Grocery shopping is a daunting task, especially when you’re trying to buy what you need for a month at a time like I do. That’s a lot of food!
Though I’ve been experimenting more with shopping on the weekends, I really prefer to get my shopping done during the week. I’ve found:
- The stores are less crowded
- It’s easier to find a parking spot by a cart return
- A better selection of marked down items are available
- It easier to schedule around—our weekends are typically busy!
I also enjoy spending time with Bryan, so if I’m out shopping when he’s home, I miss a good chunk of our time together.
So, shopping solo with the kids just works better for us right now. I’m sure this will change over time, but for now it works, so I’m going to keep sticking with it.
But, shopping solo with kids isn’t always easy. Thankfully, there are strategies to help the process go more smoothly. Here are seven of the strategies I use when shopping with my crew.
1. Time it Right
Few things are worse than a meltdown in the grocery store. Hungry, tired kids whine. Whining plus the stress of shopping often turns into meltdown mode.
So you can prevent the majority of meltdowns just by altering your timing. This year, I’ve been heading to the grocery store after our school is done, and we’ve eaten a quick lunch.
It is during nap time, but we have an hour drive to get to the stores. So my littles sleep in the car on the way there. My middles enjoy listening to a book on tape and coloring. It’s a nice, calm drive where everyone can get the rest they need before hitting the stores.
2. Bring a List
Once we enter the store, I don’t want to have to stop and think about what we need. Thankfully, with our annual meal plan, I don’t have to spend a ton of time making a shopping list each month. I just adjust the quantity of items needed on our master list, and hit print.
If I ever forget to actually grab the list from the printer, I just open it up from Dropbox on my phone. Boom! Instant access to list!
My list keeps me from second guessing myself. It helps curb impulse purchases, because I have my budget right on the list. I know how much money I have to spend, and how much I can spend on each item. That doesn’t leave much room for impulses.
So make a list and bring it to the stores! You’ll save time and money.
3. Park by a Cart Return
I’ve circled the parking lots many times waiting for a spot by a cart return to open. I don’t care if it’s way out at the back of the parking lot. I just want to park by a return.
- So I don’t have to pack the cart riders through the parking lot on the way to the door
- To ensure I don’t have to leave the kids in the car for long to return the cart after unloading
- And, my most important reason: So the car is easier to find! There are only so many returns in the lot after all! 😀
4. Involve Your Kids
Bored kids tend to act out. There’s plenty to be done at the grocery store to avoid boredom. Put those kids to work!
I love that my middles can read now. They can read items off my list for me, cross them off with a pen, and tell me what else I need. Jeff and Ellie alternate being my list holder at each store we go to.
Yes, it’d be faster for me to be master of the list. But, they would be missing out on some valuable lessons. So we take it a bit slower and that’s okay!
Other jobs for kids at the store:
- Fetching items from shelves
- Reading a price (once they know numbers)
- Holding a sibling’s hand
- Pushing the cart
- Sitting still in the cart without smooshing the food
- Comparing prices
- Finding the best deal
- Weighing produce
- Getting a bag off the roll
- Picking out fruit
So many ways to keep them engaged! That’s the goal—don’t let boredom and misbehavior kick in, because once it does, it’s easy to have the whole trip turn sour.
5. Stay Calm
Are your kids starting to whine or misbehave? Did you just get hit by splattering spaghetti sauce because your five-year-old decided to help you put one in the cart and the glass jar dropped and broke? (You can’t make these things up I tell you! :D)
Stay calm. You’ve got this! The worst thing you can do is start whining or escalating the situation.
Take a deep breath. Find an empty aisle and have your kids skip to the end and back a couple of times while you get your bearings.
Have everyone do some neck rolls or touch their toes. You do it too. Get the blood circulating and your mind clear.
6. Pick Your Line Carefully
Before committing to a checkout line, watch them for a few moments. Sometimes it’s better to get in a longer, yet fast moving line, than a short one that takes forever.
Once you get in line, have your kids help you unload the cart onto the conveyor belt. It’s a great time to talk about grouping like items.
We try to:
- Keep all the frozen food together
- Put the cans up together
- Set up the bread and other smooshable items together, usually first
When we head to Winco, this is the point where I send a couple kids down to the other end to start bagging for me. Yes, we sometimes have a bottle of vinegar end up in the freezer bag, but that’s okay. It keeps them helping.
And for the record…if you don’t check your bags carefully when unloading and the vinegar ends up in the freezer, the lid will likely explode off. In case you were wondering, it does leave a very bad smell in your freezer that lasts a long, long time.
7. Have Games Ready
No matter how carefully I examine the lines before getting in one, there are times when I pick the wrong one. When the line is moving slowly and kids are waiting, it’s an easy time for the shopping trip to go downhill.
So, have some games ready. Here’s a post I wrote with six different games to play in line that don’t require any materials.
Do You Go Shopping Solo with Kids?
I’d love to hear your tips for making it work!
Photo credit: Anna Dziubinska via Unsplash