How do I Grocery Shop with Little Ones?

How do I Grocery Shop with Little Ones?
Grocery shopping is simple enough…until your first is born. Then, what was a simple, everyday task suddenly becomes oh-so-complicated. When my second was born, grocery shopping suddenly felt like solving a Rubix Cube. The first time I walked up to Sprouts with my 18-month-old son and my infant daughter, I sat my son in the front seat of the cart and the infant carrier in the back. Perfect! Uh, now where am I going to put the food?

Timing is Everything
If you can only remember one shopping with your kids tip, this is the one. Go shopping when your kids are full, rested, and ready for an outing, so your chances of a relatively calm 20 minutes are good. All the new things to see and listen to are very interesting to children who are not distracted by hunger or sleepiness. Go shopping when your kids (or you maybe) are really hungry or tired, and your odds of a smooth trip crash pretty quickly.

Be Prepared
My days of walking into the store and then looking at the sales and deciding a menu along with what to buy were over once I had kids. I just didn’t have that much mental bandwidth left by the time we were actually in the store. Between all the interacting with my kids and making sure no one is climbing out or sampling, I can execute a shopping list just fine, but not build one! Build the menu and and list before you go.

If your toddlers are old enough, practice “going shopping” at home. Practice talking quietly, being happy with the food going into the cart, not sneaking random items into the cart, and helping to check items off the list.  You can also practice walking beside the cart or behind mom or staying sitting down in the cart. Model the behaviors you expect from your toddlers during the shopping trip. This kind of practice greatly increases the odds of a smooth trip!

Not all Carts are Alike
Some stores have carts that handle two kids under two much better than others. My local Sam’s Club has carts with not one but – two seats in the front! As a result I can buy more from Sam’s at a time than I can from most other grocery stores. Our Safeway has big enough carts that even when I had to have my daughter in her carrier and my son in the front of the cart, I could still squeeze a reasonable amount of produce and staples around the carseat and on the lower rack beneath the basket. There are a couple of stores that I simply was unable to visit until my daughter was able to sit in the front of the cart because the carrier didn’t fit in the cart. I did use my stroller a couple of times at these shops if I really needed to grab one or two sale items.

Front Packs
Many moms find front packs are a great way to keep the space in the cart available for groceries. With the two kids, the toddler can ride in the front of the cart while the baby rides in the front pack. At five foot nothing this trick only worked for me when my baby was pretty young, but it’s great while it lasted!

Bring a Friend
Shopping with a friend, spouse, or grandparent is a great way to get shopping done…especially, if there are two or more little ones. Put the youngest two in the front of both carts, and now you can really make progress. For the first couple months of having two-under-two this is the only way I shopped!

Make it Fun
Our Mommy Medicine Contributor, Aimee, had a fun routine every time she took her toddlers into Walmart. They knew to sit nicely in the cart for the grocery section, but as soon as they got to the toilet paper and paper towel aisle, she would scoop them up (her 3, 4 and 6 year old) and would let them crawl into the lower sections of the stacks of toilet paper. They would sit and hide and enjoy the fun of being so little and so hidden among the paper goods. Typically, there weren’t many people there and there were lots of little spaces for her little people to enjoy. Then, after a few minutes…she’d scoop them up and they’d be off. It was simple and fun and as long as the kids listened well and there weren’t too many people being bothered, it was like a little, very safe and soft maze for the kids to explore for a few minutes. Every time the kids went to Walmart, they would ask if they could play in the toilet paper section! When the kids go to Walmart now, they reminisce about their exploration of the toilet paper section. Fun times!

Get Dad Involved
Aimee thrived on a wonderful routine after her third baby arrived. She couldn’t imagine dragging her three little children to the store and staying sane, so she decided to create a weekly routine. Dad would go to work just a bit later every Wednesday morning and he stayed home with the little ones while she jetted off to Sprouts at 6:45am sharp. She arrived at 7am when the doors opened and enjoyed a wonderful, spa-like 40 minutes picking out fruits, browsing the cereal aisle and looking over the produce. Not only did she beat the rush, but she cashed in on Double Ad Wednesday, got her week of grocery shopping in AND enjoyed almost an hour of wonderful alone time (outside of chatting with the Sprouts’ Staff, which he actually quite enjoyed!). The key to her success was having her weekly grocery plan ready to go by Wednesday morning, so she knew exactly what to buy.

Enjoy the Adventure
We all know that, even with the best planning there will be the occasion where the shopping trip will not be smooth.The infant will start crying or the toddler will try to sample unpurchased produce or cry for every balloon in the store. It’s ok. Meltdowns will be the exception not the rule. Get your I-can-do-it/adventure switch flipped on before you leave the house. This really makes all the difference. Let the toddler pick out baby food for little sister.  Admire the fruit with them and the balloons and flowers. Enjoy the adventure, the pointing, and questions, and enthusiasm our babies bring to our lives.

Mommy Medicine is a group of moms that love sharing tricks, tips and strategies with our fellow moms. So send us your mommy questions you would like to see as the subject of a blog. We would love to hear from you!  Subscribe here to receive posts straight to your inbox!

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (5/8/2019)

Philms (Flickr)


Jessica Hines

Jessica Hines

Jessica lives in Mesa, AZ with her husband Daniel and their three-year-old son, two-year-old daughter, and five-month-old son.  She is primarily a stay at home mom who works part time from home as a tutor and an administrative assistant for her church.  As a tutor Jessica has ten years of experience working with students in Math, Science, and English and is passionate about helping students regain their confidence and discover keys to understanding the concepts they are studying.  Prior to having kids, Jessica graduated with a degree in Dietetics from Arizona State University and spent several years working in the nutrition field doing menu planning and analysis for schools and long-term care communities.   
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