As a blind mom of two toddlers who has a husband with an unpredictable schedule, I pride myself on being prepared. I don’t usually get opportunities to take food shopping trips, and I can’t live my life relying on the kindness of strangers to feed my family. Since having my first child three years ago, I’ve developed some good solutions for keeping my family healthy and well fed. Here’s my top ten list of strategies to avoid unnecessary shopping trips:
1. Freeze Bread/ Butter/Cream Cheese: How often does someone run to the store for bread at your house? My husband was making an additional trip to the store for bread at least once a week. My solution – keeping at least one extra loaf in the freezer. I also freeze butter and cream cheese.
2. Buy Organic Milk & Cheese: Organic food is more expensive and supposed to have additional health benefits. However, that’s not why I buy it. I buy it because it has a longer shelf life than traditional dairy. Organic milk “use by” dates are almost always nearly a month longer than traditional milk. The same is true for individually wrapped organic cheese slices. I keep two half gallons of organic milk and one package of organic cheese singles on hand in case I run out of the non-organic kind. This keeps essential dairy items in my refrigerator for my growing toddlers.
3. Take Advantage of the Season & Use Frozen Options: I absolutely hate asking anyone to run to the store for me. However, during the spring and summer, there is a farmer’s market that many of my friends frequent. Last year, I had neighbors text me offering to pick up anything I needed while they shopped. I felt better about this option because no one was being inconvenienced by making a trip just for my needs. I take advantage of my neighbors’ offers, reimbursing them for their purchases for my family.
My kids eat strawberries and blueberries like they are going out of style. I keep bags of frozen berries in my freezer in case no one gets to the farmer’s market that week. I just defrost and serve. The kids have never noticed the difference.
4. Local Community Shopping/Relationships: About sixteen blocks from my house, there is a really nice Italian deli. For years I would go into the store with my cane and attempt to look for what I needed. While checking out one day, the cashier seemed very friendly. I explained that I was blind and we struck up a conversation. She admitted to noticing my cane (of course) and was kind enough to introduce me to some of the men behind the deli counter and a few of the other employees in the store. They now know me by name and eagerly offer to help me when I shop alone. Not only do they tell me what’s fresh in the meat department, but “if” on the rare occasion they move some of their stock; they almost always let me know. In addition, they have delivered to me in a pinch (like when my entire family got the stomach flu and no one could drive) and they don’t do that for all their customers. Sometimes, it’s all about cultivating relationships.
5. Use Home Delivery Services: Currently in my area there are two grocery chains that offer home delivery service: ShopRite & Stop & Shop Peapod. You simply go online and choose your items, enter your store discount card, pay by check or credit card, and the groceries are delivered to your home for a nominal fee (between $5 and $10 bucks). I usually give the delivery person a tip for carrying my groceries inside and before they leave I hand them an envelope filled with any coupons I may have clipped. The store will then take the total value of your coupons off you next delivery order. No crowds. No lines. No problem. It’s really food shopping made easy.
6. Make Companies & Stores Work for You: Since becoming a mom, I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing what stores deliver what in the shortest amount of time. If you don’t have Amazon Prime; get it. No, seriously, do it now. Everything you order will be delivered with free, two-day shipping – not to mention you also get some of their other video and music subscription services. If I need diapers, done. Toilet paper, no problem. Birthday presents for my daughters, boom they’re there. It’s absolutely worth it’s weight in gold.
Equally beneficial are office supply stores, like Staples. Staples has a courier service, meaning big items are delivered in a private van, to your door, the next day. I use them if I need bottled water, cleaning supplies or certain snacks (cookies, gum, granola bars). It’s like utilizing one of those warehouse type stores without paying the membership fee. The prices are very reasonable because their primary clientele are businesses. It’s a great trick for any mom to save money and get stuff brought right to your door.
7. Stock Up on Canned Goods: Do you remember those corny “can-can” sale commercials from when we were kids? I always thought they were the stupidest thing, geared only towards senior citizens and doomsday preppers. Well, fast forward twenty years and I am all about a good “can-can” sale. I take the opportunity as a chance to stock up on any non-perishable item I may need. I buy everything from canned beans to tomatoes and vegetables. If you can afford it, take advantage of it. Use the delivery service I mentioned earlier and you’ll never have to lift the bags yourself. And if you order a large enough quantity, ask for the cans to be delivered in boxes. This will allow for easy storage.
8. Formula/ Diapers/Wipes/ Favorite Snacks: If you have an infant or toddler, try to put aside the extra funds to keep at least two containers of formula and one case of diapers/wipes in reserve. Also maintain a stash of your child’s favorite snacks. In my house, that means an extra box of Ritz crackers and some tubes of Gerber puffs. Whatever your kids like, it’s better to have more than less, especially if they are in that picky toddler stage.
9. Be Ready for Sickness: Consider this scenario, you’re fast asleep and all of a sudden the sound of your toddler screaming “mommy” propels you out of bed. You rush into their room and find them covered in puke. Yup! It happens and trust me when I tell you, it’s not pretty. You need to keep things in your home to be prepared for wonderful parenting moments such as these. Store at least one bottle of unflavored Pedialyte. I recommend unflavored because you can add it to almost any drink that your child enjoys without them noticing it. I also keep jello, applesauce, instant rice and saltines in my cabinets. Finally, buy a box of your child’s favorite ice pops and throw them in the freezer. Pedialyte also makes ice sticks that have a long shelf life and help with dehydration in the event of tummy troubles.
10. Invest in Storage: If you do stock up on any of these items, you will need a place to put everything. Invest in a storage system that fits your needs and optimizes your space. In my house, I store most of these items in my basement on one large folding table. I also have a metal shelving unit. Everything is labeled making it easy to access with my visual impairment and equally simple for my sighted husband.
Look, we all love to have a few minutes of parental peace as we stroll through the grocery store. Sometimes, that’s just not in the cards based on the weather, lack of transportation or because it’s a pain in the neck to get what you need with kids in tow. If you stay organized and get prepared, you will easily limit unnecessary trips to the store and can use that time to spend with your family instead.