FAMILY/ HOME/ Parenting/ Simplifying

Grocery Shopping With Kids- Tips

My girls are age 10, 9, and 6.  Grocery shopping is pretty much a breeze now, but back in the day when they were younger…oh boy, do I have some memories!  Most of them have to do with my youngest.  We call her our strong girl, which now is a very positive thing, but not so much when she was three and her strength was her will!  Let’s just say I was very humbled quite a few times in a grocery store with her.  VERY humbled.  As in —I want to disappear and crawl in a hole, everyone is looking and eyes are rolling at my apparent lack of parenting skills—humbled.

For example, we were in the produce section and she decided she wanted an apple, RIGHT NOW.  She would not budge from the produce section, and when I went to carry her out, she ran to the railing, (ya know-the one that holds all those slanting, perfect rows of apples?) and wrapped her chubby fingers around that railing with a look of defiance that honestly scared me.  Then, one of those chubby little knuckles bumped the slanting, perfect row of apples, and it was like dominoes.  Hit one, and all the others come tumbling down.  After the avalanche of apples stopped, there was my little strong girl, still clenching the railing with all her might, amused by the sea of apples surrounding her feet. That memory still makes me close my eyes and take a moment.


Or how about the one where my middle girl had a hard time listening to her mother, which in turn created a memory that brings red to her cheeks, and to this day, makes my tongue hurt.


I had asked her twice to keep her hands off the shopping cart.  It was one of those carts that rolled away with just the slightest nudge.  We were in a store that was small and crowded, that had stacked boxes of wine,  with a few bottles at the top, at the end of several aisles–what were they thinking? So…


Daughter touched the cart, again.

Cart rolled forward with ease.

Cart hits wine bottles.

Wine bottles hit the ground.

Sound of glass– lots of glass– breaking.

Red wine spilling and puddling, oozing down the aisle like a crime had been committed.

Exchanged look of horror between mother and daughter.

Mother biting tongue hard, creating an oozing of her own.

Mother trying to figure out how to talk her way out of paying for 20 bottles of wine. (ok, 5)

Over the years I have learned some survival skills 
when it comes to the grocery store so I will share.

#1. Visit the bathroom BEFORE you start shopping.  Especially if you are in one of those superstores.  It never failed, before I implemented this rule, we would always be in the very back of the superstore when a bathroom request was made.


#2. This one goes along with #1.  When you announce that you are all visiting the bathroom before shopping, you will get the inevitable “but mom, I don’t have to go.”  When you hear this, pull out the “Sit and Count to 10 rule.”  I love this one!  We use it all the time, before trips to the park, before longer drives, at the mall… they must sit on the toilet, count to 10 and see what happens.  There is always a chuckle when the one who was stubborn about “not having to go” ends up “going.”  Mom’s…this “count to 10” rule will change your lives!


#3. Hand over your shopping list and a pen.  This is great for older kids.  Let them be the one to check the items off the list.


#4 While the older child is checking off items, allow the younger one to get the item from the shelf and put it in the basket.


#5 Now that the 2 older one are busy, if you have a third child, make them the ‘arranger.’ They get to sit in the basket and arrange the items to fit nicely, like a puzzle.  Remind them to put “squish-ibles” in a safe place.


#6. Give kids a pen and a copy of your list.  Let them write the aisle number beside each item as you find  them.  Keep the list for the next time you make out your grocery list. arrange items on the list according to aisle number.  This works well if you go to the same grocery store each week.  OR, just give them a random list of items and make it a game, as they find the items they mark them off.


#7. If you only have one with you, give ’em a ride.  While your hands are positioned on the handle, let you child slip between your arms, hold on to the handle and stand on bar.  It it great for those who are too old to ride in the cart, but still have little legs that get tired.  I love this because it turns into hugs and snuggles while pushing, plus its a great arm workout with that extra weight to push!


#8. Bring an ipod with earphones, let them listen to book on ipod or children’s music.  If you have one with internet access, check out Hulu and let them watch a movie or kid’s show.


