5 Tips for Shopping with Kids

I like to shop at the store in the daytime when I need things. The stores are less crowded, quieter and I can get more done in a shorter time. But, it wasn’t always that way. Sometimes, it was very hard to shop with my small children. One of my daughters didn’t doesn’t like shopping and got upset almost every time we went. Online grocery shopping wasn’t available at the time so one of us shopped at night or early on Saturday mornings so we could beat the crowds. But, here’s some tips on shopping with kids.

  1. Don’t. Whenever possible, try to shop without your kids or with less of your kids. I tried to plan trips to the store around my kids being in school. Taking one child to the store was much more manageable than taking four. I also found the trips were quicker if I just waited until they were in bed and my husband was home.
  2. Plan ahead. I found that shopping with my kids was even harder without a list or a plan. Wandering around the aisles of Target trying to remember my list was pretty hard when I had my kids with me. The longer I was at the store, the more likely to have somebody get upset.
  3. Schedule. This is a big one. Plan around your child’s schedule. If you know your child feels tired after school, let them have a break before dragging them to the store. Also, don’t go to the store during naptime or mealtime. Neither of those will help you get in and out quicker or for less money.
  4. Talk. Find a way to get the child involved. Giving them a way to help with the list, really helps get it done quicker. They get the satisfaction of helping, too. If you can’t involve them, let them talk to you. Connect at the store by listening to their stories or playing a silly game.
  5. Don’t get frustrated. It is so easy to get frustrated or even embarrassed. If you are getting very frustrated or upset, you can leave. You don’t need to leave, but you could. Sometimes, I wish I could help you poor mamas because I know it is so hard. I just want to buy you a candy bar. “What other people think of you is none of your business.” (Jody Moore) Don’t worry about what other people think about you, your parenting, or your child. Just stay focused on helping your child and getting your shopping done.

You can do this. Even when the shopping trips don’t go as planned, you’ve still got this and you’re doing a great job. Keep on trying and I promise this will eventually pass.


Meal Preparation

three person holding mason jars

Google “meal prep” and you will get five ads for services that offer this service. They are doing a great service but they charge a premium to deliver prepared foods to your door. Your food and grocery budget is an easy way to stop overspending. If you are always looking at the easiest option, you will always be paying the highest price.

Meal preparation can help you not to overspend or go out at the last minute. Preparing meals yourself provides you with health and savings benefits. It is always preferable to know exactly what ingredients are going into your food. Here are some meal preparation tips.

  1. Plastic tubs, Ziploc bags, and dry-erase markers. If you have plenty of plastic containers with matching lids, you can prepare many different foods beforehand. On the plastic tubs, I write with dry-erase markers and then it comes off in the dishwasher. I write the date and what’s in the container before I put it in the freezer or fridge.
  2. Double-batch. Whenever you are cooking or preparing, make a double batch and freeze the rest. My family really doesn’t like leftovers but if I put half of it in the fridge and pull it out while they are gone during the day, they don’t always know it’s a leftover.
  3. Prepare meats and vegetables for the week. Don’t buy already prepared vegetables because the cost is higher. Wash, cut and package your own vegetables. Look at your menu and cook all the meat for the week ahead of time. Meat can take 30+ minutes just to cook. Last night, I used two pans. I used one for the meat and one for the rest of the meal so we could eat at our normal time. If I had just cooked the chicken ahead of time, I would have saved myself a pan to clean. Meat can also be cooked before it is frozen.
  4. Rice. I use my rice cooker or instant pot for all of my rice. I can start rice and walk away or run a carpool. But if you find you don’t have time to cook rice, then cook rice the weekend before and keep some in the freezer.
  5. Slow Cooker and Instant Pot. We all know we can save a lot of time by cooking our food in the slow cooker or instant pot. I love both because I can start it in the morning and then come home right at dinner and there is something to eat. Both are perfect for the busy days that plague our efforts of eating at home. You can prepare and even freeze several meals that you just throw into the slow cooker before work and they are ready to go at dinnertime. Search “Freezer Slow-Cooker Meals” for some great ideas.

Meal preparation is another great way to help manage your food and grocery budget. A little preparation goes a long way in helping you manage your families’ budget.


Grocery Shopping on a Budget

The USDA has a chart to calculate how much the average family spends on groceries each week. According to the chart, the thrifty plan for my family of five would spend $191.50 each week. For my family, I spend $110 per week at the grocery store. Even when there was six of us (with two teenage boys), I only spent $120 per week.

I have a lot of tips and most of them start with planning ahead. I don’t go to the store without a list planned from my menu plan. I also don’t go more then once a week. Every time, I do that I spend too much money. Just yesterday, my store didn’t have something that my husband really wanted. So, he went to a different store and spent $15. We have extra cash each week and he used that because we really try to stay within our budget limits.

Here are some other tips:

-Don’t buy prepackaged treats. Prepackage your own treats. The big bag is much less expensive then buying prepackaged foods. Also, I’ve heard the tip that the kids can’t eat the packaged stuff at home. So, they need to get out a bowl and eat from the big package.

-Buy less convenience foods. I always balance my need to save time with my need to be on a budget. I do buy shredded cheese instead of the block. I will generally have some frozen meals in the freezer. But, I think about how much it would cost me compared to eating out before I purchase it. I don’t buy really expensive and super convenient foods. Learn how to cook. Usually, you can find easy recipes online for similar items and make it yourself for a lot cheaper.

