.

Shop Comparatively

While our list is a master list, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are shopping for everything at just one store. Now that we live in a place with much to offer, we shop at other grocery stores other than the commissary to help us save money. We charted what prices are better at different stores, and we now know that our local HEB offers cheaper milk, bread, and lunch meats than the commissary, where the commissary has a better price on chicken, eggs and juice.

We also factored in bulk shopping places, like Sam’s Club, to find even better deals by purchasing more at once. Now that we have extra space, to include a garage, we purchased a deep freezer so we can partake in purchasing larger quantities of frozen items on sale.

Be Creative With Sales

Commissaries offer their sale fliers online, and our local grocery store, HEB, has their specials and coupons online, too. HEB also mails us their flyer each week as well. We plan what to get and where to get it based upon those fliers and sales, sometimes amending our original plans for dinner with what they have to offer if it will save us money.

We also like to keep an open mind while shopping, too. For instance, while at Sam’s Club once, we happened to pass by their bakery section and found some deeply discounted french bread on display. These were discounted because it was sold on their “sell by” date. We froze two, using for our own homemade garlic bread at a later time. The remaining two made wonderful bread for sandwiches when sliced and cut.

grocery shopping with reusable bags

We use reusable bags, and have amassed quite a collection over the years.

Coupons, Coupons, Coupons

Coupons are available practically everywhere, it seems. Some stores offer some right up front in and on their flyers, where some, like HEB, have coupons hanging right alongside products. The commissary has those electric coupon dispensers available throughout their store, too.

We recommend visiting the websites of our favorite brands; you will be happy to see that some offer coupons to print to print right there! Also, subscribing to your favorite brands’ newsletters will garner you some coupons embedded in their newsletters, too. If I am looking for a particular one, I tend to Google it to see if there are any at the moment, too.

Another thing you can do is hold a coupon swap with some of your local friends. This way you can offer friends the coupons in your circulars that you don’t need, get more of the ones you do need, and pool your resources. Over time, you will get to know what items your friends like, and might be able to score some coupons for them when out and about shopping as well (from the dispensers or flyers, maybe?).

Money-Saving Tips

  • Use a whole chicken when cooking when the recipe calls for breasts. A roaster is cheaper by te pound. Save the extra cooked meat by freezing it for another recipe.
  • If you have two recipes with ground beef, buy the bigger, bulk-size package, prepare it when you get home, separate and freeze for later. It’ll cut down on preparation time while trimming your budget in the process.
  • Go meatless a couple times a week, as meat seems to be some of the higher priced items when shopping. Plus, it’s a healthier option when you choose the vegetarian option of your favorites (vegetarian chili, lasagna, etc).

How does your family handle grocery shopping? Do you have any other tips you’d like to share?

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