#9 If you have a younger one riding in the front of the cart and they are super bored, find an aisle that has children’s books and grab one for them to read.  I did this many times, of course they had to be old enough not to drool, tear or bite on the book.


#10 Pocketful of snacks.


#11 No “can I have’s?”


#12 No “mom, look at this!  mom, look at this!!” in every aisle.  From one mouth–bearable.  From 3 mouths? Makes me want to find the marshmallow section, steal a bag, and encourage the girls to play “chubby bunny” so their mouths would be too busy to talk:)


#13 When things get out of control and warnings are not working, I have gone straight to our “no talking” rule.  Sounds over the top, but if words have not been nice, there should not be any words! There are times where mom just needs to think, compare prices and have a little moments peace.  Sometimes I use this rule when I am paying.  It is rude for children to interrupt adults, so when I am talking with the cashier, quiet is good.  We have not had to do this in awhile, hold on while I have a proud moment…


#12 When walking out of the store pushing a cart full of groceries, both hands are tied up on the cart, which leaves no hands to hold little hands to cross the parking lot.  This is when we apply the “Hold The Cart” rule.  I like seeing little hands on either side of the cart, in front of me, so I can see they are safe and sound.


Got any other tips?  Would love to hear them..

This post is linked to
Works For Me Wednesday @ We Are That Family



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  • Jade
    June 30, 2014 at 9:47 am

    We live an hour from the city. By the time I get my 2year old to the store she has been buckled in her car seat forever in toddler minutes. I will try some of these tips for sure! When she has to walk and stretch her legs, we play red light, green light. She likes to run so it keeps her close… For a little while!

    • AmyNewNostalgia
      July 1, 2014 at 10:08 am

      That is rough..having such a long drive! You sound like a great mom.

  • KaseyQ
    November 21, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    My sister-in-law once told me about a game she’d play with her kids at the store when they would start to wander. They would pick a “magic word” like “monkey” and whenever she said, “1-2-3-monkey!” they would have to run and put a hand on the cart before she got to “monkey”. It kept them close by and she wouldn’t have to say, “Get back here!” every 10 seconds. If they did a good job they’d get a treat afterward.

  • Elizabeth Wittkamper
    April 24, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    my mom always did “the cookie lady is watching” or ” the penny lady” ( for those rides outside) she would slip the penny or a cookie to the cashier when I wasn’t looking and ask her to give it to me for my good behavior .. I never it was my mom until she told me when I was in my teens (granted this trick only worked til I was 6 or so)but i was be so good in hopes of a cookie or a ride on the horse!

  • Anonymous
    April 23, 2012 at 3:20 am

    I have a 2 year old daughter. I pre-sort my coupons during her naptime and make a list on my Kindle Fire. I pack multiple healthy snacks/juice and a mini-magna doodle. I don’t bring out any snacks/toys until she starts getting whiney. each snack buys me 5-10 mins of distraction. She is also easily amused by carseats and asks to see them everytime we go to the store. if she is good, we go up and down the carseat aisle (this also gives me time to go over my list again.) you’d be surprised how quick her tantrums stop when i say carseat haha.

  • Charyse
    March 10, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Wow, not fun!! I can relate, my daughter almost turned a shopping cart on top of herself a couple weeks ago. I only have one to take but it seems like five sometimes!

    As far as the bathroom issue goes, my daughter hates using public bathrooms because the flush is so loud…and panic ensues if an automatic toilet flushes while she is on it. So I keep mini post-its in my purse and use them over the blinking light until she is truly finished.

  • Jennifer
    March 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Ok, I just found this posting via the “you might also like” at the bottom of another recent post… LOL! I love it! The actual #12 (not #14, labeled #12) is my favorite; mostly because I love the image of making my daughter play chubby bunny just so she’d shoosh!! haha 🙂 Thanks for the constant smiles from your blog.

  • Marisa
    June 27, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    I just found your blog through a friend (Genelle @ Sleepless in Sandy), and have been enjoying browsing through your posts.

    LOVE the “Sit and Count to 10” rule. I will definitely be using that! Great tips!

