Family Grocery Habits – Grocery Shopping Series Pt.1

Welcome to one of my first series blogs. I have been rattling around some ideas for Grocery Blogs, from Shopping tips, to family habits and also meal planning. I hope that you find this series helpful and inspiring. This first one is based upon shopping habits I have as well as my friends and family. I’m going to leave everyone anonymous. I hope that this helps people out, whether encouraging different shopping habits, preparing others for what to expect as kids get older, and maybe even different stores to try.

Before I get into the families and their habits. I want to just give you an idea on the costs sometimes involved in feeding a family or 4 or more. Oddly enough I’m sure most families don’t notice a big change in their food bills until kids get to school age. All of a sudden you are having to supply snacks, lunches, drinks, etc. everyday! It may not sound like a lot and the fact that kids do generally eat lunch every day right? Well in our house it’s true. But the snacks are different. Mostly my kids do not snack like they do at school. Maybe an apple or banana here and there but not like what they get at school, with 2 snack breaks and lunch they eat up a lot more and I only have 1 child in school part time right now. So here is a break down on lunches for kids a basic one, mostly around what I feed Diana and how much of it can eat up your grocery bill.

Supplies:

  • Bread 1 loaf per child a week = $1.80 – $3.50 (depends on what bread you buy)
  • Jam – No name = $3.00 (will last probably a month)
  • Granola Bars 1 small box a week = $2.00 box (if you get the quaker ones on sale)
  • Cheese & Cracker Snacks 1 pack = $1.00 for the no name ones
  • 1 piece of fruit = Bananas or apples for the week $5.00 (apples) $2.00 (Bananas)
  • 1 pudding treat = $1.00 4/pk (on sale) or $2.00 for Apple sauce 6 pack
Cost to feed 1 kid for a week of school lunches = $9.55 if you pick the cheaper options $14.25 if you choose “healthier more expensive bread, apples over bananas and pudding) 
Over a month that is = $38.20 and $57.00 for one kid for a basic lunch giving them water instead of milk or juice too, add another $2.00 a week for juice to that so over a month it is $46.20 and $65.00. That is a lot of money! Now if you have 4 kids like myself and some of my friends and family, eventually you are looking at in a month to feed 4 kids school lunches with juice, $200.80 on the cheaper side and $260 on the more expensive side options. Don’t forget that is catching sales too and stocking up on what you need for a month or two. Pretty shocking isn’t it? Now I know lots of people reading this are thinking well, what if you make your own snacks and do the water route? Yes it does cut down and it is great when you have time. But who are we all kidding, right? Sure we stay at home moms have lots of time right? Wrong! You have 4 kids, your time is rather thin most days, and who do you think runs the hot lunch programs at school, the milk programs, scholastic book orders, your Girl Guide unit, coaches the soccer team, or president of the playschool? A lot of that is done by stay at home moms and dads, and all parents in general! Working or not we all are involved in helping our communities run and that takes up a lot of our time so we may not always have the energy to whip up a batch of muffins and grab a ready made snack instead. Busier families also tend to eat ready made dinners more often that cost a little more too. What if you have all boys, and healthy eating boys too that can add up. All of this can add up on your grocery bill quite quickly. I’ve been doing a lot more comparison shopping lately and really breaking the price down and I was shocked to find that a lot of the bulk, larger packaged items were not cheaper! It was actually smarter for me to buy the smaller sized items and I was saving quite a bit of money.
Also you know what one of the most costly things you buy is? Cereal! To feed a family of 4 for one week it sure takes a lot of cereal and at up to $10.00 to get a box that will last can quickly add up too.
With all that in mind here are the grocery habits I was able to collect.

