Want to know a secret? I actually like taking my kids grocery shopping with me. Seriously. It’s true. I try not to broadcast it because Chris still thinks he owes me for days when I take the kids grocery shopping and…well…I let him think that. But truthfully, I really enjoy having them with me. For one thing, they help keep me on track. My grocery bills are never lower than when I have the kids because it’s a fast and furious process. I also like it because we just have fun. Gracie is right up by me and so I get to talk and coo to her while I shop and Bean loves to help me make decisions. Sometimes it’s a nightmare, like if I pick the wrong time of day, if I’m unprepared, or if the kids are just in a bad mood. But 90% of the time, I really like taking them with me.
When we had Gracie, grocery shopping was one of those things that I had no idea how to do with two children. Where would I put them? Where would I put my groceries? How would I unload my grocery cart? Would I put them in the car first before I loaded my groceries? And so on, and so on, and so on… The logistics of taking two small kids to the grocery store overwhelmed me. But when Chris went back to work and all our family went home after Gracie was born, I was home alone all day with two kids and one of my responsibilities was groceries. So, I had to figure it out.
In situations like this where I’m not sure how to do something, I’m really learning that the best way to figure it all out is to jump right in and start trying things. The first few times I took them grocery shopping, it was hit or miss. Some trips were fine, while others were disasters. But over time, I’ve learned how to navigate successfully through the grocery store with two small kids. Here are the tips I use every time I go…
1. Park your car next to the grocery cart return in the parking lot, even if it means having to walk a long way. Before kids, I thought prime parking spots were up front, but as a mom, prime parking spots for me are next to the grocery cart returns. It helps when you first arrive because you can leave your kids in their car seats while you get the cart, so they aren’t loose in the parking lot. And it helps when you get back out to the car because you can unload the kids, the groceries, and put your cart back all within a few feet of each other.
2. When Gracie was tiny (i.e. not able to hold her head up on her own, easily entertained, and usually slept through grocery shopping), I kept her in her car seat when I went grocery shopping. This will really depend on where you shop because some grocery stores have the carts with the little seat up front that can support a car seat (I grocery shop at Target and my car seat fits perfectly in those carts). But I’ve been to other grocery stores whose carts don’t support the car seat too well (the really big carts at stores like Sam’s Club and BJ’s, for example). With Gracie up in the seat, I’d put Bean in the back big part of the cart and made him sit on his bottom. He loves this because he gets to play with the groceries as I put them in the cart. When Gracie started being able to hold her head up and was awake for longer periods of time, I switched her over to her Baby Bjorn. I’d strap her on to me and then Bean had the choice of riding up front or in the big back part (he always chooses the big back part).
Now that Gracie can sit up on her own, I put her in the grocery cart seat up front and then Bean sits in the big back part. Bean is getting bigger, though, and he’s taking up a lot of valuable grocery room in the cart these days, so lately I’ve been opting for the carts that have the cars on the front of them so that he can play up in that and not take up any room in the cart.
3. Since everything she touches gets put in her mouth, Gracie tends to slobber all over everything these days. The last thing I’d ever want her slobbering all over would be a nasty grocery cart – blah! To prevent this, we use a shopping cart cover. My mom makes them for me (which I don’t have a picture of right now…), but you can find them in most baby stores. These are great to keep the area where your baby is sitting clean and safe, but it is also really nice for babies that are Gracie’s age because it cushions them a bit and helps them sit up.
4. Engage your toddler in the grocery store. This makes a huge difference between a successful and unsuccessful trip for us. If I include Bean in the process and let him help, it goes so much smoother. His favorite thing to do is hold my list. I have to really keep an eye on him though because he sometimes loses my list halfway through the trip! He holds the list and whenever I put something in the cart, he goes, “CHECK!” It’s pretty cute and makes people around us in the aisle laugh. He also really likes to help decide what we’re going to buy. If I have to get canned veggies, I let him help me decide which ones we’re going to get. Or, I let him pick which flavor of yogurt we’re going to buy. And he always gets to choose which cereal we buy (it’s always Honey Nut Cheerios…). If he’s engaged and involved in what I’m doing, our trips go so much smoother.
5. Be prepared. It takes me twice as long to prepare for the grocery store than it does to actually do the grocery shopping. First, I meal plan, then I make my shopping list, then I cut my coupons, and lastly I pack the diaper bag. In our diaper bag, I always have a sippy cup of water for Bean and several snacks, socks and a blanket for Gracie (it’s cold in grocery stores!), an emergency bottle for Gracie in case things get hairy, and several toys for both Bean and Gracie. Having everything I need at my fingertips is key while grocery shopping.
6. Choose the best time of day for your kids to go grocery shopping. Both my babies are morning babies. They are happy and really easy to handle in the mornings, so our prime grocery shopping time is early on Saturday mornings. Usually, I get up with them at their normal time of 7:00am on Saturdays and while they are having breakfast, I do my meal planning/grocery list/coupon clipping. We usually are at the grocery store by 9:00am, which is great because the Saturday crowds aren’t out yet and I can get them home in time for lunch and nap time.
7. Don’t bring anyone else with you! I’ve tried going grocery shopping (or any kind of shopping, really) with the kids and other people and it’s just a mess. When it’s just me and the kids, we all know the routine. I don’t have to worry about Chris getting Bean out of the cart and then chasing him all over and I don’t have to explain to anyone how to feed Gracie a bottle while still walking. I can just do it all myself and be done. Plus, with extra people (cough, cough) like husbands (cough, cough) extra stuff always ends up in the cart and my bill is usually higher. When it’s just me, I stick to my little list and my bill is much more predictable.
What about you all? What are some tips you have for making it through grocery shopping with your kids?