  • Sara
    April 9, 2010 at 8:43 pm

    I bring my husband. He actually enjoys coming along for the adventure. Granted we only have 1 kid but he can create some drama when he wants to, especially if I’m thumbing for coupons and searching for the best deal. We do bring a snack and a drink. We also like to go early in the morning (8/8:30am) so the store isn’t crowded.

  • Cool 2 Clip
    February 24, 2010 at 1:52 am

    Thanks for your great tips and suggestions.

    I rarely get a trip to the store without kids in tow. In addition to my regular list, I am a coupon nut! I love a great deal! I keep my kids involved by having them complete scavenger hunts for items (in the aisle). I give them the coupons and they have to find the correct item. They have a lot of fun doing this and it keeps them focused during our shopping trip.

    They also enjoy places like Target where you can stop and get a small treat. They each are allowed to pick one treat item on our shopping list and then if their behavior is worthy, we pick up the items at the end of our trip.

    I plan on posting a video on my blog about tips and tricks of shopping with kids. You will hopefully get to see my girls in action! I haven’t made the video yet…but it’s on its way. Not every trip is great, but I can say they are manageable even on or worst days.

    Stay tuned! We hope to get the video done soon. Thanks for the great discussion and blog!

  • Molly . . .
    February 17, 2010 at 2:11 am

    Once I needed to time grocery shopping for between my youngest son’s morning and afternoon naps . . . which interfered with my older son’s lunch. Tired baby or hungry pre-schooler? Neither seemed like a recipe for a successful shopping trip. So, I went through the drive-thru, picked up a kid’s meal, and let my older son sit in the car contraption attached to the front of some of the carts at the store where I shop. The baby sat up front. It worked well for us :- )

  • Amy
    February 8, 2010 at 3:56 am

    I love seeing how all moms relate to this post! Thanks for the ideas and smiles:P

  • Leslie
    February 2, 2010 at 3:36 am

    I just had my fourth boy and I have not ventured to the grocery store alone with all four yet. I am waaaay too scared – and as a result we’ve just been eating the most random things. Maybe these tips will help!

  • Andrea
    January 31, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    We play I-Spy. Lots of it. At grocery stores where they dole out a free cookie to little ones, I tell them at the end of the trip they can have one if they are helpful and respectful. A few gentle reminders help throughout the aisle to aisle experience. 🙂

  • The Mitchells Five
    January 31, 2010 at 5:30 am

    I’ll try some of these. I have resorted to a combo of no talking and hold on to the side of the cart with my two oldest when they get too rowdy.
    Emma always wants to mark off the list, but I’m too controlling. I’ll try to let go a little. 🙂

  • Courtney
    January 31, 2010 at 1:20 am

    Number 8 is a great tip! My son just turned 2, and I am definitely going to start doing this!

    Great post!!

  • Jen@balancing beauty and bedlam
    January 30, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Oh, I am envisioning the wine (and the whines). 🙂 With five kids, these are great tips…I know ideally people don’t want to shop with their younger kids, but it’s been a great training ground for ours. Now that they’re older (16-6), they are total helpers since they know their way around the grocery store and they understand couponing as well as me. 🙂

  • Jenni
    January 30, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Awesome ideas!! The only problem with the creative idea to have the little on nicely arrange products in the cart is that my little man just wants to drum fiercly on EVERYTHING! I can’t imagine shopping with 3. I have about a 12 item limit before I go nuts with 2. 12 items or whenever the sucker is gone. 🙂

  • Kristen
    January 29, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    when we were too young to leave home, my mom only lived by rule #12. as soon as we were old enough, she shopped alone. the next time I went grocery shopping with her, I was about 15 and half-way through the grocery store thought, “huh, why am I fearfully holding the cart?”

  • jodi @ Pleasant Home
    January 30, 2010 at 12:18 am

    One of my kids was a monster to take shopping. When he was little I saw a cartoon in a magazine. It was of a child under a shopping cart that had been turned over as a cage in the middle of a store isle! LOLOL I still have it. ;o) Great post!

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