Win at Grocery Shopping with the Kids

by Jen Oium

Feb. 6, 2020

by Jen Oium

Let’s admit it, mamas: kids and grocery shopping usually just don’t go together. As a mom to three young boys, I know very well the bliss that comes with a solo trip to the grocery store or my local food co-op. But the reality of life happens, hungry bellies happen, childcare may not happen, and sometimes the mini to the grocery store sans children doesn’t go as planned and you find yourself navigating the store with youngsters in tow.

While I am still no master at this task, I’m getting better at coming up with distractions or simply going with the flow. There have been many times when we have bounced from aisle to aisle (literally—imagine my spunky, towheaded four-year-old joyfully hopping toward the Annie’s bunny crackers)  racing to get the groceries and back to the car before that elusive toddler timer goes off. You know, the alarm that sounds right as you’re approaching the check-out line indicating your time is up.

Nobody ever said this parenting gig would be easy, and I believe it takes a village. But if your village happens to be unavailable when you need to make a grocery run, I’m here to give you a couple quick tips on getting through the store. And who knows? Maybe even enjoy having your tots along for the wild ride (in the big kid cart of course).

1. Planning! Know What You’re Going In To Purchase

I didn’t figure this out until it was too late. I found myself racing around the store, not only after my children who have legs much quicker than mine, but back to aisles I had already been through because I was meal planning as I went along. Mistake! We’ll save pro-tips for family meal planning for another time, but for now, mama, ya gotta know what your staples are.

I’m currently feeding a family of 5, and our staples include tons of fresh fruit and veggies, grass-fed milk, yogurt, and cheese. (Tip: Here's advice from a dietitian on why grass-fed dairy is an excellent choice.)

2. Back to Basics: I Spy

Want to keep kids occupied? Give them a focus! As we parade the aisles, one of my go-tos is a good old fashioned game of I Spy. (It’s not just for long car rides!) This can be especially helpful if you’re familiar with your store's layout. And because I have thought ahead (see tip #1), I know what’s coming next and can pull their attention toward, “I spy with my little eye, something with a barn on it.” At this point, their little eyes will be searching for that barn instead of squabbling with each other over who knows what.

3. Give Your Child A Shopping List

If you’ve got an older kiddo, why not ask them to help? Even a few simple items (or pictures if you’re feeling crafty) jotted down on a piece of paper will engage your child and make the grocery trip a fun adventure for everyone. (Tip: If you’ve got more than one child along, whoever isn’t grabbing the items off the shelf can place them into the cart. Carefully, that is! That way no one is left without a “special job.”)

Are your kids old enough to go around the store by themselves or in a pair? Divide up the list and you could shave precious minutes off your trip!

A young girl has just collected fresh laid brown eggs and uses the bottom of her shirt to carry them. She stands in a lush, summer pasture wearing a brightly patterned skirt and rain boots.

4. Take Advantage of Technology

When all else fails and you just #canteven, take comfort knowing we now live in the time of grocery pick-up (and even 2-hour delivery depending on your location). It can be a lifesaver on days where time runs short, you can't bear to think about herding the kids in the store, you can't be bothered to change out of those comfy pants, or when the whole house is melting down. Not to mention, it reduces those impulse buys, so you might even save money. 

Pick-up is often free, and delivery charges can be absolutely worth it for harried parents. Take advantage! 

5. Bonus Tip

I’ll leave you with one last tip: Park near the cart corral. No one likes to hunt down a cart corral when the kids are already strapped in and creating who knows what kind of chaos in the back seats. Sometimes it’s the simple things that make all the difference.