7 tips for grocery shopping with young kids

Before I had kids, I took for granted how easy it was to do menial tasks, like getting in the car, making a meal, or running errands. Now here I am with a 4-year-old, a one-year-old, and an infant, and nothing is easy. Going to the grocery store with kids can feel like an insurmountable task - a new mom's Everest. But little by little, you get better at it. You learn tips and tricks to get through those aisles, and before you know it, you're breezing through checkout like a pro. Just kidding, your kids will probably still be screaming and begging you for a sticker while you try to pay for your groceries, but it won't bother you as much. 

That's right. Even the most seasoned mom will feel frazzled while grocery shopping with young kids. We're all in this together! So with that in mind, here are some things I've learned along the way, from one mom just trying to figure it out to another.  

grocery shopping with kids

1. Bring snacks and water

When we go to the grocery store, you would think we're packing snacks for a week long camping trip. I'd rather be over prepared than face a meltdown of epic proportions in the produce section, though, so I bring apple slices, animal crackers, and the kids' water bottles in my purse. Also, check to see if your grocery store offers a free cookie or piece of fruit for kids to snack on while grocery shopping! I love these snack traps (affiliate link) to slow the kids down a bit, and prevent spills.

2. Have a child containment game plan

grocery shopping with toddlers

I have a 4 year old, a 1 year old, and an infant, so I have to figure out how to situate everyone and  have room for the groceries. The best solution I have found is to put the older 2 in one of the giant shopping carts with two seats attached, and either wear the baby, or use the Binxy Baby - a shopping cart hammock that allows your baby to lounge comfortably while still leaving your hands free and plenty of room for food in the shopping cart. It's super easy to clip onto the sides of the cart, and I love that it rolls up neatly to fit in my purse or diaper bag.  Lewis loved being able to see everything that was going on, and I got so many comments and compliments about my Binxy Baby as I strolled the aisles of Target. Honestly, I wish they made adult sized ones, because who wouldn't want to be relaxing in a hammock while at Target? It's basically already my idea of a vacation anyway. Use my affiliate link and get 10% off any hammock HERE

I received the Binxy Baby product in exchange for review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are 100% my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog!

3. Come prepared with a list

This seems obvious, but I feel it bears saying. When I grocery shop by myself, I still bring a list, but even if I forget the list at home, I can still usually remember everything I was supposed to get. If I'm with the kids, all bets are off, since the majority of my brain power is going toward keeping them occupied, quelling the whining, breaking up arguments, or soothing a baby. I need all the help I can get to keep track of what we're buying, since we like to stay on track with our tight grocery budget!

4. Involve your kids

So I've seen these super cute kids' grocery lists on Pinterest so they can follow along and "help" with the shopping. I haven't printed one out yet, though, mainly because I can barely remember my wallet as I leave the house, but also because I could totally see my one-year-old wanting whatever his big sister has, but not being able to handle a crayon and paper without throwing, dropping, or destroying them. Seems like a meltdown waiting to happen. Basically, I involve my kids by giving them some options while we're out ("Pick which of these two cereals you want!"), or asking them about colors or shapes we see. I also take this opportunity to talk to them about making good choices with our food. When they ask why they can't have a packaged treat that's clearly marketed toward kids, I explain to them why we don't want to put a ton of sugar into our bodies (the occasional treat is ok, but we try not to keep most of those things in the house). I also love talking to them about all the fruits and vegetables we're choosing! 

5. Timing is everything

Again, maybe this is obvious, but try to avoid shopping too close to lunch or nap time to be proactive about helping the kids have positive behavior. I also attempt to go when the store is fairly empty if I know I'll be there with kids. Midmorning on a week day is usually a good time, but if I must go on the weekend, I aim for first thing in the morning. Those huge shopping carts are super hard to maneuver, so it's nice to not be running into a million other shopping carts or trying to make room for people passing. Also, if one of my kids does happen to have a meltdown, it's easier to manage if there's no one in the store to stare or glare at you. I myself have become skilled at tuning out my children's tantrums, but feel bad when they're bothering other people. 

6. Parking lot safety

One of the most terrifying parts of my day is anytime I have to get all three kids out of their carseats by myself. I've had entire water bottles dumped on the floor of my car, my steering wheel locked (the keys were not in the ignition - I had them!) when I keep the van doors closed while getting all three out. When I let them out of the car one by one, I risk one of them stepping into traffic. 

I've picked up a few tricks along the way to save my sanity. The first option is to park next to (or at least near) a cart corral so I can load them into the shopping cart as I bring them out of the car. If a large shopping cart with kids' seats isn't available, or there are no open spots near a corral, I instruct my 4 year old to stand on the white (or yellow) line next to the car with her hand touching the van. Next, I get the infant out, and save my one-year-old for last, since he might not understand my directions, or is unlikely to follow them if he does. If one of my kids is moving, I tell them to freeze instead of saying stop, and we always hold hands until we get to a sidewalk. 

7. Just smile and wave

(The penguins from Madagascar anyone? "Just smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.") Anyway, with three kids ages 4 and under, someone is likely to cry, whine, scream, or throw something. Most people you run across will give you an understanding smile, but every once and awhile, someone will give you the side eye or make a rude comment. I won't give in to my children's every demand just to make them stop crying, so I've learned to just smile and keep moving when tantrums happen, and try to finish my shopping as quickly and gracefully as possible (gracefully...lololololol). 

So that's it! Plan ahead, do your best, and have some wine ready for when you get home. (Just kidding...kind of). What are your best tips for surviving the grocery store with your babies, toddlers, and preschoolers?