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5 Tips to Make Grocery Shopping with Kids a Breeze

By: Alex Lane, MS, RDN, LD

Grocery shopping with a baby or kids can be a daunting task. Inevitably, your child will:

  • Take out the bottom apple in a pyramid-shaped display.
  • Scoop nuts out of the bulk food bin with their bare hands.
  • Beg for candy, or cereal, or anything, really.
  • Lick the grocery cart before you’ve had a chance to wipe it.
  • Sneak items in your grocery cart.
  • Poop their pants.

Grocery shopping can seem like a disaster waiting to happen.

It would be nice if you could leave the kids or baby at home, but that’s not always an option. Plus, bringing your kids to the store does present a few learning opportunities, which can make it a bit more of an adventure and less like the 10th circle of hell.

I’m here to provide you with a few kernels of advice that will hopefully 1) Keep the grocery store shenanigans to a minimum, and 2) Enable you to shop your list and maybe even have a good time along the way.

On making grocery shopping breezy (edit: a little easier):

  1. Go through your plan of attack beforehand.

Plan ahead- what meals you would like to eat this week? Ask your kids for their input. Make a grocery list with those meals in mind.

Write your list according to how the grocery store is laid out (i.e. produce, meat/seafood, etc), so that you’re not making multiple trips back and forth across the store because you forgot tuna or orange juice. This will get you in and out quicker, and saves you from buying random items that don’t equal a meal.

  1. Time it right.

Go early (you’re up anyway, right? Thank you, child, for the 5 AM wake-ups).

Grocery stores are less busy in the mornings. Plus, your child is also more likely to be in a good mood- they haven’t yet had a chance to refuse their nap and be cranky for the rest of the day.

  1. Choose your parking spot wisely.

Pro tip alert: You may think that parking as close to the store as possible is best, but instead try parking next to the cart return slots.

It’s handy to grab a cart and load up your child at the car rather than in the store, and - even better - it means you can put the cart away when you are done shopping without abandoning your child in the car while you try to figure out where the heck the cart return is (it’s amazing the kind of trouble kids can get into in 2 minutes).

  1. Start with a snack.

No matter if your child has eaten a full meal before entering the grocery store, they will somehow be starving the second those grocery doors slide open.

You have a couple options - you can stash a snack option from home in your purse/bag, or pick up a container of fresh pre-cut fruit as you start in the produce section (don’t forget to pay for it when you check out!) Don’t forget to feed yourself before shopping as well. Hungry shopping is disastrous for adults, too.

  1. Involve your kids as much as you can.

If they’re bored, kids are more likely to act out or cause distractions. Also, kids are more likely to eat foods when they get to choose.

Ask them to pick out a bell pepper for you, or let them decide what color of apples you will buy. Have them count out oranges for you and help you place them in the bag.

Play “I Spy” throughout the store - put them on the lookout for the next item on your list, or if they’re really little, have them search for something green or an item shaped like a circle.

Older kids can cut your shopping time in half by going to find items for you, or they can learn budgeting by helping you to compare prices.

While there’s not a lot you can do to prevent diaper blowouts or having to say “no” on multiple occasions, at least you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeve now for grocery store success. Good luck!

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