Smart Food Shopping Tips for Busy Families

Grocery shopping can be quite a challenge, especially for busy families. After all, it can be difficult to get everything you need in one go and avoid midweek runs.

If you want your family to eat healthier even if everyone is busy, you should start looking for ways to improve the way you shop as well as the contents of your grocery shopping list.

Remember that if your fridge and cupboards are always filled with healthy food, your family is more likely to eat better. And if all of you are eating better, you can save money because you’ll have no need for take-outs and won’t incur unexpected expenses.

Whether you order what you need from an online grocery shop or hit the supermarket aisles every week, this article will teach you some smart food shopping tips that your busy family could benefit from.

1. Maintain a Running Grocery List

One of the main reasons families don’t normally get everything they need in one weekly trip to the grocery store is that their shopping list is prepared in just a single day.

While this can sometimes work, it may cause you to miss some items. You see, food items could run out any day of the week, which means there’s a higher chance that you would forget to include those that ran out on Tuesday when you write your grocery list on a Sunday.

Instead of doing it in one sitting, like in one weekend morning, keep a clipboard with a grocery list template hanging on your cabinet or stuck to the fridge. When you notice that you’re running low on a specific item, add it to the list at the very same moment. This will make writing a grocery list faster, easier, and more efficient.

Keep 10 copies of the template on a clipboard attached by a magnet to your fridge and refill when you’re down to the last two pages. Don’t forget to attach a hanging pen to encourage the use of the running list.

2. Assign One Day of the Week for Grocery Shopping

Assign one day of the week to go grocery shopping and get everything done on that day. This will help you remember that you need to accomplish the goal on your trip. For optimum convenience, schedule it on the farmers’ market day to get your pick of the freshest produce for your family.

3. Buy in Bulk

Another way to make sure that you have sufficient food for longer is to buy items in bulk on a single trip to the grocery store. Rather than going once a week, buy goods every two weeks, so you’ll have everything you need.

Just remember to plan your meals well to minimize wasted food.

One way to ensure this is to invest in a good freezer for frozen fruits and vegetables. Once your fresh produce is gone, you’ll still have some healthy options for your family’s meals.

Of course, you have to take practicality into account as well. If buying only one product is more economical, then do so. This means you always have to do the math when grocery shopping.

4. Plan Your Meals Ahead

Do you rack your brain every day trying to decide what to cook for your family? Why not plan your meals ahead?

A weekly meal plan allows you to decide what to feed your family for every single meal of every day of the week in advance, so you won’t have to stress yourself out constantly thinking about it. The best part is that it can also make writing a grocery list easier.

When planning your family’s meals, consider the time and versatility of ingredients. Include canned food, fresh vegetables, dairy products, and frozen goods. This will help you become more productive in the kitchen without getting too tired after preparing every meal.

5. Shop for Groceries Online

It’s a given that you’d want to check out fresh produce in person, but shopping online is the smart solution to overcome time constraints faced by busy families.

When buying from grocery chains with an online ordering feature like Gourmet 1004, you can enjoy time- and money-saving perks like impulse control, personalized shopping, and home delivery.

6. Be Smart About Adding Food Items in Your Grocery Cart

Besides saving time, effort, and money in the grocery store, you also need to shop for nutritious food. This is the most neglected part of grocery shopping since fresh produce can be a bit expensive and has a shorter shelf life.

However, buying food that’s good for the whole family doesn’t necessarily mean every ingredient must be freshly picked. It simply means choosing the right combination of food items in a meal to achieve a balanced diet.  For example you can find options like the healthiest canned chili.

Not sure what to buy that would pair well together? Here are some versatile food items that are must-haves in your grocery list:

Instant Foods

If you belong in a busy family, there will always be times when you just don’t have the time to prepare a home-cooked meal from scratch. Be prepared for such situations by including some instant foods in your grocery list.

One smart and healthy example is microwavable brown rice. This carbohydrate-rich food can be prepared at the last minute, even if you only have 90 minutes to spare. This way, you’ll have a no-fail, no-fuss rice component on your family’s plate.

To make the rice even healthier, toss in crumbled cheese and some herbs. You can also put it on a plate as a bed for reheated chili or a stir-fry.


Fish is another must-have food item that is also quick to cook. Since they take a short time to cook, fish and other kinds of seafood are excellent meal solutions for a hectic day of the week.

Just don’t forget that they don’t last very long in the fridge. To ensure you get your iodine and fish protein fresh, buy only a single type of fish and cook it on Monday night. If possible, have the grocery staff clean and prepare it beforehand to save more time.

You can also treat your family to a light meal of scallops. They cook quickly – just one minute on the pan on each side.


Besides fish, chicken is also another excellent ingredient that is both versatile and healthy. Since a whole chicken can fit in an oven, you can get a great chicken dinner ready for the table quickly.

On Sunday evening, prep some chicken tenders in egg, flour, and Panko or breadcrumbs before wrapping them in plastic to store in the fridge. You can toss them in the oven two or three days later and bake for approximately 15 minutes.

Chicken tenders are great when paired with a quick salad or dipped in spicy ketchup or yummy barbecue sauce.

7. Keep an organized pantry and fridge

Effective grocery shopping begins in your kitchen before you ever enter a store. You can better determine what you need each week by keeping a well-organized pantry. Consider setting aside various shelves in the refrigerator and pantry for different kinds of food. Perhaps one shelf is used for canned foods, another for snacks, another for baking supplies, etc.

Then give each category a name so that the family as a whole can adhere to the system. It is much easier to “shop” your existing food stores when things are straightforward to find in your own kitchen.

8. Don’t take all the kids

Even much you adore them; your children don’t make grocery shopping any simpler. The last thing you want to do is break up a quarrel or respond to a hundred “why?” questions when you’re trying to concentrate on sale prices or how many pounds of green beans you need. 

Whenever you can, do food shopping alone to lessen your load. Ask a friend with children if the two of you can trade babysitting duties once a week so you can go shopping, or schedule your trip for when your spouse or partner can stay at home with the children. You’ll be better able to make all the small choices that come with buying for a big family.

9. Keep the kids occupied with their “jobs”

Try giving your children age-appropriate “jobs” throughout the grocery trip if you have to take them with you to the store. Have older kids go shopping or price-check for goods on your list. Asking smaller children to identify ten red objects or counting the number of green veggies they see will keep them occupied.

10. Shop when it’s not busy

When the store is jam-packed on a Saturday morning, there is no such thing as a quick shopping excursion. By choosing to shop at a slower time of day, you can save time by avoiding crowds and long lines. Weekday mornings and evenings are frequently great choices.

11. Keep reusable bags

Finally, by always having reusable shopping bags on hand in the car, you may both help the environment and your own business. This will ensure that you are always ready for a shopping trip and prevent you from bringing home a ton of plastic each time.

The Takeaway

Smart shopping is the key to ensuring that your fridge and cupboards are filled with nutritious food. Follow the tips listed in this article so you can also save time, effort, and money in the process.


Xavi Nunes is the Co-Founder and CMO at El Grocer, a digital platform for grocery stores and specialty and gourmet shops in the UAE. The company is reinventing the grocery shopping experience, integrating the best local stores into the mobile-first environment.