10 Tips for Grocery Shopping for a Large Family

Grocery shopping with kids

Sometimes being the parent of a large family feels a little bit like being a professional chef. You know how many sandwiches a loaf of bread makes, can rattle off the number of servings in three pounds of chicken, and are always thinking about what’s on the menu for a large group of people. And then there’s all the grocery shopping you do! 

As the meal provider for a multi-person family, grocery shopping can consume a serious chunk of your time each week. You may feel like you’re constantly hitting the store for odds and ends you forgot or are spending more money on food than you’d really like to. You’re not alone! Many moms and dads of large families find it tough to keep up with the dietary needs of multiple children.

That’s why we’ve rounded up some of the most effective ways to minimize your stress, reduce your spending, and get the most out of your time at the grocery store.

1. Keep an Organized Pantry and Fridge

Before you even set foot in the grocery store, effective shopping starts in your own kitchen. Maintaining a well-organized pantry helps you know exactly what you need each week—and what you don’t. Try designating shelves of the pantry and fridge for specific types of food items. Perhaps canned goods go on one shelf, while snacks go on another, baking materials go on another, etc.

Then label these categories so that everyone in the family can stick to the setup. When foods are easy to locate in your home kitchen, it’s far simpler to “shop” your existing food stores.

2. Shop Your Pantry First

Before you take to Pinterest for mealtime inspiration, look in your own (now-organized) pantry and fridge. To begin a meal plan for the week ahead, determine what you have on hand that needs using up. Got a half pound of ground beef that’s about to expire? Plan for chili this week! Extra zucchini hanging around the crisper? Let it inspire some veggie fritters for a meatless monday. By shopping your own supplies, you’ll not only save money at the grocery store, but will reduce food waste, too.

3. Meal Plan

Once you’ve determined the ingredients you’d like to use in the week ahead, you can begin to map out meals for your family. In addition to shopping your pantry, check your local store’s circulars to see what deals you definitely want to take advantage of on your trip. A well-priced pork loin or a great sale on pasta can serve as the basis for no-fuss dinners. For maximum efficiency, you may even experiment with planning breakfasts and lunches. 

It’s a good idea to set aside a specific time each week for meal planning. Depending on the size of your family and whether you’re planning for a week or longer, we’d recommend giving yourself at least an hour.

Keep track of planned meals using an app, whiteboard, or plain old pen and paper.

4. Make a List

When the week’s meals are planned out, it’s time to make your master list of ingredients. To stay extra focused while shopping, you might even arrange your list according to the layout of the store(s) you intend to visit, with items grouped by section of the store. Then commit to sticking to it! 

5. Shop the Per-Ounce Price

No one wants to pay more for groceries than they need to—but sometimes navigating a wall of sale items can be confusing. When possible, get savvy about grocery sales by looking at the per-ounce cost listed on a price tag. This will help you compare various choices and determine exactly how much bang for your buck you’re getting from each. 

6. Buy in Bulk (Selectively) 

Big-box stores that sell in bulk cater to large families for obvious reasons. With their deep discounts and super-sized supplies, they help many multi-child families stretch their dollars further. However, shopping in bulk isn’t always the most economical choice.

For items you may only use a little of at a time, like herbs, spices, or condiments, you may not need a large supply, so be wary of purchasing these in bulk. Likewise, only buy large quantities of those items you know you’ll use before they expire.

Depending on your family size, bulk-sized perishables like fresh produce or dairy products may provide more than you really need or can use. And, just like at other stores, look at per-ounce prices for the best deals.

7. Don’t Take All the Kids

You love your kids, but they sure don’t make grocery shopping easier. When you’re trying to focus on sale prices or how many pounds of green beans you need, the last thing you want is to break up a fight or answer a hundred questions of “why?” 

Lighten your load whenever possible by making grocery shopping a solo event. Ask a friend with kids if the two of you can have a weekly babysitting exchange to get shopping done, or make the trip at a time when your spouse or partner can stay home with kids. You’ll have a clearer head for making all the little decisions shopping for a large family requires. 

8. Keep Kids Occupied With a Job

If you must bring kids to the store, try giving them age-appropriate “jobs” during the trip. Have older children go hunting for items on your list or compare prices. To keep younger children occupied, ask them to spot ten things that are red or count how many green vegetables they see. 

9. Shop When It’s Not Busy

There’s no such thing as a quick shopping trip when the store is packed to the gills on a Saturday morning. To save time, avoid crowds and long lines by opting to shop during a less-busy time. Evenings and weekday mornings tend to be a smart choice.

10. Keep Reusable Bags in the Car 

Finally, do something for the planet and your own organization by keeping reusable grocery bags on hand in the car. This way, you’ll know you’re always prepared for a shopping trip, and you won’t end up with a mountain of plastic each time.

By Sarah Garone
 Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a freelance health and wellness writer who runs a food blog.