Efficiently, Economically and Easily: How to Grocery Shop

What I am about to say might lead some to believe that I am a bad parent in the minds of some; but it’s the opposite – it’s what makes me a good parent, the best parent I can be. My favorite part of the week is the 2 hours on Tuesday after I drop off Finian at (part-time co-op) preschool, where I go grocery shopping with a comatose nearly-one-year-old. If there is one thing that you can say about three boys, it’s that it is really loud and busy. Those two hours are quiet and relaxed and I love it. It allows me to get my efficient, strategic errand running done.  I load up my bag with snacks, toys and the Gemini so that Wes and I can enjoy 9am-12pm to the best of our ability.

I usually go to Costco and/or Trader Joe’s. I know, I know. Here’s the thing: I have three kids and one income to work with, not to mention a brother in the basement who also eats our food. That’s a lot of mouths, so I have to buy economical. While I often do get grass-fed meats from places like Polyface Farms and Fields of Athenry as well as local farmers markets, I supplement with some natural, antibiotic-free chicken, some wild caught shellfish, and fruits and vegetables from Costco and Trader Joe’s. I probably spend about 50/50 dollars-wise on food between stores and farms. That said, I don’t go buying willy-nilly; I try to make the best choices available no matter where I go.

What do I mean by best choices?  At Costco, I purchase:

  • Antibiotic-free “natural” fresh chicken parts in bulk pack (breasts and thighs)
    Do not purchase the frozen 10 pound bags of Tyson chicken from the freezer. That’s probably the worst-for-you chicken this side of a Chicken Nugget (R).
  • Aidells Chicken Sausage
  • MaraNatha Roasted Almond Butter
  • Wholly Guacamole
    This comes in a 3 pack, we freeze 2 and then put 1 into smaller airtight containers.  The boys love the individual servings with carrots or sweet peppers.
  • Fruits & Nuts
    Walnuts, slivered almonds, raisins, craisins
  • Spices
    Most are good quality and very lost cost
  • A case of sweet potatoes, giant bag of carrots, organic spinach, romain hearts, any other in-season fruits & veggies, (green) bananas and berries
    We buy organic where possible, if it’s cost prohibitive I focus on the fact that I’m buying fresh and relax about it.  See this list here for preferences on what to buy organic and what you can skip if on a budget.  P.S. Costco bananas are always green; plan accordingly.  I double up on my Tuesdays runs: green at Costco and yellow at TJs keeps us with fresh bananas all week.

What the heck am I getting at Trader Joe’s?

  • Sunflower seed butter
    TJs brand is the best tasting and although it has sugar it’s only 3g per serving
  • Oils
  • Salad Dressings
    We usually make our own since store brands always have seed oil, but we have some on-hand for guests and emergencies
  • Canned goods
    Pineapple, black olives, Tuscan tomato sauce, diced tomatoes
  • Ketchup, mustard, mayo
    Not the best, but with lower sugar content and no “frankenfood” ingredients we’re OK with them
  • Bananas, clementines, plums, mini-apples, avocados and other in-season fruits & veggies
    Since their fruit is more “in-season” than Costco, organic is usually a reasonably affordable option
  • Pre-boiled beets
    In refridgerated section, Stacy loves them on salads
  • Cage-free Omega-3 eggs (when Polyface aren’t available)
  • Hemp milk
  • Almond milk
  • Fair trade coffee and tea
  • Fruits & Nuts
    Cashews, brazil nuts, almond meal (not baking quality, we use Honeyville for that), dried cinnamon apple rings, dried pineapple,
  • Salami, bacon, Applegate farms deli meat and hot dogs
    Usually we get these from our farmers/butcher, when we’re out and I need them quick I look for the brands without ingredients other than “pork, salt”

What about everything else? Amazon Subscribe & Save!

  • Coconut milk
  • Lara Bars
  • Freeze dried fruit
  • Coconut oil (if you don’t have a Tropical Traditions co-op near you)
  • Honeyville almond flour
  • and MUCH more… go check it out!

We’ve blogged before about how AWESOME Amazon’s S&S program is, and we mean it.  Instead of continually posting about it, we’ve made a store where you can go and see what we actually buy and recommend.  You set it up items for subscription once, and it magically arrives at your house at the best discount you can imagine.  Fan-effing-tastic, trust me.

About Matthew

Matthew McCarry has written 221 post in this blog.

Matt is the husband of Stacy and somehow manages to contribute to this blog in between taking care of three children, producing the Paleo View Podcast and cooking most of the food featured here.