Parent to Parent Grocery Shopping and Meal Prep Advice

What other savvy parents have to say about their weekly grocery shopping and meal prep routines

grocery shopping advice from parents
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Every time I need good advice, I call the one person who knows pretty much everything, my mother.

She frequently gets a text from me along the lines of: “What is the best way to wash out a dirty sink?” and “What section of the grocery store would I find coconut milk?”

I recently moved into a new apartment with a smaller kitchen than my last. Unfortunately, I live about 1,000 miles from my mom, who is always so great at helping me set up a new kitchen.

But thanks to modern technology, we have a new tradition. Now, whenever I need my mom’s advice on something, I video call her and ask for her perspective. It’s not the same as having her here in person, but it works!

I moved in one week ago and I’ve already video called my mom about 20 times. During one of our calls, I showed her how I’d organized an exposed shelf in my kitchen, showing off all my healthy dry goods and canned products.

She suggested that I put those items in the cabinet and replace the messy-looking shelf of ingredients with a more clean-looking display of my dishes and mugs.

Of course, she was right. I quickly swapped the food for the dishes and it looks so neat and homey.

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My exposed kitchen shelving that my mom helped me organize (via video call)

My mom has always been a role model to me in many ways. She’s particularly good at grocery shopping and meal prepping, which is probably why I love doing both of those things.

I feel very comfortable walking through the grocery store to pick out exactly what I need and I feel confident in any kitchen. I owe that to the example my mom set for me.

I used to love going to the grocery store with her—and I still do. She tends to shop the perimeter of the store and finds her favorite, inexpensive store brands on the lower shelves.

I use those same tactics when I shop around my local grocery store. I think my favorite thing about my mom is her brand commitment. I think she’s been using Breakstone’s butter and Friendship Dairies cottage cheese for 30 years.

I figured I’m probably not the only one out there who has a mom that doubles as a meal prep and kitchen consultant. I reached out to some otherwise parents in my life to see if they had any similar advice to share.

Hana, a mom to two sweet little ones, also recommends shopping the perimeter of the store. Hana says, “fruits, veggies, meat, and milk (plant-based and cow) are never in the middle.”

She seems to have her eye on the healthy prizes and tends to avoid the center of the store, which holds more of the processed and sugary treats.

Elyssa is a busy mom of two elementary school-aged children. She and her husband both work and they highly value family time.

Elyssa shared that she aims to put healthy meals on the table by keeping up with a reasonable weekly routine of meal prepping on Sunday’s to make the week a lot smoother.

Like many working parents, Sunday is often the easiest day for Elyssa to get things done around the house, meal prep included. Sometimes, she and her husband, Adam, will grill out on a Sunday night and then save the leftover grilled meats and vegetables for that week’s lunches.

Throughout the week, Elyssa and her family of four will eat off the prepared food and make simple, delicious meals that will satisfy everyone. Her family loves “Taco Tuesday,” lettuce wraps with ground turkey and vegetables, and salads with roasted chicken.

buy convenience items for planning weekly meals
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Elyssa plans her grocery list around what she’s cooking for the week. She sticks to the list and makes sure she has everything she needs to cook up all the meals she and her family will eat that week.

In addition to some staple ingredients she buys every week, Elyssa adds some healthy convenience items to her grocery cart to help put wholesome meals on the table, even on the night she and her husband don’t have a lot of time to cook.

Sometimes she’ll buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and add some fresh vegetables to create a simple, yet very delicious meal for her family of four.

To make life easier (and more fun), Elyssa goes to her in-law’s house for a meal once per week.

This allows her kids to get some quality time with their grandparents and it takes a little pressure off Elyssa and Adam to provide an after-school snack and dinner for the kids on that particular day of the week.

Heather is a mom of two sweet little girls (including one with a food allergy).

She says, “One thing we do to keep the family fed healthy food is almost always cook extra food for dinner so that we have leftovers for lunches. We generally make healthy dinners, so after dinner, we put the leftovers right into a small Tupperware to be able to grab it right out of the fridge for lunch!”

This is a huge time saver for Heather and many other parents. With no added time or effort, she has a healthy dinner for her family of four and lunches for the week.

Shael and his wife have a new baby boy and they have a lot of great tactics that simplify grocery shopping and meal prep. They rely on technology to make everything a little easier.

Shael uses the AnyList app (paired with his smart home device connected to Alexa) to build his grocery list for the week. He shops at price matching stores and utilizes Flipp, an application that allows him to check up on the best prices for each item.

planning shopping and meal preparation
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Easy healthy meal for your family.

Once at home, Shael preps all his family’s raw foods so they are ready to add to any recipe. One of his best tips is something I hadn’t thought of before.

Shael says, “Don’t bother with preheating the oven if it’s not something that needs to be baked precisely (i.e., bread, pastries, desserts and the like). Cooking (as opposed to baking) in the oven can often be done without preheating.”

In terms of kitchen supplies that make his meal prep a lot easier, Shael recommends using a thin, small pan that can heat up quickly for cooking meals like eggs when you’re in a rush.

He also gets a lot of use out of his vacuum sealer, a relatively inexpensive tool that can go a long way to prevent food waste.

Nadia is a mom of two adorable, smart kids. She has some great tips on saving money while planning healthy and delicious meals for her family.

Nadia says, “I save a lot by shopping online. I compare the prices at my two main stores. I plan my meals around what’s on sale.”

Regardless of your motivations for planning, it is essential to stick to some sort of rules so you don’t buy anything extraneous.

Planning your grocery trips and meal planning can save you money and time.

On the other hand, some families go to the grocery store more frequently to keep fresh ingredients in the house. Daisy is a mom of three and YiaYia to six beautiful grandchildren.

She has a lot of mouths to feed and says she goes to the grocery store nearly every day. While it seems like a lot of work, she has it down to a routine. Plus, her more frequent grocery store trips reduce her family’s food waste and saves money.

The advice from the parents in my life was so comprehensive and useful.

Here’s a summary of what these moms and dads shared with me:

  • Shop the perimeter of the store to find all the fresh food you need and avoid the processed or sugary foods.
  • Look lower on the shelves to find the less expensive store brands.
  • Pick one day per week to prep food for the week.
  • Cook extra dinner on a regular basis so you have leftovers for lunch and more dinners throughout the week.
  • Plan a list of groceries based on the exact meals you’re prepping and stick to the list.
  • Buy some convenience items (e.g., rotisserie chicken, pre-chopped vegetables, etc.) to make your meal prep and cooking a little easier.
  • Use popular applications and other technological advances to make your meal planning and prepping easier. You can use apps to help build your ideal shopping list or to find the best price matching for the products you buy.
  • Shop online to compare prices and add sale items to your grocery list to incorporate them into recipes for the week.
  • Shop more often to avoid food waste, if possible.
  • Make sure you have good cooking supplies in your kitchen, including a thin, small pan and a vacuum sealer.

Parents have a variety of motivations for their best practices related to grocery shopping and meal prepping for their families.

Some parents, like Hana, have a child with a severe food allergy. Wisely planning and prepping is essentially a life-preserving measure in her case.

Some moms and dads, like many of those mentioned in this article, are looking to save money while still providing healthy food for their families.

Every parent I spoke to, including my own, have one very important thing in common: they all show love and care through the delicious meals they make for their families.

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Written by Jane Diener

Freelance writer, foodie, and budget enthusiast. She enjoys spending time outside, watching the "Great British Bake Off" on repeat, and
concocting new recipes in her favorite room in the house: the kitchen.