Zen and the Art of Grocery Shopping With Small Children

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grocery shopping with small kids

Remember the simple task of going to the grocery store before having kids? When you could take as much time as you wanted to peruse, choose, compare, and cruise the aisles for the best deals? Technically grocery shopping is still a seemingly simple task, but shopping with your little ones in tow can be a challenge. Moms require a reliable strategy for shopping with the kids that will help us stay on track and on budget. From making trips more efficient to avoiding meltdowns, read on to learn more about how I make my trips fast – and even fun.

Set Guidelines for Behavior

This is true for any task. Before I even get out of the car, I tell my kids what they should expect out of the grocery trip. Simple and sweet, your expectations need to be clear enough to keep chaos at bay. In my case, I have a few rules I reiterate every time we set foot inside the store:

Absolutely no horseplay.

“We are not at the playground.”

Stay near me and the cart at all times.

“You have to stay where I can see you and you can see me.”

Do what I ask the first time I ask it.

“One time. I shouldn’t have to ask you twice.”

Persuade and remind them of their reward for good behavior.

“For being a good helper you can pick out a treat.”

As with parenting in general, the more consistent I am with my expectations, the less I have to repeat them over and over. It’s also important to be realistic with the amount of time required for this and any task. Sometimes I set an unrealistic expectation that we will get in and out in 30 minutes. Yeah, right! Remove the frustration by allowing a reasonable amount of time to complete the task at hand.

Don’t Shop Hungry!

Zen Tip #1: You know that rule about how you should never shop while you’re hungry? This applies to both you and your kids! When we are hungry, small problems take on epic proportions! I usually shop directly after breakfast so I know the kids are full and I’m caffeinated. Bring along an emergency snack, just in case. Some stores, like Whole Foods, also offer one piece of free fruit per young visitor, usually an apple or a banana.

Organize and Optimize

Zen Tip #2: Create your list in the order you would normally walk through the market. Produce first, canned goods, dressing/sauces, butcher, dairy….you get the idea. An organized list and thoughtful of plan of attack will make the whole process smoother. Control Freak Confession: When I send my husband to the grocery store, I draw out a map of the store and write the item name where it resides in the store. I have the same tactic for when my nanny makes a trip for me!

Pick the Right Time to Shop

Zen Tip #3: There are a few times of day it’s best to steer clear of the grocery store. Avoid shopping during lunch or the after work rush. You’ll save energy, whining, and boredom with less time to wait in line – as well as fewer people to trip over. The best times to shop are between 9 and 11 a.m. or between 2 and 4 p.m.

Make It a Learning Experience

Zen Tip #4: Depending on the ages of your kids, there are countless ways to make grocery shopping fun with some great teachable moments:

  • Talk about where different foods come from – and make a cultural connection
  • Count the apples as you put them in the bag
  • Look for letter and numbers in the signs
  • Guess weights of produce

Every time I shop, I bump into a stranger who is either smiling at us at the make-your-own-peanut-butter machines or I’m apologizing because I literally just bumped into them. They reminisce for a moment about how their kids are now grown and they tell me how quickly the time passes and to enjoy every moment.  Next time you head to the market, make an effort to find joy in the otherwise mundane task of grocery shopping and reward YOURSELF with a treat!