Grocery Shopping for Our Large Family

I noodled around several different title options before picking one because I didn’t want it to be misleading. This post is not about THEE cheapest way to shop if you have lots of kids. Or about coupon clipping. Or about the best, most filling meals for the least amount of money.

Elements of most of those things are in here, but more than anything, I’m writing this post in response to several questions I’ve received about what the process of feeding a family of 9 looks like.

And they are:

1. How often a week do you shop?

I do one big haul a week–usually on Saturday mornings. And then, we supplement as needed with a quick stop or two throughout the week. The “big haul” day has rotated through the week throughout the years (we even went together as a family immediately after church for a while there), and historically, I’ve had ALL the kids when I go (many moons ago, when the kids were all smaller and much less helpful, I used to stop on Monday evenings…after teaching two hours of classes at the gym. Because, apparently, I’m a masochist??). Lately, I’ve been heading to town on Saturday mornings for a free Cross Fit community WOD (workout of the day) and then shopping immediately after. NO KIDS. Because the oldest ones are mature enough now to do basic younger sibling maintenance (Honor’s down for a nap) while Shaun does projects around the house.

Are there words to adequately describe the sheer joy of grocery shopping alone? I’m not sure there are. But “bliss” comes to mind.

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Shaun’s been traveling a fair bit recently, so the kids were with me on a random Tuesday. We always have two baskets and take up a fair bit of space, but they are genuinely helpful (I don’t load the belt or bag groceries) and definitely know the drill after years and years of tagging along. My favorite thing about this picture is that, as I was looking at several that I took from my phone, the lady with the white hair in the back is staring at us with that same bemused expression in every single one. Ha!

2. How much do you spend?

This is the one everybody wants to know, right? I mean, we’re feeding 9 people. Surely, we must be spending a fortune. Of course, with 4 (almost FIVE!!!)-year-old twins, a 2-year-old, and a newborn, half of my people don’t actually consume that much in terms of volume yet. But the amount feels like it increases on a weekly basis, which makes me nervous.

Our typical bill for the “big haul,” including some non-food items (so, a package of toilet paper, or a box of diapers) is about $190. Obviously, there are some weeks that all of the extra stuff comes “due,” and the bill is considerably higher.

If we were to stick to that every week, that would be a pretty incredible budget for such a big family. But we always end up stopping at least one more time to grab a rotisserie chicken + fruit + milk, etc. Most weeks, we spend another $50 at least.

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This particular load was about $135. I usually get more of most things (like bagels and yogurt), but we were still stocked on those from a previous trip. 

3. What do you eat every week?

I’m sure this is true of most folks, but we eat basically the same thing every week. Cereal, bagels, or eggs for breakfast, yogurt and fruit for snacks, sandwiches or leftovers for lunch, and an ever-repeating rotation of about 20 dinner options that use a lot of the same ingredients.

My go-tos are:

  • Turkey spaghetti (my kids would eat my spaghetti–you can find the recipe for my sauce at the beginning of my lasagna recipe–every single day). For reals.
  • Turkey burgers + homemade sweet potato fries + homemade guac (one of my fave meals ever that I eat without a bun and with all the fixin’s on the side).
  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Taco Soup
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Turkey Burritos
  • (Chipotle-style) Chicken and Rice Bowls
  • Chicken Pesto Pasta
  • Steak + Scrambled Eggs + Roasted Seasoned Potatoes
  • Greek Chicken + Rice + Veggies
  • Turkey Meatloaf + Mashed Potatoes
  • Pot Roast
  • King Ranch Chicken
  • Quiche
  • Chicken + Veggie Stir Fry
  • Chicken + Veggie Pasta
  • Chicken or Steak Fajitas
  • Chicken + Squash Grill
  • Salsa chicken (in some form or another)
  • Homemade Pizza
  • Chicken Lettuce Wraps

We don’t do much in the way of prepacked foods, but neither do I make complicated meals.

4. What ingredients are you never without?

You’ll pretty much never find us out of: diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, limes, cilantro, avocados, OTB Corn Chips, cheddar cheese, black beans, onions, tortillas, raw chicken, and raw ground turkey (obviously those last two get cooked quickly, usually in batches for the entire week).  We are a Tex-Mex family, apparently, and I make homemade salsa (it takes 5 minutes and is SOOOO good) and guacamole on the daily. If I’m in a pinch for dinner, we’ll probably be eating burritos and black bean salsa or spaghetti that night.

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Bonus points if you can a) spot Theo or b) figure out why Nola looks so distressed (probably, she just heard that we weren’t having “her favorite spaghetti” for dinner that night). 

