How can a family with busy schedules fit in time to grocery shop consistently so we have the food we need in the cupboards? Let’s talk about it.

Mystie: So, both of us are homeschooling and we have five kids and it turns out that these people need to eat. That means we need to go to the grocery store.

Virginia Lee: Yes, yes, yes.

Mystie: So I think one of the things that really makes a difference in the grocery store routine and getting it in there is how close they are because how much commuting time there is really makes a big difference in where it can fit in.

Virginia Lee: Yes, most definitely. And especially, we live in Colorado so the weather six months out of the year is not always optimal. So that is a big thing to think of if you’re going to have to drive any sort of distance.

Mystie: So how is the town where you are? Are the discount grocers close or do you … ?

Virginia Lee: We have a bulk store in our town and we have a couple of chain grocery stores as well and the chain grocery stores that we have are definitely not discount stores they’re a little more expensive but they’re not bad if you want to find something specific and they always tend to have better produce, of course. But I am not one of those people who likes to shop at four or five different places…

Mystie: No.

Virginia Lee: … so I’d rather plan my menus around what I can get from the most convenient place to shop and I know some moms don’t mind at all, they enjoy it and they’ll go to a few different spots to get their groceries, but I’m just not really in that season of life right now.

Mystie: Yeah. I used to but I think that was maybe it was baby number three where I stopped.

Virginia Lee: Yes, yes. We’ve done grocery shopping a couple of different ways and I think you’re right it really does depend do you have a baby, do you have older kids going with you, you know, that kind of thing. For awhile we used to, at the bulk store that we have, you can put in online orders so you can just get online, choose every single thing you want, and place the order, and you do have to be prepared because you can’t do it the day you want to pick it up, I mean, you have to do it at least the day before, they need a day to get it and process it but what we used to do is I would stick that order in on Saturday because dad was home and so that allowed me a chunk of time to get online and have complete thoughts without interruptions, get that put in, and then we’d go to church on Sunday and then when church was out the bulk store was sort of near our church so we’d just go as a whole family over there, then we’d check in at the little kiosk and they’d bring our order out in carts, and they would have to go gather frozen or refrigeratable stuff but since we were all together we would often time get a slice of pizza, then we’d have lots of helpers to load and unload but we didn’t have to do any of the shopping and so it really cut down on the amount of time, my sanity…

Mystie: Right, because all the thinking is done at that point.

Virginia Lee: Yes, I didn’t have to make any decisions. The only decision I had to make was are we allowed to have pizza today or not? My husband and I were wanting to have some more one on one time with the kids than we were getting and so he actually has taken over the grocery shopping because he does it on Saturdays about twice a month and then he takes a specific kid with him and then the two of them do that shopping. So I can still put in the online orders and we still do that periodically but for awhile, we have kids that have hit adolescence now and so it’s nice for them, especially since my oldest is a boy, it’s nice for him to get some one on one time with his dad.

Mystie: I know there were several times when I had a little baby and it was just hard to get out with a bunch of toddlers plus baby and then go to a place where you have to make decisions with every step. I just gave the list to my husband and he would swing by because both of our normal grocery stores were on his way home from work. Of course, now he works from home so that definitely doesn’t work.

Virginia Lee: There is something to be said for dad coming home from work. He can pick up milk when you realize you don’t have any. That would be hard I didn’t think about that with dad being home.

Mystie: But the other convenience is I can just pop out to the grocery store and I’m not leaving anyone without an adult in the house.

Virginia Lee: That is true, although I’d have to admit that I’m not a big fan of going to the grocery store so I sort of like it that my husband has taken that over for a period of time. I would rather do the meal planning portion of it. Although it was sort of a learning curve at first because if you’re the person doing most of the cooking there’s some things you just know intuitively… I remember when he first took over some of it, he came home with the tiniest little bottle of vanilla that I have ever seen in my life and I thought, ‘I’m going to cook one time with that and it’s going to be all gone’ but I don’t think he realized how much vanilla is even used in a recipe or …

Mystie: I think it’s good, too, to realize, oh, I’ve been grocery shopping for how many years and just how much experience you accumulate.