Family 1: Eyestone Family

  • We have 2 adults and 4 kids (ages 5 – 15 months) living with us.
  • Our Budget is probably about $600.00 a month, it used to be $500 before the twins and if I plan well I can usually keep it around there still.
  • I used to shop mostly at Safeway (avid Airmile collector, and I like their produce and meat the best), but with the twins now eating solids I find there is so much more I need from Superstore that is just a better price. Things like Yogurt, Oatmeal, and other things the kids are snacking on more is cheaper there.
  • I’m a fan of meal planning, I find it works out so much better when you know what you are eating and what you need to buy. I find I don’t buy that many extras. I also do use coupons and try to collect lots of the ones I use often. I only stock up on things like cereal, pasta, pasta sauce and other snack items for lunches when they are on sale.
  • My shopping habits are weekly shops. I usually work out a list of meals and what I need to go with those. I add things we run out of as the week goes on and things that maybe on a really good special to stock up. With 4 kids we use lots of milk and bananas so I always have to shop for those every week.
  • Yes I do meal plan. I usually only do a week at a time but I have done a monthly one for January as part of something new I’m trying. Stay tuned for that blog!

Family A:

  • 2 Adults & 4 kids (ages 10 – 2)
  • Grocery Budget: We spend I would say at least 1100 on food this includes going back during the week for milk and bread and such we do 2 shops once at the beginning of the month and one in the middle!!  We shop at Costco, and no frills (mostly costco on executive membership where we get 2 percent cash back in January.
  • Shopping Rules: If you have to buy more than one package at say no frills  then I buy in bulk at Costco . Because we shop at Costco we alternate what we buy for instance this pay day is toilet paper payday so I buy toilet paper in bulk next payday is laundrey soap payday even if we aren’t out I buy these items on designated paydays that way if money is tight (around Christmas or around back to school time) we have a stock pile and can use it on other stuff.
  • Shopping Tips for a large family : It is way cheaper to buy freezer bags and buy in bulk that it is to buy in already portioned sizes!!  This works out way better for meal planning.  For instance I buy steak in bulk but before I put into a freezer bag I season it and add bbq sauce to the freezer bag and freeze it in sauce that way as it thaws it is also marinating!!
  • Meal Planning: I meal plan but not to perfection.  I buy for  8 healthy cooked meals and make sure I have stuff for fast and easy meals for hockey nights. for instance hockey night might be fried sausages and perogies or take and bake pizza  a non hockey night steak and Caesar salad.  or spaghetti!!
  • I am finding with the amount my family eats bulk is the only way we can get buy!!  We don’t eat cheap meals all the time we plan one expensive dinner a pay day for instance High quality steak or BBQ baby back ribs.  Its our way of eating out without eating out LOL

Family B:

