Easy Money Saving Tips for Grocery Shopping for a Large Family
From eggs to milk, inflation and food costs are higher than ever, and many families are struggling to keep up with rising food prices.
Anyone who’s visited a grocery store in the last year has noticed the rising prices of food and household goods. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic saving money has been on many families' minds.
Families have lost income due to layoffs, job shortages or reduced labor due. Some parents had to choose between staying home to care for children while schools were closed or caring for elderly relatives.
And even though life has slowly been returning to normal, inflation at the grocery store is making money tight for families nationwide.
If you’re shopping for a large family of four or more people like me, it can be challenging to maintain a reasonable budget at the store.
Related: Family Budget Makeover: Cutting Your Grocery Bill
But there are ways to create and stick to a food budget and other money-saving tips you can employ while shopping.
Tips to Save Money on Groceries & Food
A grocery store is an easy place for parents to overspend while shopping. So here are some ways to save money while browsing the aisles.
1. Use Coupons & Rebates
Grocery stores still release weekly fliers and accept manufacturer’s coupons so consider browsing the weekly flyers both online and in the mail.
Pro tip: most grocery stores keep stacks of their coupon flyers near the entrance, so you can even check as you’re walking through the door, and scour any potential deals.
Most Sunday papers still have coupon inserts, so for a few bucks each week, you could save a bit of money.
However, if you don’t want to purchase a paper each week, consider using Sunday Coupon Inserts, a service that ships the local Sunday coupon inserts, for a fee, directly to your door.
The website coupons.com allows you to customize which coupons you’d like and then print them from home. They also have an app that gives you cash back when purchasing featured items.
2. Buy Food in Bulk
Buying in bulk is one of the oldest methods of saving money. If you have the pantry space, buy stock items like pasta, soups, beans, and other non-perishables in bulk.
Likewise, if you have room in your freezer, purchasing meat in bulk and freezing what you don’t need or purchasing berries in season and freezing them for the winter when prices hike is also a way to cut your grocery bill.
Purchasing items like toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent, soap, etc. bulk works well because they don’t spoil and can be stored out of the way until you need them.
Regular grocery stores sell some everyday items in bulk but consider a membership to places like Costco or Sam’s Club if you have a big family and often buy in bulk.
Pro Tip: Buy popular items your family eats in family size.
I know Oreos, fruit snacks, cereal, and potato chips will get eaten in my house, so I always buy the largest package available. It may cost a bit more upfront, but it will last longer, meaning you don’t have to buy it each time you head to the store.
3. Shop Weekly Sale Items
Shopping specifically for sale items may seem like a no-brainer, but many people stick with the same brands and items each week, ignoring sale prices.
For example, if your kids love Frosted Mini-Wheats and they are on sale this week for $2.99 per box instead of $4.50, consider buying two or three boxes.
Then when you go to the store the next week, and the price has gone back up, you can skip purchasing them and buy two or three of something else on sale.
And while you should definitely look for sales, the sale price isn’t always the best deal.
Pro Tip: Stores often place the peak items that cost the most at eye level. So scan the shelves to look for the deals. The labels on the shelf often tell you the price per pound or ounce etc.
For example, the 10-pack of fruit snacks may be on sale for $1.99, down from $2.50, and the 24-pack costs $3.99.
But if you look closely, the 10-pack costs $0.12 per ounce, but the 24-pack is only $0.10 per ounce. So, in the long run, the bigger, more expensive packages save you money.
4. Buy Store Brands and Generic Brands
If you are brand-loyal for no other reason then, “It’s what I always buy,” switch things up! Pro Store brands nowadays are just as good as name-brand items.
Bottled pasta sauce, canned soup, frozen pizzas, and potato chips tend to taste the same regardless of which brand you buy, and honestly, kids rarely notice the brand; they look for the flavor.
Pro Tip: If you’re on the fence, compare ingredient and nutrition labels to see if there are any major differences in terms of preservatives or specific ingredient amounts.
If you must have a specific item name brand (for me, it’s cereal), then let that be your one splurge item and shop store brand for the rest.
5. Stick to Your List and Grocery Budget
If it’s not on the list don’t buy it. A simple but effective motto for saving money.
Sticking to the list and avoiding impulse buys is a guaranteed way to not go over budget.
Pro Tip: Go back over the last several months of shopping bills and determine your average cost. Then you can create a budget based on what you’ve been spending.
For example, if money has been tight and you realize you’re averaging $250 per week, try to parse it down to $225.
When you’re cognisant of what you’re spending, you’re less likely to overspend.
6. Buy In-Season Produce
When shopping for fruits and veggies, purchase what is in season.
Plenty of recipes online cater to the different times of the year to help you figure out what’s in season and what’s not. In season fresh produce will cost less.
Pro Tip: Opt for frozen if fresh fruits and veggies are outside your grocery budget. Frozen fruits and veggies contain much of the same nutritional value as fresh.