5. How much do you eat out?

In the past, not very much. We still don’t do tons, but we’re a little “looser” than before. Shaun and I have a “date night at home” every Thursday night when my mom has Ezra, Simon, and Della at her house. We get the four littles in bed by 7:30 and settle down on the couch with takeout Thai food to watch an episode of Fixer Upper or Vera (British crime show).

Once a week (usually on Fridays after I teach Combat or a Tuesday night if Shaun’s out of town), the kids and I will have lunch or dinner at Chick-fil-a. And we usually eat out lunch on Sundays. Plus, we go pick up the big kids from my mom every Friday night, and she fixes dinner for us + my brother’s family. So, I typically cook (or at least prep some kind of food) 5 nights a week, with Thursdays and Fridays off.  If I moan even a little bit about cooking on Sundays, Shaun orders pizza. :)

5. Any brilliant money-saving tips?

I used to religiously scout out the sales in the local ad papers and then take them to Walmart for price matching. My mom just told me that Walmart isn’t honoring competitor ads anymore, but I haven’t done this for a couple of years anyway. I did save a fair bit sometimes, but I also found that–outside of a $0.99/lb sale on grapes or some other produce–most of the things we buy regularly at Walmart were pretty comparable to the sales I usually saw.

We also used to shop at Sam’s Club, but we’ve been in such a busy season of life for so long that the extra effort of driving out there (it’s a ways from our house) and spending at least an hour grocery shopping–usually on a Sunday–just wasn’t worth it to us. We may renew our membership in the future, but for now, we’re keeping it simple.

As to coupons, I just don’t. I know I could save a lot of money, and, of course, I use the ones they include on the yogurt packages, etc., but I don’t actively buy items based on whether they have coupons available.

I think my best way to keep our food bill decent is to buy inexpensive, simple food and do a fair bit of cooking. Cheaper AND better for you!

So, there you have it, folks! What grocery shopping for 9 looks like around here. I know this will continue to evolve as the kids get older/eat more. I’m seeing lots more beans (and flatulence…) in our future.

What does grocery shopping look like at YOUR house?

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27 thoughts on “Grocery Shopping for Our Large Family

  1. I need more of your recipes! Thank you so much for taking the time to put this all together and post it. Came at the PERFECT.TIME!
    Thank you Mama!!!

  2. Thank you for re linking your spaghetti sauce recipe on here. Holy SMOKES it is 1,000 times better than I even imagined it would be. I had to stop myself from just consuming it by its lonesome. Funnily enough as I was simultaneously preparing this sauce I was making the crockpot salsa chicken…so simple, so delicious. Thanks!

  3. Hi Abbie!!! Love all your dishes!! I will be trying them all,they sound soooo yummy!!! You should download the savings catcher app on your phone it is awesome!!!! Scan your receipt or type it in and it checks other stores and compares prices so far this year I have gotten over 150 dollars back!!! Love your blog, and love the way your new house is coming along :)

  4. Definitely download the Walmart Savings catcher app! It compares prices to all other big grocery stores and gives you the best price. When you want to use it you convert it to an e-card and that amt is deducted off your purchase. I’ve gotten back $407 over the last few years!

  5. Grocery shopping looks like pulling up to Harris Teeter and pushing the call button, then waiting while they load my groceries in the car:) I paid $75 for the year subscription to this service and it has been worth every penny. I order my groceries online the night before and cannot say I miss shopping with my kids at all. Not a bit.

    I also like being able to watch my total as I fill the cart online. That helps me track my spending and not going in the store means I bypass impulse buys.

    1. when is that service coming to my big box store ? it is nice to order items online that are taking up too much space in our vehicle but there are too few items available for online shopping and we still have to do instore shopping.

  6. wow I am so encouraged that you did not add significant time to what surely is already a time consuming errand by spending hours couponing..Having your children with you is such a significant lesson for them on so many levels and must be a great homeschooling lesson as well. Great preparation for their adult lives.
    I have wondered how your weather has been with all the hurricane news. I realize it is a huge state and area but so has the weather been.

  7. Replying to myself *facepalm* . . .

    Your instagram seems to have gone awol. Is that deliberate? Your pictures always make me smile!

    1. Do you just mean that the widget isn’t on my blog’s sidebar anymore? I’m still on IG, for sure, but I put periods between my username (m.is.for.mama) because people that found me there instead of coming from my blog couldn’t figure out who “mis for mama” was. (*facepalm indeed*). :)

      I didn’t realize it had affected my widget until just now. I’ll have to fix that.

  8. Do you ever eat vegetarian meals? As a vegetarian it really stood out to me that all of the meals you listed contain meat!

    (I don’t mean that to sound judgemental at all, I’m just curious).