Virginia Lee: Yes, and even just where things are located in your store. I don’t know about you but I don’t like to shop at different stores that I’m not familiar with because I know where nothing is.

Mystie: I will go to Winco to get that because I know exactly where it is.

Virginia Lee: And it really does take more time if you have to track it down and locate it, so I think even just for that, if you are having your husband or maybe your husband’s been doing the shopping and now you’re taking it over, you know, it does just have a learning curve and I remember just we’d print out a master pantry list and it’s just all of our groceries on there and I remember when he started doing the shopping I just reorganized that so that things would be relocated — in my mind I had it organized a certain way, more like, dry goods or refrigeratables that kind of thing but I actually reorganized it for him so it was more based on store location, but yeah, that’s really how we fit our grocery shopping in right now, is my husband does it every other Saturday or we put in the bulk over and do it on Sundays. If I have to go, if something comes up and I have to go in the week and it’s not one of our normal grocery shopping times then I try to go on Friday when the school week is over.

Mystie: Yeah, sometimes now because I have a 14 year old and 12 year old, we will go after I’m done with school with the younger kids and we’ll leave and leave the older ones at home so they can have some quiet house time, so that’s kind of where it’s been fitting in for us, lately. But it also helps that Winco, our normal grocery store, is a mile and a half away from our house and then Costco 3-5 miles. It doesn’t have to be a huge trip, it doesn’t take that much time to get there.

How about you? Where does grocery shopping fit in your routine?

This menu plan template and master pantry resource will help streamline your kitchen.


  1. Oh, I wish I could do more one-stop shopping! Between stores not even carrying certain items to big savings for some items from certain vendors, I go to waaaaaay too many places. My “Big 3” are Costco, Kroger, and Aldi, but sometimes I have to head to Walmart for certain items, or even Whole Foods which is almost 30 minutes away. Then, we have biweekly pickups for fare from our rancher and an optional monthly pickup for some bulk food items from an online distributor. Gah! It makes my head spin just thinking about it. This is why I put on my calendar a “soft schedule” for errands–and I have two times when I do about 99% of the shopping (Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning–these time slots repeat weekly on Google Calendar with the title “Errands”–which I then change to reflect exactly where I’m going that day)–and I go ALONE–it’s amazing how much more shopping I can do without the children with me! ;)

  2. I do multi stop shopping. I have found going in the early mornings is the best time! We do get the majority at our local Farmer’s market. Joining a CSA was the best thing we did this last year. We buy all dairy, veggies, eggs, and meat from the FM. Other items I get at Market Basket but fruit we get from Shaws.

  3. We live in a small town and we eat gluten-free and as naturally as possible, so for us that means a once-a-month trip to Publix, Aldi and Costco. We go on a Saturday and the whole family goes because it is sooooo much faster, easier and less stressful when my husband comes with us.
    Then I pick up a few things for the month locally at Ingles and WalMart.
    And there is a fair amount of online ordering from Amazon, Amazon Subscribe & Save and Thrive Market.
    Once a year or so we pick up a portion of a cow from a farmer in the area.

  4. I shop at Aldi and Walmart almost exclusively. They are close to each other but a 20 minute drive from us so I try to menu plan and stock up enough to only go every other week. When I was pregnant with our fifth and when he was a newborn I would pick up a young lady from church to help because lifting kids and groceries and stopping for potty breaks and running everyone back across the store for that one thing I forgot at the other end was exhausting! But recently we’ve hit a great groove that I am loving. Our church does a Tuesday night Bible study at a local nursing home so every other week my husband and kids go to that and I fly like a crazy lady through the grocery store and then we meet back up for dinner out on our way home. We get back and unload the groceries together, there are no dinner dishes, and we didn’t lose a day of homeschooling which is always what it feels like when we go midday for some reason! It is completely unreasonable how much pleasure these purely mundane, logistical breakthroughs give me.

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