Every other Friday is grocery day.
The kids know it. I know it. When that day rolls around, we’ll be making a trip out of it and hitting 2 – 4 grocery stores, shopping around for the best deals and best quality. It’s a multiple-hour trip, and I often take all 5 kids with me.
Many women hate taking the kids grocery shopping. Of course, it’s certainly quicker and easier without kids! And I do take advantage of it sometimes when my husband is home by only taking the baby, or maybe a couple kids (and occasionally, if it’s a quick trip, no kids). But, I think the kids should go sometimes, too — they need to learn how to shop for food.
There are ways to make this easier, and ways to make it harder. Since I like easier, there are some specific tips I follow when we shop — and they’ll help you have a more pleasant shopping experience, too.
6 Tips for Grocery Shopping With Kids
1. Go Early
Most kids I know are at their best soon after they wake up in the morning. They have the most energy at this point, and they’re ready to go out and do stuff. They’re usually feeling pretty cooperative, too. Don’t wait until mid- to late morning or you’re running into naps, lunch, and crabby kids. That’s a recipe for disaster.
2. Feed Them Well
There’s nothing worse than hungry kids in the grocery store — they’re whining, crying, and begging you to buy everything they see. Before you go, feed them a good meal. In between stores, give them a snack. (I often give mine a banana or cheese stick in between stores.) If stores have samples that are healthy, let them eat those in the store. If they’re really young, pack snacks in your bag and let them eat those while you shop. Keeping your kids well-fed will cut down on a lot of whining and squabbles.
3. Share Expectations in Advance
This is especially important for the older crowd, the ones that can talk and walk well and won’t be sitting in the cart. Right before you go in the store (while they’re still buckled in), share what you expect from them. Don’t expect them to remember from last time you shopped, tell them again. Ask them to tell you the expectations if it’s the same shopping day but a new store, to help them remember.
Expectations may include:
- Stay with mom/the cart — no running around or getting in peoples’ way
- Quiet voices — no yelling in the store
- You may choose one treat — please don’t ask for several
- Keep your hands to yourself — do not grab items off shelves and do not fight with siblings
We generally allow kids to choose one item while we are shopping, that is worth $2 or less, as a treat. We tell them not to ask for several different treats or constantly whine or beg for more. This will get them left at home with Daddy next time.
In stores with “little carts,” we usually do not allow them any more (I can’t safely corral 3 – 4 kids pushing them at once) unless only some of the kids are with us. Then, they must stay with the parent, they may not run into anyone or anything, they may not run with the cart. If they break any of these rules, the cart gets put away. We have had to put the cart away several times, but they’re learning.
4. Give Them Jobs
Get kids involved in the shopping! This will keep them from getting bored and looking for mischief. Good jobs include:
- Holding grocery items
- Tossing (non-breakable) items into the cart
- Retrieving items from a nearby shelf
- Selecting produce and adding it to a bag you are holding (good counting exercise)
- Holding the shopping list (older kids can read off it and cross off items you have)
Even the littlest kids who can sit up and hold/throw items into the cart. Much older children, starting at age 8 or so, can push the cart for you, too. My 7-year-old is almost tall enough and looking forward to it!
5. Do It Quickly
I love to wander around stores and browse and price-compare. I try not to do this too much when I have all the kids with me because waiting leads to mischief pretty quickly. I like to have a clear shopping list written when I walk in, and I like to move through the store and get the items I need quickly. It keeps the kids entertained and they don’t get whiny, bored, or want to treat the store like a playground because it’s taking too long.
6. Take a Break
If you have a lot of shopping to do, it’s a good idea to just take a break. In between stores, stop at a park and have a picnic and let the kids run around. I do this on our longest days. Or, I take them home to my husband and finish the shopping later on. It just isn’t fair to make them sit still, be quiet, and follow along for several hours when they are very young. They need time to run around, eat something, be kids. Have realistic expectations and give them the time they need. You can even say “We have ten more minutes in this store, and then we will go outside to run. Please stay with me right now.” It will encourage them that there is an end in sight and that their needs will be met soon.
Grocery shopping with the kids is usually kind of fun! And they certainly enjoy it most of the time, too.