As a stay at home dad, you may find that there are some new skills that you need to develop. As the person primarily responsible for cooking, cleaning, and caring for the child, you may also find yourself responsible for the shopping duties. If this is new to you, read on for some help!
While we are still waiting for our child to arrive, I have been responsible for planning trips to the grocery market for some time and have picked up a few tricks.
Knowing what to buy is always a problem. Unless you have planned your meals in advance, you may find that mid-week trips to the market are necessary. This can be non-trivial with a child and stroller in tow (or so I imagine!). Keeping inventory of what is in the fridge is also necessary. I have found a great program for my phone that helps with this quandary. The program is available in the Android market for free, and is called Grocery IQ. This program allows you to set up favorites, indicate their typical price, and specify the store where you usually buy them. This can also help with budgeting, as you can check the price and if something is on sale, stock up.
Of course, at the market with a (hopefully) sleeping baby, you want to get out as quickly as possible. Grocery IQ automatically groups the items for purchase by department — bakery, dairy, etc. This can help to more quickly locate and select the items, reducing the time spent in the store.
How do you know what store to shop at?
Obviously, every region will be different due to the different regional markets.
In Southern California, Stater Bros. generally has the best prices on beef. With a full butcher department, the selection is generally good and of high quality.
I am a bit picky about chicken, as lately it seems that much of the chicken has a strange texture. Although I am not a organic-disciple, I suspect that this has to do with hormones given to the chickens. Costco has Foster Farms chicken, prepackaged into six 2-breast bubble-wrapped packs (it is also available with chicken tenderloins, which I generally prefer). The price is generally about $3 per pound. If you watch the sales, you can sometimes find chicken for cheaper, but I find that these packs are especially good quality.
This is a tough one as a balance between volume consumed, price and storage space must be reached. Costco has great prices on milk, but you generally must purchase two gallons at a time. If you drink a lot of milk, or can stick a gallon in the freezer, this is the way to go. Costco also has the best prices on butter and cheese. Look especially for gourmet cheeses that you use frequently. For example, I buy parmesean at costco in a large wedge. It lasts months and does not mold easily if it is kept tightly wrapped. It is FAR cheaper (by pound) than the $5 wedges that you get at the market.
Bread and Grains
Albertsons has a very good bread selection, but Costco carries many of the same brands (La Brea Bakery, for example) at cheaper prices. Costco is the place to get cereal, unless you find a screaming sale at the market. Also, look for rice, beans, etc.. Costco generally carries bags that are around 15 pounds and much cheaper per pound than what you will find at the market.
This is another tough one. Some markets have good quality produce and high prices. Other have little selection and good prices. The trick is finding the place that has good selection and good prices. I find that most of the time Costco’s prices are good, but a lot goes to waste. If you plan to fresh squeeze lemonade or orange juice, check Costco. If you can find a produce market (generally these cater to a specific ethnic group such as Middle Eastern or Mexican), they will have the best prices and generally have a very good selection. The place where I go has bell peppers 3/$1 — far better than the $2 a piece that the market generally charges. If I don’t go to Costco or the produce market, I find that Vons and Albertsons have the best selections for produce.
We generally go to Costco, but are switching to Amazon for the convenience. Check out Amazon Mom (I know, Amazon has not gotten the memo that some of us who are responsible for the kids are Men!). Amazon’s prices are fantastic, shipping is free, and they will let you ‘subscribe,’ so that the toilet paper, diapers, and other consumables come directly to your front door!
If your stroller has a basket underneath, my friends with kids tell me that you can use the basket rather than a cart. This is especially helpful if you are shopping alone. Apparently the basket on their stroller (Uppababy Vista) can hold about 5-6 bags worth of groceries.