Frozen vegetables also don’t contain the additives like salt and preservatives that canned vegetables do.
7. Pay with Cash
When you shop with cash, you are less likely to overspend because you can only purchase what you have on you. Leave the credit card at home or lock it in the car for emergency use only.
Credit cards often lead people to spend a lot of money because it is not an immediate deficit in their account.
Pro Tip: Alternatively, if you have a good card with a low or zero balance that offers reward points, use it to pay for the groceries and then pay it off before the next statement.
More Tips and Tricks to Save Money Feeding Your Family
In addition to in-the-store actions you can take as a shopper, there are some great tips that can help you save money by prepping before your shopping trip.
Meal-prepping not only saves you money, but it also saves you time, and by sticking to a meal plan, you will likely eat healthier too.
Some people meal prep their school lunches each day by baking a large casserole or pasta dish and dividing it into five portions.
However, people with busy schedules juggling baseball practices, choir rehearsals, Girl Scouts, and piano lessons prefer to meal prep family meals for the week. Preparing casseroles and freezer meals in advance is another way to save cash because you can buy ingredients in bulk.
You could set aside a weekend day to cook and store every meal, so that you know by Sunday morning what you’ll all be eating for the rest of the week. Meal prepping takes out those expensive, last-minute impulse buys.
It’s much easier to say no to going through the McDonald’s drive-thru or ordering takeout on GrubHub when you know you’ve got a home cooked meal ready to heat up in your fridge!
2. Make a List Before Going to the Store
Make a list before you head to the store. Trying to remember everything is not only stressful, but shopping without a grocery list means you’re more likely to overspend.
We keep a running list on a large dry-erase board on the fridge. We encourage the kids (with mixed results) to add items they want and, more importantly, items they notice are running low or have taken the last of.
A running list saves you time from figuring out what you need right before shopping, and you’re less likely to forget something essential, like Goldfish crackers.
When you’re ready to shop, create your shopping list from the items on the board, starting with essentials and adding any “nice to have items.”
3. Find the Cheapest Grocery Store in Your Area and Look for Deals
Check your local stores for weekly deals. Shopping at multiple stores, while a hassle for some, can save money.
Big chains like Walmart and Target that have grocery sections often advertise their deals online or on their apps. Stores like Aldi sell much of the same items big chain stores do, but without the name-brand label or price.
Amazon Prime also offers a pantry feature now and sells some items in bulk, like chips and other snacks.
I recently found a box of name-brand cereal for twice the size and half the money as what was being sold at the local grocery store that week.
For those with a large family, five or more members, memberships to stores like Costco and Sam’s Club can save you a lot of money.
4. Pick One or Two Specialty Items
I guarantee that your child will live if they only have one type of cookie in the pantry.
While it may feel like you need to have a dozen snack items to provide variety, two or three items per week are enough to keep a kid interested.
I ask each of my kids before each trip for one treat they’d like me to bring home. This hack ensures I have at least one thing they each like, and it provides variety.
You can also purchase a bulk size variety pack of many popular snack items to keep kids from getting bored.
How to Talk to Your Kids About Budgeting
It can be challenging for parents forced to use a strict budget because they may not be able to buy the extra treats and snacks their kids are used to or want every week.
However, when talking to your kids about money and budgeting, it is crucial that you avoid saying, “We don’t have enough for that.”
Statements along that vein frighten children and make them anxious their parents won’t be able to afford food or other things in general.
Instead, if you are faced with having to reduce your grocery haul, use phrases like:
- That’s not in the budget for this week, but let’s make room for it next time
- We already have cookies at home; instead of another flavor of cookies, let’s choose something else we need
- We don’t have extra money to buy two flavors of ice cream so pick one for this week, and we’ll get the other one next time.
Show your children how you create a budget. You don’t need to do a deep dive into your personal finances, but you can explain how a budget works with visual aids.
Instead, take your child shopping with you and keep a tab as you go. Giant hand-held self-scanners are ideal because it keeps the tally for you as you shop!
For example, this week, we have $200 to spend at the grocery store. These are the items we have to buy (show list of essentials); if we have money left over, we can choose a few extras.
You should also talk to your kids about wants vs. needs. Healthy meals are needs, while sugary snacks are wants.
If it were up to my 8-year-old, the pantry would be filled with nothing but sugary treats. Get your kids involved with planning weekly meals and grocery shopping trips.
Involving your children helps them learn about money, healthy eating, the value of an item, and how to compare and contrast items.
Shopping on a budget takes practice and self-control, especially for a large family. But, with a bit of time, dedication, and family involvement, you can fill your home with budget-friendly meals and snacks.
For more help on how to get better at grocery shopping on a budget, download our Interactive Grocery List Printable and save more time and money at the supermarket!
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About L. Elizabeth Forry
L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with 15 years of classroom experience.