Food shopping for the family

In 2013 I wrote a series of posts on food shopping for the family. I conducted a survey of readers to see where they were shopping and how much they were spending. The results were super interesting and well worth the read. Especially this post where I collated reader tips to help you save on your food bill.

As part of the series I shared how we shopped for food for our family. This is one of the bonuses of writing this blog, I document some fairly banal elements of family life which are actually pretty interesting to read five years later and see how things have changed!

So looking back at what I wrote in 2013, this was what our food shopping for the family looked like. To give it perspective our kids were aged 14, 11, 9, 6 and 4.

  • Basic grocery items – An online monthly shop. I do at times though mix this up and go do the monthly shop at the supermarket just to the browse the aisles and see what is new.
  • Meat – Bought monthly from a butcher and freeze it.
  • Fruit and veg – each Saturday Mr I gets up early and goes to the market and buys it all there. We now have to do a mid week top on the fruit on Wed or Thu, depending on the fruit in season and the space in our fridge! We keep the apples in the fridge, so they can take up a bit of space.
  • Bread  – bought on an as needs basis from local bakeries or when I am out and about.
  • Milk – bought on an as needs basis, generally by Mr I in the evening.

How things have changed! I haven’t done an online monthly shop for many years, nor has my husband been to the market for fruit and veg for quite some time. I simply cannot store the quantity of food I would need for a month in our pantry and Saturdays are now most often too full with sporting commitments to fit in a trip to the market.

I do one main shop a week and if all goes to plan then one top up shop a week. Sometimes there may be two top up shops depending on what is going on with the family, but I really try to avoid this where possible. So food shopping for the family now in 2018 looks like this:

  • Basic grocery items – a weekly shop at ALDI at some point from Friday to Sunday. The time and day is totally dependent upon what activities we have on for the weekend. I tend to work out when I will do the shop on Thursday. The top up shop is generally Wednesday or Thursday. Where I do the top up shop depends on what I have on. If I shop on Thursdays it will most likely be at Coles as there is one right next to where I do my yoga class. If it is a late Wednesday night type of shop, then it will be Woolies as it would be the closest open supermarket to me. If it is an after school shop it will most likely be ALDI.
  • Meat – I shop weekly for meat at a combination of a local butcher/s and ALDI.
  • Fruit and veg -combination of local green grocer/s and ALDI. I have a few green grocers I like in different locations, so it all depends where I am shopping where I go.
  • Bread  – bought on an as needs basis from our local bakery on the walk back from taking the youngest to school.
  • Milk – we are currently going through an extremely large amount of milk and eggs, so we buy significant amounts each time we are at the supermarket!.

Unpacking the food shop

One of the reasons I like to do the main food shop on the weekends is so the family can help with the rather huge task of putting the food away and possibly even delegate the shopping to someone else to do!

Occasionally my husband will do the shop but mostly it is me. We have a rule whereby if any of the kids come to the shops with me and help, they don’t have to help unpack when we get home. Once I get home from the shops, it is all hands on deck – who ever is home needs to help. This process starts with helping get everything from the car to inside the house.

All available kids and adults need to help put things away. Getting kids to help with this part can be super frustrating at the start because the kids will ask lots of questions about what goes where, shove items away in an untidy fashion and make the odd mess doing it all.

But the more weeks that they are required to do this, the better they get at it. I have a very common phrase that I repeated many times over the first few months of getting the kids involved – “start with what you know”. I found that one child in particular would look for the most obscure items and then ask where they went – it was definitely a work avoidance strategy. So when the kids ask me where an item goes and there are still plenty of items that they know where to put, I remind them to start with what they know and then we work on the other items at the end.

The kids are expected to put the flour in the flour container, rice in the rice container etc and not just shove it away, although this does happen some times and I will have to call the child back to do it properly. Once they work out that they will be called back to do it properly after the fact, they also work out it is just better to do it properly in the first place.

In the beginning getting kids to take items out of packaging and into containers might cost you more time than it saves you. You have to show them how to do it, they then might spill it or put it in the wrong container, but there is only one way they will learn and that is by doing it. While initially painful, it is really worthwhile persisting with it and they do get better!

When it comes to fruit and veg I currently tend to put them away myself so I can wash them, and most often chop them and put them away in containers prepped for the week. I do however, want the kids to work up to doing this too.

I would love to hear how you manage the shopping and the shopping workload amongst your family – feel free to share in the comments below.

Comments 9

  1. Great read! Currently it all falls to me. We have a newish puppy so one child is generally distracting him while i bring in the bags. I assumed they’d be too young to bring bags in but now I’m rethinking that. I like tge idea of getting kids to help out away as it’s the onky part of grocery shopping I don’t like.

    Side note, it would be interesting to do that survey again and see what spending is like these days. But then the fundamentals probably haven’t changed.

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      Hi Eliza,

      It would be interesting to do the survey again and see what has changed. ALDI has certainly grown in prominence so I think the survey would show a lot more people shopping at their stores.

      I am not sure I can ever do a puppy again!


  2. I love reading about this stuff. Our circumstances are quite different. It’s just me, my husband and our five year old. We do a weekly shop at the supermarket on a Monday night. My husband and I take turns – we both actually quite enjoy it, especially if we are alone and the supermarket is quiet.

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  3. Hi in my family there is 6 children but most have grown up now my eldest is 36 this year my youngest is 16 I have always made a menu for meals and if a child is home they can have an opinion of what to have for meals and if they don’t then they eat what I make or get a bowl of weetbix now there is only my 16 yr old home it’s much less I also have a pantry where I can store lots so I build that up and then it’s only meat and vegetables I need to buy and I only go once a week and we buy bread and milk and freeze them.

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  4. Thanks Nicole, I love to get a nosy peak at the nitty gritty of other people’s families! I have a 5yo (just started Prep), 4 yo who does 2 days a week of day-care and an 8 month old. I try to shop on one of the days when I don’t have the older ones with me and can try and fit it into my bubba’s awake window but I generally find the grocery shop exhausting, once I’ve put it all away and dealt with bagging everything and jollying along a baby and what not. It’s interesting to note that the ‘top-up shop’ is a thing – I get frustrated if I have to go to the shops a second time in the week but I’m seeing that it is just a necessity to keep fresh veg / deli meat etc going for the whole week.
    Question: At what stage is a separate freezer cost effective do you think? I wonder if by the time you’ve paid for the electricity to keep it running it overrides the “Look, meat on special, I’ll get heaps and freeze it” savings. Does that make sense? But I do love a bulk cook up and knowing you’ve got some back up meals in case you get sick and life crashes a bit.

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