-Stock up on sales. When there is a sale on items we use a lot, I will stock up. There’s a case of canned tomato sauce in the basement right now. I only buy some things when they are on sale and then we use it up before buying more.

-Organize your food. Go through your fridge, freezer and pantry occasionally. Make sure that you are using the items before they expire or go bad. You aren’t saving money if you’re throwing things away all the time.

-Store brands. Don’t overlook the store or generic brands. Some of these items are made by the same manufacturers just packaged in more generic containers. Medicine is a big one. Usually for a fourth of the price, I can purchase OTC medications that aren’t name-brand.

-Do the math. Generally, we think that the bigger box is going to be the better deal. Make sure you are doing the math and spending the least per ounce. Ranch dressing is often a good example of this. The biggest container is only the best deal when it’s on sale. We use a lot of Ranch so I’m conscious of the price.

Grocery budgets are an easy way to make or break your budget. Plan ahead and look for ways to save money. You will find that it gets easier and you aren’t spending as much time once you have tried making a list and menu plan each week.


5 Ways Meal Planning Will Save You Time.

Meal planning can save you lots of money. It is also good for your health. But, I’m a busy mom with four kids and want help you see all the benefits. So, today I’ll share my top time-saving tips for meal planning. These take more time upfront. But, once you get a system in place meal planning and grocery shopping will be quick and easy.

Simplify. Look at the nights you know you need some quick and easy. Plan ahead and do batch cooking on the weekend. Having meat pre-cooked saves a lot of time on those busy nights during the week. It takes a lot less time to precook your meat in a big batch and only wash the dishes once.

Know your habits. Meal planning helps you see your habits and know your go-to meals. Your dinner habits are different then mine. You will start to see what days you will cook and what days you could plan leftovers or simple meals. Know your go-to meals. If you have ingredients for a few simple meals available, you won’t be looking in the kitchen trying to decide something to cook. You can think about the meal before you get home, pull out the ingredients, and get cooking.

Reuse menus. I reuse menus almost every month. My family likes about thirty meals. So, I just copy and paste my previous month’s menu. I always adjust and add things here and there.

Shop less and organize shopping trips. You shop less when you have a menu planned. You don’t need to stop at the store every day to buy ingredients for whatever you decided to cook at the last minute.

Menu planning really does save time, money, and blesses your health. What are your favorite ways to save time when you meal plan?

Click on my contact page to get a free budget consultation. Meal planning is an easy way to start budgeting your money.#budget


#mealplanning #budgetcoaching #grocery #shopping

Photo by Artem Riasniansky


Meal Planning: Health & Money Benefits

My grandma always knew what she was making every night for dinner. It was generally the same meat and potatoes but she knew. She only went to the store once a week and bought all the items she needed. This is meal planning at it’s easiest. She knew what she was having, made a list and went to the store.

I don’t enjoy having the same meal every day of the week but I only like to shop once a week. Every time I go to the store, especially without a list, I overspend a little. The stores know this and plan out ways to get you to spend more every time you step in the store. Meal planning is a great way to avoid extra trips to the store. Meal planning can also have these health benefits.

  • Control. Meal planning gives you advance control of what you eat and what goes into every meal.
  • Balance. Meal planning helps you see if you are eating the balance of foods you want. If I don’t meal plan, it’s a lot easier to say we’ll just have the processed food in the freezer AGAIN.
  • Impulse Control. When you have a grocery list and know what you need to buy, you walk around the store empowered to just buy the things you need. If you buy one or two items not on the list, you have still done a lot better then going to the store without a list at all.

Don’t make meal planning complicated or expensive. Look in your pantry and plan around the things you already have. If you like to try new recipes, try to find other meals that include the same ingredients. Good luck with your meal plan in March.

If you click on this post, you can print out my free March menu plan calendar.


Meal Planning DIY Style

I have a written a meal plan every month for years. It works so well for us. I keep mine flexible. If I don’t want to make something or we are too busy, I just look at the week and figure out what works for that night. So easy. But, I already have the ingredients on hand for each dinner.

Here are three of the reasons I like to make my own.

  1. My family is TOO picky. Let’s be honest, I’m picky, too. So, I look at those meal plans and while they look good most of the time, my family wouldn’t eat half of the meals. So, I’d be constantly looking for things to add in, anyway.
  2. My family mostly rotates through the same meals. The meals plans need to come up with new and exciting recipes all the time or what are you paying for. All I do is copy the same menu from last year this month. So, I copy over the current month from a year ago. I look it over and make sure that it still matches with things we like to eat. I add in any new recipes we have found that we like. I also add in a few tryout recipes to see if my family will eat them.
  3. I would rather spend the money on actual food. A quick search through my pinterest page can find great pictures of food my family will enjoy. I would rather have the money I would spend on a meal plan to purchase the food I want and know we will eat.

Making a meal plan is an essential part of budgeting. It keeps you from last-minute grocery store purchases and eating out all the time. My family rarely eats out because it can be very expensive to take out a family of six including two teenage boys. When we do it is very intentional and already figured in the budget.

I have a free printable meal planner for March. Look at your calendar and start filling it in. Once you’ve filled it in with your regular dinner items, you can look on pinterest to add in a few new things.