  • 4 kids 2 Adults
  • Estimated Budget: $2,000
  • Where they Shop & Why?: Costco for bulk items such as condiments (ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, BBQ sauce etc…), cheaper to purchase by the case (Kraft dinner, tomatoe sauce, soup), purchase large meat packs and split up at home, purchase large roast and cut into steaks.
  • Tips for Large Families: Definitely watch for sales in flyers, buy bulk from superstore.
  • Shopping Habits : Costco once a month and superstore weekly for milk and produce.
  • Do you meal plan? Not at this time.
Family C:
  • Family Stats: 2 Adults, 3 kids ( Ages 5-8months)
  • Our estimated budget for groceries in a month is about $800. $200 per week roughly. Now we have done budgeting with just using the envelope method but I find that too hard to remember to take when I go shopping so for right now I am back using my debit card. That may change though in the future so that I can be more careful that I am actually not going over the $800. 
  • Where do you shop?: I use to shop just for groceries at Superstore and the odd time at Walmart. Now that I’m couponing I shop all over the place. But the majority is still Superstore but walmart is right up there now too. Once the walmart turns into a SuperWalmart it may swing the other way because nothing beats the price match that walmart will do.
  • Tips for Saving Money: Definitely shopping the sales and using coupons has helped out with building a stockpile. The only bad thing is that it can end up using more money than you normally would have used. If a person is going to stockpile you definitely need to get into that mindset but to also have a plan and a budget so that you don’t waste all the grocery money getting so called “deals”.
  • Shopping habits: I usually go to the grocery store twice a week sometimes three. I would like to change that though because I think going too often results in spending more money. I would like to get to once a week.  
  • Meal Planners? We have in the past done a meal plan and I find that I go through cycles of that where I’m really good about it then I get tired of trying to think of things and then I try being “relaxed” about it. I find over all though that having a meal plan works best to help with the shopping but also with the “what’s for supper” questions. I plan on getting back to meal planning once we get settled after the move.
    When I did do meal planning in the past it was only for a week at a time and I would usually do it on a Sunday night or the night before my grocery store day. I’d make my list from the meal plan and add on any other items I knew we needed (toliet paper, etc) and stick to the list when I went. Sometimes the money would seem to go far and then other times not so much.
  • Other tips that have are: try to have only 3 or maybe 4 meals (suppers) in a week that do not include meat. That saves money and is better for your body. There are plenty of ways to get protein. Also stock up on the staples that you use in your house when they go on sale. (ex. we only like a certain pasta sauce but I try only to buy it on sale because regular price is over $4 for a jar, way too expensive). Also the other way is make stuff from scratch, that can be cheaper and you can make more of it. Also stay away from the convience foods (pizza pops, etc) those are super expensive.
Family D:
  • 2 Adults, 1 Child
  • So we have some odd grocery habits. But I believe in them for our house. They take time and effort and are not cheap. Since we have only one child and have enough money to shop very well for our family I bet we spend about $200 a week on groceries. For a 3 person household that is alot I recognize that. But it is a choice we have made slowly over the past year or 2.
  • We go to farmers markets as often as we can. In the summer that is every weekend unless we are away. And in the winter at least once a month. If we can go every weekend we do. We go to St Albert market, Callingwood market or the downtown City Market. We choose those because we have built relationships with some of the producers we have chosen to buy from. Or we have researched those producers. 
  • We buy as local and organic as possible.
    This past week at the City Market I purchased from local and organic producers:
    -1 whole roasting chicken
    -1 pack of 6 rosemary and garlic pork sausages
    -1 litre of 1% and 1 litre 2% milk
    -Goats milk cheese
    -Tomatos
    -Cucumber
    -Squash
    -Ground pork and ground beef
    -2 dozen eggs
  • I did not purchase any baked goods or craft items. When I go to the market it is to buy food for my family. Not treats and uneccessary items. And I am teaching my child about how we make decisions about food. She is there while we speak with the farmers about how thier sales are going and what they have been up to. We talk about sustainable food practice and we talk about pricing. By hearing us talk to the actual farmer she is learning about the fact that these are real animals and real farms. And we have been invited several times to come out and see both the veggie and animal farms. This spring and summer we are planning on taking up those offers. She knows the people know. And she will understand the cycle.
  • After the market we went to Planet Organic (Owned by Whole Foods a US company). There I purchased shallots, baby onions, stewing beef, organic no filler hot dogs, pears, beet greens, baby bok choy and strawberries.
