Part 4 of Once-A-Month Shopping ~
Shopping Day is going to be exhausting no matter how you slice it. At one point in time, I was going to 3 different stores to buy everything I needed. When I am pregnant, my husband asks that I choose the one store where I can get everything and buy from there exclusively. This will have to be a decision between you and your husband, but remember, your time and energy is worth a lot.
The next decision that must be made is whether or not to take all the children or just some of the children. I will be honest with you…even if you are a small family, you will most likely need more than one cart; therefore, needing a helper of some sorts. At one point in time, my husband was able to come and help, so we took all the children. Occasionally, I have taken all the children by myself. Now, I typically take my oldest to help out while my husband stays home with everyone else. I honestly can’t say that one way is better than another. They all have their merits and their downfalls.
Of course, this aspect of shopping day cannot always be a matter of preference. Sometimes you have no choice as to whether you take all or one of the children. If this is the case, make sure you start your day when the children are the least likely to be hungry or tired, have set rules in place (who sits in the cart, who holds onto the cart, no whining for food while in the store, etc), and be prepared to NOT get all the shopping done in one day. If you don’t set your expectations too high for Shopping Day, you won’t be disappointed when you have to head home without everything on your list.
Next decision is what vehicle to take based on how much room you need. For those of you with one vehicle, this is a no-brainer. Our family has my husband’s work car and our minivan (now a 15 passenger van). If you are only taking one child with you, then a car may do because you will have several easily-accessed seats as well as the trunk space. Our minivan just about doesn’t do the trick because our seats have quite a few car seats attached to them (and I really dislike pulling them out and putting them back in). Also, shopping at one store with all the children in a minivan just doesn’t work well. When we shopped at several stores with all the children, we had to stop between stores and unload.
Quick reminder: CLEAN OUT YOUR VEHICLE!
Do not try to do a once-a-month shopping trip with a trunk or cargo space full of junk. For those of you who have seen the Dugger docu-dramas, you may have noticed that they take a seat or two out of their 15 passenger before their shopping trip. This is a feasible idea when you have older children who can help with this task, but for a family of mostly littles, it just doesn’t seem doable. But, I have no doubt, you will find some way that works.
Now, you are FINALLY ready to leave the house! Don’t forget, if you are shopping at a warehouse type place (like Aldi), you will need your own bags and boxes. And of course, don’t forget your money and your Master Grocery List! Another thing you will need is a good, working pen. I know, that seems like a silly thing to say, but trust me, a 4 page shopping list WITHOUT a pen is a NIGHTMARE!
Once you have a working knowledge of the layouts of the different stores you will be going to, you can arrange your list accordingly (until they remodel and completely confuse you!) I would also encourage you to price check if you are choosing to go to more than one store. The easiest way to do this is to simply jot down the price at each store next to each item you pick up. Don’t beat yourself up if this first time you buy tomato sauce for $.10 more than you could have bought it for down the street…it’s a learning curve.
As you work your way through your list, mark things off. I have also realized that when working with a list this large, it is easy to visually lose track of those items you haven’t gotten yet, especially after you’ve gotten almost everything on that particular page. When I get down to just a few items on a page, I circle those items. This also helps me to see at a glance what I didn’t get at my one store because they didn’t have it in stock or it wasn’t to my liking (like the strawberries this last time…all moldy…yuck!)
I also choose to shop with 1 cart until I need the next cart. I then send my oldest to get the next cart and we proceed to fill his up as well. For our size of family, it takes 2 full carts to do our monthly shopping.
I am also going to add in here that patience is a virtue. This kind of shopping is not to be done on a day when you must rush and not to be done with the mindset that you have to get in and get out as fast as you can even if you truly aren’t on a time schedule. Even if your actual shopping is flawless, you will somehow find yourself in a checkout line that comes to an utter standstill with 2 people ahead of you and 2 people behind you. Freaking out now would be ridiculous. Take a deep breath and be patient. You’d want people to be patient with you if it were you holding up the line…and someday, it probably will be you.
Now, for some reason, bags of groceries do not fit as well in a cart as loose groceries, so you may have to be rather creative to get all those groceries you just piled into your cart back into your cart once they’ve been sacked. Head out to the vehicle and unload, making sure you and those who are helping you are aware of the finer points of stacking groceries (hint: bread does not fair well at the bottom of the pile). In fact, give this crash course prior to entering the grocery store since stacking rules also apply when putting things into a cart.
The next step of Shopping Day is my least favorite…putting the groceries away. In fact, it is not uncommon for me to find all the cold stuff, put it all away, and leave the rest to be done the next day. I do not have any children old enough to stock a pantry properly, so the entire job of putting pantry items away is mine. Soon, I hope to train my oldest to do it, but he is just not quite there yet. (3 years later, we are there!)
A quick note about my pantry. In our previous home, we had no real cupboard space. This required me to buy heavy duty shelves to place in the kitchen as well as utilizing the space beneath our buffet. If this is your plight, then use those creative brain cells and figure something out. One home we lived in had linen shelves above the washer and dryer. I kept my towels elsewhere so I could use that space to store canned goods since there was very limited cabinet space in the kitchen itself. In our new home, I was very excited to find that what I originally thought was a coat closet in the dining room near the garage door was actually an already shelved pantry! That is another option…fix a coat closet up with shelving (ours is just metal brackets and boards) and store your coats in your closets or on hooks somewhere else.
No matter what form your pantry takes, I would highly encourage you…no, I command you!…to make it neat and usable. This doesn’t mean alphabetizing the cans, but it does mean having things in some sort of order, so they are at your fingertips and easy to see. A hodge-podge of a pantry will not be utilized as it should be and you will not save money because you will forever be buying duplicates of items you already had on hand but couldn’t see because of your poorly organized pantry. I say this as someone who has been there, done that. Learn from my mistakes…please!
We also have 2 refrigerators and an upright freezer. However, this is not necessary. We did without for a long time; however, now that we buy our beef 1/2 a side at a time, the freezer is necessary. The refrigerator came with the house, and has proved to be a nice addition. But, I wouldn’t want anyone to feel they couldn’t shop once a month successfully without the extra appliances. It is possible. I have done it.
Now, you are fully stocked and ready to cook for the month. And, as was said in one of the comments, even if you don’t make exactly what is on your menu list, you still have enough in your pantry to make something.
To me, this is what being fully stocked is all about. If I suddenly need a specific dish that I didn’t have on my list, it is rarely a big deal because I still have the ingredients on hand. If I have to take away from a meal that is on the list because of this impromptu meal, I simply cross the orginal meal off my list so I am aware I no longer have the ingredients on hand to make that dish. This is what I do anyway once a meal has been prepared and I am out of those specific ingredients. I also keep notes on my Meal List as to whether or not a meal was liked or disliked…a smiley face means it was well-received by all and a dish that has been scribbled through means I won’t be serving that again!
So, that is Shopping Day. And this, my friends, is the end of the series on Once-A-Month Shopping!