    1. We do every now and then. My husband really likes some kind of protein with his meals (as do I, honestly…my body needs it with the amount of exercise I do) but is not a fan of tofu or the like. I realize there are plenty more options for protein replacements than that (we eat lots of eggs), but the long and the short of it is that we like meat around here. Ha! :)

  9. I love seeing other families’ favorite dinners! I have 8 nearly 9 kids and on good weeks we spend less than 150 and on stock up weeks just over 200. I have 1 young adult and 3 teens, besides the smaller kids. I haven’t had to shop with all my kids for years but usually bring one of them with me for assistance. Or I sent my oldest kids alone with a list. That’s the best!
    My husband and I have a date every Saturday and usually eat out, with take out pizza maybe twice a month for the kids. I don’t buy much prepared food except crackers and cereal.
    I nearly always cook ( but weekly we end up with a breakfast for dinner night) and I’ve worked really hard to teach my older kids how to cook for our family and they take turns. And since baby 9 is due in a week so they will be on duty!

    1. Sending my kids alone with a list sounds awesome! I’m thinking they would actually LOVE that (well, I’m sure it would get old if they had something else they would rather do, but I can see my oldest three getting a big kick out of doing the grocery shopping when they’re teenagers). And good for you on your amazing grocery budget. You are killing it!

  10. Great post! I especially loved the list of your go-to’s. I have never heard of King Ranch Chicken so I googled for a recipe of it, I can’t wait to try it! My family will love it.

    1. Yes! It’s so yummy! I don’t usually eat it when I make it except a taste or two, but it’s SUCH a great way to use up all of the crumbles in the bottom of the chip bag(s). We always have several round of leftovers from all of the corn chips we consume.

  11. Shopping in our family looks similar to your pictures. It’s so nice now that the older kids can help in our family, too! We usually shop on Thursdays during the day and make it a math lesson while avoiding lines at the check-out. We are all about HEB and their meal deals, though. Walmart usually gets us in trouble; too many non-food options and in our area produce is significantly better at HEB.

    1. We don’t have an HEB close by. I do like its atmosphere, but all of the ones I’ve been to in other places have been expensive. I assume that’s not true for you, though, since you said it helps you save money. What are their “meal deals?”

      1. Every week there’s a new Meal Deal that that includes 3-5 free items when you buy one. My favorites are the fajita and spaghetti deals. You get the entire meal for the price of the one item, which is usually the protein. There’s also small yellow coupons next to 100+ items that are 1-2 dollars off or a “buy this, get this” type thing. sometimes the meal deals aren’t worth it for us or we didn’t eat those items, and sometimes I double up. It’s like coupon without having to cut anything out or remember them.

  12. I love seeing all your littles helping you out shopping! I’ve been worried about how to manage going to the grocery store with my son (7) and our new born little lady, but you give me hope and determination! Oh, and have you heard of ibotta? I’ve tried couponing and price matching too, but I really like using the ibotta app the best.

    1. You’ll do great! Kids love having responsibilities. Just make him in charge some specific aspect of the trip, and he’ll be so proud of himself and GENUINELY helpful. :)

      And I had not heard of ibotta, specifically, I don’t think, but it’s occurring to me that my mom has told me about something called “deal-catcher” (I think?) where it will go back through your receipt and find deals you missed and then you send you a check for the “refund.”

      1. I don’t shop Walmart often but was going to mention that. It’s just the Walmart app and it’s called Savings Catcher. I’m pretty sure if you just sign in or whatever it can add your receipts and you simply “submit” it and in a few days it tells you what you get back based on sales at other stores. Then it will give you an e-gift card to use when you shop. Easy enough that I bet you could add it to your routine and it would just be a small bonus if you shop there regularly.

  13. I spend about $200/week for the 7 of us (really only 6 because hubby’s mostly on the road). That’s feeding 3 teenagers – my 14 year old football player eats a TON right now!
    I’m buying more protein bars, granola bars and instant breakfasts than I like, but it’s cheaper than eating fast food on the road.
    I’m a pretty decent cook, but it cracks me up that hubby’s most requested recipe is a ham & cheese quiche that is SO easy to put together! It costs $8-10 maybe, but feeds us all for dinner and most of us again for lunch. When the kids were really small, we had to call it ‘family omelette’ because they ‘didn’t like quiche’!
    Silly kids!

    1. That’s hilarious about having to rename the quiche. Have you ever made granola bars? Just curious. I have a time or two, and they were pretty yummy/easy/fast and definitely cheaper than the store bought kind.

  14. I spend more than you do on groceries each week but we are gluten-free and mostly dairy-free so I assume that is why. We rarely buy anything processed which I guess saves some but overall it still ends up as spending quite a bit as a family of 6.

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