  • After that I went to Superstore and bought the rest of my groceries. That is my dry goods, butter, oil, greens and household stuff. We were out from 11am until 4pm. And this is a normal saturday for us. And we had a great time. We treated ourselves to a late lunch or early supper of Vietnamese Pho soup at a non chain run family run restaurant in Spruce Grove. When we go out for a meal it is rarely at a chain style restaurant. And I am either lucky or my daughter is used to eating somewhere other than McDonalds.
    I made the choice to spend more on things we use often to buy organic about 2 years ago. And that started with Milk, dairy and meat. I have sinced moved to as much as I can get. But now my focus is also local and free range.
  • People have to realize that organic does not mean better treatment of the animal. It only means they are not using certain things on the farm or factory. And the only way I can be truly sure is by getting to know my farmer. Watch the movie Food Inc. Its not what made me change my mind. I had already started to change before watching that movie. But it solidified what I was doing. I know that the way I shop is almost impossible for most. But parts of it are totally doable. 
Family E:
  • Family Stats: Male (17), Male (15), Male (13) and Male (10) + Two Adults (M&F) ie. the parents 
  • Estimated Monthly Grocery budget: $800-$900 $200/week
  • Where you shop the most & why?: Safeway (only the sales and bread/milk as those prices are basically same as Superstore) Superstore (fresh veggies/fruits, sandwich meats, I hate their bread as it seems old to me, meat) Safeway has really good deals and with Airmiles with I use for gift cards: ie. Best Western, Starbucks, Bay, Cinemas
  • Any tips on shopping for a large family to save money.
    Shopping habits: it depends right now for $35 at Safeway I save $.05/l on gas so I try to do little shopping sprees. However often there is the spend $100 and get 100 airmiles. I always go on 10% Tuesdays and take the extra 10% off verse the extra airmiles. If COOP has a good sale on meats I prefer to buy meat there verse Superstore.
  • Do you meal plan, if so for how long? I meal plan the day ahead. I buy whats on sale and that’s the meal. As for what brand it really is the brand that is the cheapest at the particular time.
    I have a freezer so I can bulk buy. I have a garden so I preserve peas/beans and I have an extra fridge to keep carrots fresh all year round. (not a big $ saving but tastes better and more nutrients) I also grow other vegetables (potatoes, lettuce etc) One can also pick your own fruits in season and freeze them or preserve them. I don’t do alot of this but I try to pick blueberries once a year and then freeze as the blueberries in the store are just ‘lacking’
    With teenagers the key is carbonhydrates, and not alot of meat as they don’t need it alot just a bit. Trust me they can eat. I do not eat alot of these quick dinners but prefer fresh meat (or frozen meat).
    Every meal has a vegetable. I do not like canned veggies and prefer fresh or frozen. I feel canned veggies have too many perservatives and additives for taste. They been processed in a way which we wouldn’t eat if we really knew what they did before they put them in the can… and then they sit in the can be it hot or be it cold. Who knows?
    I don’t use coupons but I think maybe it is a good idea to check them out and why not? BUT be careful you are not buying something you won’t use just because you have a coupon.
Family F:
Family Stats: 2 Adults 3 kids (6,4,1)
  • $600/month aprox (depends if there are good sales or not! Lol!)
  • We shop at Superstore, a few reasons, my husband gets a 10% discount, but even before that we feel our money goes the farthest there, I can get everything I need (clothes, diapers, meds, gas, food, makeup, homewares, etc.)
    Costco-to fill the pantry, lunch items TP, etc
  • We buy in bulk when possible and fill the pantry and freezer during sales. I do coupon a bit, we buy fresh weekly so things do not spoil. 
  • We go for a ‘big’ shop twice a month, and pick up fresh/parishable weekly. 
  • I meal plan when I remember and if I do, only a week ahead. 
Family G
  • We have a family of 5, me and my husband, and 3 boys, 2,4 and 7.
  • I go shopping once a week with a budget of $120 for 2 weeks and $150 for 2 weeks. I do purchase bulk foods sometimes, and the difference in budgets is for things like diapers of bigger items like 20kg flour or rice or cloths etc.
  • I do a weekly meal plan, I usually make it sunday evening and it takes me an hour to prepare as I watch one of my shows. I have a whole spreadsheet layout I use. The meal plan helps me control my spending and saves time later on in the week for when I”m busy.
  • I’ve only recently started to do some couponing.
  •  I usually shop at superstore but they do not have the most coupon friendly policies so I may give saveon a try (change is hard when you’re a creature of habit)
  • I find that for the average week I spend between $50-60 on fresh produce, $15-20 on dairy $5-10 on bakery (bread and wraps) $20 on pantry staples $20 miscellaneous and $20 on meat.
I hope you have found some ideas and inspiration from this. I know I have. I have a few more blog ideas to come out of this as well, a guest blog from our family who only eat organic on what goes into being an organic family (costs, places to shop and getting to know your local producers),  cheap easy to make snacks for lunches, and of course meal planning and its benefits.
Heather
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About heathereyestone

I'm a stay at home mom of 4 kids, the youngest being twins. I try to live my life as green as I can, and love the outdoors.
This entry was posted in Budgeting, Grocery Shopping, Helpful Hints, Quick Money Saving Tips and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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