When people ask me how I manage as a single mom of three kids, one of the answers is always: shop smart and shop less.
Shopping less means I don’t have to listen to “Can I have it?” going down every aisle, several times a week.
Shopping smart means I stick to a very strict budget and I use my shopping time productively. However, not everything is a good bulk buy. Follow my tips for what to buy and how to store it, and you’ll find yourself pulling into the grocery store parking lot fewer times every month. (It also means I check for coupons!)
Once a Month Shopping
If you have kids, paper products are the number one thing you use every single day. I am literally shocked at how many rolls of toilet paper I go through in my house with three little girls. Second in line for the title of magically overused items in this house is paper towels. Add paper plates that replace the constant run of the dishwasher, and my bulk item purchases are justified. Once a month or so, I log into my Amazon account and order all three in bulk. If I am having a party or friends over, or if an item is on sale that month, I overstock on it to make sure I have enough at the lowest prices.
Note: I don’t use the subscription service! Check out why I think that’s a waste of money when buying in bulk.
Baby & Kids Items
I was not prepared for the amount of baby items I would go through as a mom to babies. Equally surprising is the amount of baby items I still use with kids 8, 7 and 5 years of age. The number one item I buy in bulk is baby wipes. I still rely on them every day. I have some in the car, in my purse, in the bathrooms and in the bedrooms. I don’t see the usage going down soon so I stock up as much as I can. I have the items marked as a ‘watch’ on Amazon and when the price drops, I load up! This prevents me from running out of them and saves a great deal on the price per package I find at the store. I also do this with disposable bed liners. We still have accidents sometimes and there is nothing worse than not being prepared for one! Baby shampoos, lotions and more round out my must-have baby items list.
I am all about fresh foods, make from scratch meals for my kids. But, let’s face it, it is hard to create the perfect meal all day, every day. Sometimes you just need to open a box of mac and cheese and serve it up for lunch! I know that we will go through about 2 boxes of mac and cheese a week, especially in the summer time as friends come over and we need fast meals. I also know that we will use a can of chili a week for hot dogs, and we will open three cans of fruit a week for sides and more. So I buy those items in bulk. My main idea is that when I go to the store, I only shop the cold and fresh food section. Everything else for the month should already be stocked in my cabinet!
Check out some ideas for cooking entire meals from your pantry.
Use Your Freezer
Did you know that you can freeze milk? Yep – just pour a little out of the top so it has room to expand. When you are ready, pull it out of the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge. I love doing this when the store marks them down close to their expiration date. Since we go through a gallon in a few days, I can stock up and check that off my shopping list for the month. I also cut and freeze grapes, bananas, peaches and more. Just make sure your freezer is not too cold and that you remove the air from the bags to prevent freezer burn.
The bottom line is, if you plan ahead a few weeks at a time, and really think about what your family needs, you can hit the grocery store a few times a month — or even just once! — and still have everything you need. It can be done, it can be done on budget, and it can be a greatly liberating experience!