A Mama’s Grocery Shopping Survival Guide

There are a number of things we mamas do over and over again out of love for our children: tie their shoes when the laces come undone every two minutes, read them that one book they always pick at bedtime, gently remind them to not pick their noses or chew with their mouths closed multiple times a day like a memo that doesn’t get read. 

And then there are the bigger things that demand more herculean efforts (as if those above weren’t crazy-making enough). Feeding our families (multiple times a day, even!), is one of those never-ending responsibilities that come with the job of being mom (and dad). But before you can get to the tasting of the pudding, you’ve got to get to the store to buy it first. 

Now, depending on your circumstance and personal preference, you may or may not be a huge fan of grocery shopping. I’m a divorced mama of four and have certainly been through every level of grocery shopping experience out there. Generally, I prefer to grocery shop alone at my fave tiny downtown store, or order groceries delivered straight to mi casa. 

To share a range of grocery shopping survival tactics, I called on my fellow ACM mamas to ask how they achieve the impossible week after week and make grocery shopping both doable and affordable for their families. Here’s what they had to say:

“I tried Shipt for over a year and only used it for convenience. Then I used H-E-B Curbside for a while. I realized it made me anxious every time because I couldn’t control the produce I was getting. Rock solid avocados and squishy fruit were not worth avoiding the store with all the kids in tow. I would honestly rather shop with all five kids than get unripe avocados. We do Costco about every three weeks and H-E-B at least twice a week for meat and produce. [We’re a] family of seven, and we aim to spend about $200 per week.” —Maria, family of seven

“I use Instacart and really like it. I try to have a set list of recurring items, then a checklist on my fridge to note things like dish detergent, etc. that need to be replenished. My goal, which is rarely hit, is to spend $100 or less per week/grocery order (it usually ends up being $120 to $150), because we sometimes do mid-week runs for “just one or two things” that can start adding up.” —Natalie, family of four

“I’ve been using H-E-B Curbside weekly on the regular for [the] last couple of months. I also supplement with organic meats and fruit/vegetables from Costco every two weeks. [We are a] family of four [with one] teen boy. [We] probably average about $150/$200 week, and we try to limit eating out to once a week.” —Rosalinda, family of four

“I don’t do delivery because I’m picky with produce. We are a family of six, my husband is Keto, I do fasting, and my kids eat like carnies. Our grocery bill is insane, probably $1500 a month. I try to buy sundries and pantry staples at Walmart and then all fresh stuff at H-E-B.” —Christie, family of six

“We are a family of four. I do H-E-B Curbside every Monday and spend about $200. We buy organic produce, mostly gluten free. I buy in bulk at Costco things like oil, snacks, and frozen seafood. I schedule Curbside for morning after school drop-off—I’m out anyway and [then] I don’t have to put the dog up for delivery.” —Emily, family of four

“We use Walmart Grocery Pickup every week. I have a calendar reminder on Thursday to schedule the pickup for Saturday or Sunday morning, usually in the 7:00–8:00 A.M. time slot. Most of the items we buy are re-orders from our ‘favorites’ list. I can leave the house at 6:45 A.M., go to the store, let them load the groceries in the back, drive home, get the kids to help put the groceries away, and be done with it all by 7:30 AM. Then we can prep for the fun stuff in our day. There is no charge for [Walmart Grocery Pickup]. Sometimes they give us bags of free samples. We use Walmart Grocery Pickup for things like staples, packaged goods, brand name items, cleaners, toiletries, eggs, dairy, frozen foods, candy, and snack foods, but we tend to buy more of our produce and meats at stores like Whole Foods or Central Market, or at farmers markets.” —Inga, family of four

“I got hooked on Shipt during my pregnancy. I do a monthly snack and pantry items stocking at Costco, and now that my baby is eight months old, I only place a Shipt order every two weeks for extra items I want or things I forgot to order. I like to peruse what’s new in the store, so I try to do my weekly shopping myself now. I’m a SAHM of two. I used to fight myself so hard on our grocery budget, but I’ve basically come to terms with spending insane money on organic produce, free range eggs, grass-fed meat, supplements, and household items (plus diapers and wipes). We spend $250–$300 a week, [which also includes] dog food/dog treats.” —Anna, family of four

“I do all my grocery planning for the week on Sundays. I do love Curbside, but my husband sometimes does the shopping because we live next to an awesome smaller H-E-B that has a bar in it. I try to plan at least two meals a week that will have leftovers and one night per week to eat out.” —Katie, family of four

“I do Walmart Grocery Pickup. I have the app on my phone and instead of adding everything to a list, I add it to the app and it’s ready for me to order when[ever I’m ready]. For meat, we prefer to go to H-E-B, but I have been buying everything else through the app.” —Aidée, family of four

“I’m currently using a combination of Hello Fresh meals twice a week; H-E-B Curbside; a Costco run about once a month; and various H-E-B in-store trips. I’m sure my methods aren’t the most budget-friendly, but I was smack out of dinner ideas and Hello Fresh has helped with that. Not sure if I can keep doing it, though, because it is expensive and doesn’t really save me much time, but it’s been fun to push my family out of their comfort zone a little.” —Jenny, family of four

“I use the husband delivery service. He buys all of our groceries. He does weekly Costco runs for some protein, most of our produce, and lunch/snack stuff. Our favorite peanut butter, jelly, and bread are also from Costco. He has two or three meat markets he uses for the other proteins, including Wiatrek’s and Tri-County Meat Market. We get some paper goods from Amazon Subscribe and Save. And whatever is left is from H-E-B. We probably spend $200 or so per week for our family of four.” —Shanti, family of four

“We’re a family of three with a 14-month-old boy, and I swear he eats like a high school football player (I fear the grocery bills in our future). I meal plan on Sunday [and] go to the store(s) on Monday. I take a trip to Costco every other week and like to stock up on produce we go through quickly, snacks, and organic meat. I like [to buy meat] in bulk because I can freeze the packs we don’t use and pull them out when needed. Everything else I buy in store at H-E-B. It’s usually a fun outing for my son (I’m a SAHM) and allows me to pick what I want. We mostly eat organic, farm-raised, grass-fed, etc., and the average weekly bill is usually somewhere between $100–150. I also will look at H-E-B’s weekly specials and sometimes the coupons on their app and base our meals off what’s on sale.” —Gracie, family of three

Amy
Amy Johnson is a divorced mama of four kids, ages 15, 11, 10, and 8. She’s lived in San Antonio for over 20 years and has a degree in English from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Previously a program director at a local literary arts nonprofit, she began blogging as a creative outlet when she became a stay-at-home mom. Now a freelance social media consultant, writer, and crafter, Amy believes in the power of handmade, secondhand, and eco-friendly living. Her favorite craft store is the thrift store, and she shares DIY and creative lifestyle ideas on her blog, Maker Mama.