I Get Around (in a grocery store)

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?

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20 Thoughts to “I Get Around (in a grocery store)”

  1. Melissa W.

    I agree with everything you said.. Great series!! Now that my LO is 17 mos. old and my big kid is 3 it gets a little hairier at times than when they were smaller, one thing I always do is get the race car kid cart, so they both have a steering wheel to play with and Publix does a free cookie for kids- so that’s usually one of our first stops after produce when we get to the store… I feel the same way about going by myself- we all know the routine and it goes much smoother than when husby’s are in tow too… and the kids do keep me on track too… So we r in and out! Thanks for doing this awesome new series!!

  2. You’re very brave, but I will definitely keep these tips in mind when our little one arrives. I’m already nervous about the prospects of grocery shopping with a kiddo in tow…

  3. kiersten

    I think you’re genius! And I love Gracie’s seat cover; i’ll definitely have to consider one for my future kiddos!

  4. I use the GroceryIQ app and I love it! I linked my phone with my hubby’s in case I forget something, he has the list right in front of him! Who am I kidding, it’s always me.

  5. I appreciate that you admit to enjoying taking your kids shopping. Mom’s frequently blog about all the negative aspects of parenting–including how hard shopping with two is. While you admit it’s tricky, you also figured out how to make it work and now it’s fun for you (most of the time). How refreshing, Katie!!! 🙂

  6. jenny-bird

    What a great idea to include Bean in your decision making process. I never take my husband grocery shopping either. I tend to look closely at my labels for sodium content and compare unit prices; in short, I do a lot of looking before I pick. The husband grabs the first thing he sees. It drives me nuts.

  7. I usually like to go alone. We only have one store in our town, and it’s not very big. It is always insanely crowded. If I’m going to Sam’s or Target, I don’t mind taking my four year old. Sometimes he walks, and sometimes he rides in the big part. He’s almost always good for me, but I agree husbands just . . . . ummm how shall I put it . . . add to the chaos. I think they’re worse than the kids. 🙂

  8. I pretty much agree with you on everything. We always go early Saturday mornings (especially now that the holidays are coming up) and tuck Sullivan in his cart cover. I’ve done it on my own once or twice but at his age, he loves to grab anything that is nearby. Last weekend he grabbed the sunglasses off another lady’s shirt. That was awkward as he shoved them right in his mouth. We need one parent on Sullivan duty and one parent to actually get everything.

  9. I loved all your tips. I am going to have to try some of them. I have 3 1/2 month old twin boys so I haven’t taken them grocery shopping. If my Hubby and I happen to be out and need something at the store usually one of us runs in while the other waits in the car with the babies or else we have to drag out the double stroller and push that along with a cart so that the babies can stay in their infant carriers. As of right now grocery shopping has become my alone time and I honestly have never loved grocery shopping more than I do now! I have no idea what I would do if I had to go all alone with the boys, I think we would just have to do without whatever it is we think we need. 🙂

  10. I love grocery shopping with Eli, too! It’s one of our outings for the week. We shop at Publix, and the very first thing we do is get a free cookie for him at the Bakery. It’s pretty much the only dessert he gets all week. This keeps him occupied at least through the produce department. Then, we talk about what food we’re buying and sing songs. He says hi to everyone we see. Plus, the staff pretty much knows us now, which is really nice!

  11. Laura B.

    Well, you’re doing all of the things I do, except I never have used a shopping cart cover. I relied heavily on my Ergo carrier though and it made a huge difference. Since I work full time, Saturday morning grocery trips have always just been one more opportunity for quality time with my girls. Now, in the spring baby #3 will arrive. I think at that point I’ll limit my shopping companions to 2!

  12. The worst is when the husband takes the toddler out of the cart, chases him all over the store, and then gets “tired” and puts the toddler back into the cart, but the toddler isn’t “tired” yet, and so the toddler screams and the husband “disappears” to leave you to deal. Things are easier when I go by myself with the boys, too.

  13. Oh yes. Husbands always wrack up the bill. “Ooh look! Doritos are buy one, get one!” Also, my tip for grocery shopping with a baby: leave extra time for people to oogle over your baby. Grocery shoppers love babies and want to talk to them the entire time!

  14. Catherine

    I know some people MAJORLY cringe at taking kids to the grocery store but I think sometimes it can be done well with the right attitude and planning. My mom used to take all 3 of us (me, my twin sister, and little brother) to the grocery store when we were little. My mom always jokes about how we learned to read on those trips! She would always ask us to “find aisle 5” or “find the spaghetti sauce” and we would have the best time doing it.

  15. I agree! I try to tell my husband to park next to the cart return but he just doesn’t get it like I do. Yes, also it is much easier and cheaper to leave the husband at home! It is much easier now that my little girl can sit up in the cart (cart cover is a must). I don’t think I do anything that you didn’t cover! I do organize my shopping list by the store layout though! Ha Ha. It helps me to have to back track for something I missed.

  16. Leah

    I use most of these same tips with my one (8.5 months) but these are great suggestions for when we have more. Sadly the thing I missed with a baby was the seat for my purse. I found the solution on my way out of babies r us one day it’s called the Mommy Hook. It’s basically one of those climbing hook things but giant. I clip it to the small handle on my diaper bag and then to the handle of the grocery cart. It keeps everything right near me, frees up buggy space and keeps me from killing my shoulders from lugging a heavy diaper bag around the store while trying to lift things like water and dog food.
    Here’s one at Amazon.
    I have other clips for my bag that I prefer with the stroller but this is a great thing for the grocery store!

  17. I agree with all of this. I’ve got a 1 year old and we are still navigating the system a little, though. I laugh because I used to fight to get a spot up close, and now I fight to get a spot in the back near the cart holder!

  18. Snacks and lists are a must! And when things get really hairy I bring up some Sesame Street podcasts on my iphone. We do not watch much tv, so that one always makes any situation better.

  19. It’s so funny you mention parking near grocery carts because that is something that I heard while I was pregnant and didn’t understand until after I had Kate. Unfortunately I shop at Publix and they generally don’t have cart returns, have very few or they are REALLY good at getting the grocery carts out of the lot and back into the store!! GRRRR!

    I told my best friend once (whose pet peeve is grocery carts left in the parking lot) that someday she will DREAM of the day when she can park next to an abandoned cart in the lot and go from car to cart with her baby in the carseat super QUICK!

    There were MONTHS when Kate was little when she was spending the trip in the grocery store in her carseat/carrier. And if I couldn’t find a cart in the lot I would have to lug her and her heavy carrier in the store and then roll everything back out the the car to get my purse/diaperbag and cloth bags for shopping. I always joke with the grocery clerks that they should always leave a couple of carts in the lot for moms shopping with their little ones! 😉

  20. […] I found Marriage Confessions back last spring, and I always enjoy reading Katie’s posts on babyhood, toddlerhood, marriage, and balance. She wrote two great posts this week. I loved this one on how she balances being a working mom, and also this one on how to take two kids to the grocery. […]

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