Friday, September 17, 2010

Guest Post: Six Grocery Shopping Strategies for Busy Moms

I hope you all enjoy this guest post from busy working mom Amanda.  I think it has great strategies that are applicable both to moms that work outside the home and those who don't, especially about balancing your couponing and money-saving with the rest of your life.

For over a year now, I’ve been trying to find the right balance between making myself stressed out and insane at the store with my two screaming children and saving money. Several “bad” trips to the grocery store with high bills, wrong coupons, and grumpy cashiers made me re-evaluate my multiple stores/loss leaders/plus coupons save-save-save policy. While it is technically possible to feed my family on less than the $100 a week or so that I currently spend, it comes at a great personal cost to me in terms of stress. I get plenty of stress on my daily commute to work, and I certainly don’t want any more at the grocery store! I don’t see a lot of tips specifically geared toward working moms on the frugal websites that I’ve found, so I’ve adapted and omitted, until I’ve come up with something that works for me. Maybe it can help you, too, because no matter whether we work inside or outside of the home, one thing that any mom I know can say is that she is BUSY!

1. Forgive yourself for not being able to do every deal possible. This might mean that you pay more for something than someone else because you don’t have time to go to CVS, Target, and Walmart. Figure out what you can do, and let the rest go! If I have to buy detergent, I can’t make it to another store where it’s on sale, and none of my coupons are very good, then fine, I just buy generic and try better next time. Leading me to…

2. Plan ahead as much as possible. I menu plan in 2 week cycles and do one major shopping trip for every 2 week period. Then, I replenish eggs, milk, and produce mid-cycle in a quick trip on my lunch break.

3. Read blogs! If you can find a deal to do (such as the recent Medco one) that doesn’t require you to leave your chair, jump on it before it’s gone. These are easy wins. They are also excellent resources for coupon matchups and printable coupons.

4. Don’t be afraid to think “outside the box”. For example, I must confess that I hate Aldi.  Our Aldi is really nasty and dirty and there are flies all over the produce section. I can’t bring myself to shop there. So, instead I looked around my office- where can I quickly run in on my lunch break to do our midcycle replenishment of perishables? I found a multitude of options, a Magruders (which has awesome local produce prices), a farmers market at work on Tuesdays in the summer, and a great (clean!) international market right by daycare. There is also a Giant near my office if I need something specific or if they have a great deal on free cereal! See what options are available on your typical routes and rotate around until you find the best places for certain things. I also often have my groceries delivered with Peapod. That may sound like a huge extravagance, but sometimes I actually spend less than when I physically go to the store. I love how I can easily sort by unit price or actual price to find the lowest prices, and the grocery specials are similar to what I would get at Giant. I can easily sit down with my list and make sure that I have everything I need in my virtual cart, avoiding a return trip to the store for the “one thing” I forgot. I also never impulse buy- there is nothing to tempt me!  They accept coupons and my driver often gives me special coupons for a few dollars off my order. So, don’t rule out alternative options before you’ve explored them. This leads me to the best piece of advice that I’ve ever gotten from another working mom…

5. Do as much as possible on your lunch break. The store is relatively empty, you don’t have kids and hubby with you and it’s nice to get away from your desk (especially if you, like me, always bring your lunch).

6. It’s okay to take a break when you need one. I am currently not doing any drugstore deals. I’ve had too many bad experiences at CVS and Rite-Aid recently (I hate dealing with cashiers who don’t care about/understand coupon policies) and I’m just taking a break from it and using up my stockpiles. I’ll get back to it eventually.

I hope that you found these strategies helpful! I have enjoyed the opportunity to share them with you.


Amanda is a working mom to two beautiful children, aged 1 and 3, and the wife of an incredibly sweet and helpful husband. She struggles to apply frugal living concepts to their busy lives and find a balance between saving money and spending time. Amanda lives with her family in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC.


  1. Thanks for the tips Amanda!
    I'm sad to hear that the Aldi near you is not so great. I love the one near me in Manassas, but it is a fairly new store (within the past 2 years). I also love the fact that it has German origins, since I family from over there. I actually post the weekly Aldi deals on my blog and in my opinion (where I live) it far surpasses other stores like Bottom Dollar, etc. but I understand that your local store experience will vary and we all have certain lines we draw on where we will shop.

    Love the tip on getting deals when you can, but not stressing out over getting every single deal. It's so easy to get burnt out, and it's not humanly possible to snag every deal. For busy moms, do what you can but don't make it overwhelming. We all have enough stress in our lives as busy moms!

    Take care,

  2. Good six point protection for moms. I make full use of 'lunch break'! We just need to learn time management with more efficacy.

  3. Great tips! I used to go after work and not get home until later, thus postponing dinner etc. Now I go home and enjoy dinner and family, then shop later in the evenings. I, like you, plan meals that are going to last a few days, that way I do not have to spend as much or go as often.


Thanks for commenting. I love to hear your feedback!