Shop Smart

Do you like shopping? I have had seasons when doing a regular grocery shop with 3-4 smallish children is like a re-enactment of a horror movie. Everything goes wrong, the kids misbehave, it takes so so long, you cannot find a park and you end of doing a grab and go approach, thus breaking every rule of the weekly budget. Sound familiar? I have especially fond memories of toppling trolleys with kids inside, dislocating my knee while pregnant and pushing a heavy load to the car and a kid needing the toilet, when the trolley was full to the brim.

The question is how do you shop well, regularly (so you don’t run out of essentials) and relatively painlessly? I have tried many strategies, some have worked for a while, many have failed. And the bottom line is that I am not all that consistent. But if you need some new ideas here are some from me and some great girlfriends who have shared how they shop. Choose one approach and trial it for awhile.

Making lists:
– Use a blackboard to make the list then take a picture of it on your smartphone before going shopping
– Use an app on your phone to make lists using your local supermarket guide. Some have barcode scanners for easy updates of your pantry items
– recycle old envelopes and use them as a shopping list pad
– Use one of the many menu planners around online and adapt the shopping list to suit. I particularly like The Project Girl, Jen Allyson for a great yearly planner, meal planners and the shopping lists look great too.

Big and Bulky:
– Plan some kid free time to do a massive shop once a month. Buy bulk items like toilet paper, cleaning and personal products, tinned food and dry staples for the pantry. Think large bags of flour, oil, sugar, pasta and so on. Just be prepared to find good storage options for each item.
– Or if you live in a large town take advantage of shopping online and have it delivered. I have done this both in Australia and overseas when the children were small and difficult to take shopping. It works. After you do it a few times your regular items are saved and shopping can be 10 minutes online while you have a cup of tea!

Make small shopping fun:
– Plan a trip to the local green grocer, butcher or baker and include meeting a friend for coffee in the outing. The trick to success is to ring ahead and order your goods with your local provider. Some stores allow you to have an account and some may even deliver locally. Avail yourself of all ┬áthese services.
– Investigate farmer’s markets, local community food co-ops and so on.

– If bulk buying scares you a little then opt to do it with a friend. Split the 10kg bag of flour or potatoes.
– Shop with a friend or take it in turns to watch each other’s kids while you do the supermarket run.

– Spend some time planning what you will eat, even if it is for 3-4 meals a week. This will help you save time and in theory money too. No more last minute 5 o’clock runs to the supermarket.
– If you are able to plan some meals and make double you can freeze the leftovers and have food to grab and go for extra busy night.

– Shop when no-one else does. Early in the morning or late at night. There will be no queues and if you time it right you may get all the clearance items to yourself.

If you have some more ideas to redeem the grocery store mayhem and shop smarter then please leave a comment. We would all love to hear how you do it!

Planning for family life

It is great fun learning to hang out all day with the family on holidays. It is fun because we don’t usually have so much time together – there is work and school, music and ballet classes, playgroup,youthgroup and rowing training that keeps us all apart.

I have been thinking about what makes a larger family “hang together”. What is the secret to doing life together in way that accounts for everyone’s needs but also challenges us to share more and work hard for each other? I found this Big Family Story quite interesting and honest about the ideas and expectations for family life. We have loads of routines and structures that help us connect regularly. Family dinner at 6pm on weeknights is sacred, reading the Bible together and praying is a priority, as is a regular dose of family movie time on a late Sunday afternoon. Daddy dates/mummy dates with individual kids. But there are many things I need to reflect on this week – chores, washing, cleaning up, organising and tidying, homework. Holidays become the break I need to reassess and reflect on what we are doing well and what needs to change.

According to Katie in her guest blog post, an industrial strength Miele dryer might be life changing. Hhhmmm. If only it was that simple.