I spent a few years as the designated grocery shopper for a busy test kitchen, so I've spent a lot of time in grocery stores. My husband jokes that I can walk through blindfolded and tell you exactly where I am and what's on the shelves at all times!
But for all the grocery shopping I did in the past, grocery shopping once my daughter was born was a completely different experience. It became much more complicated, as I had to learn how to deal with getting an errand done while managing a little one at the same time. Here are some tips I've picked up to make the whole experience less stressful and more enjoyable for everyone.
1. Have a plan and stick to it.
When I'm grocery shopping with kids, I have to get in and out as efficiently as possible since I know my daughter's attention span and patience are limited. I make sure I have a list, preferably organized by sections of the grocery store so I never have to double back, and then I zoom up and down the aisles methodically. This works best when you're familiar with the layouts of the stores, so try to frequent the same ones if you can.
2. Go early.
If I have the luxury of choosing the time of day I go grocery shopping, I go in the morning — as early as possible. Parking is usually a breeze, the store is generally empty, the lunch rush hasn't started yet, and my daughter is usually in a good mood since we're not nudging up against a meal or nap time.
I always feel like I see lots of other like-minded families earlier in the day in grocery stores, and it's probably also because babies and younger kids tend to get up early and shopping is an activity to get everyone out of the house!
3. Do the bathroom break when you first get there.
Although my toddler isn't quite potty trained yet, I saw this tip elsewhere and thought it was sage advice. Get the kids to use the bathroom right when you get there to avoid the mid-shopping interruption or frustrating search and race to the restroom.
4. Bring snacks or eat before you shop.
We all know that grocery shopping while hungry isn't easy for adults, and the same goes for kids. Anticipate and deal with hunger so it's less likely that a meltdown will occur and you're not constantly peppered with requests to buy things not on your list. Eat right before you go, bring a snack along, or make it a priority to grab a snack from the store first thing so they can munch while shopping.
5. Let them help.
Even though my daughter is only two, asking for her help usually means she'll be excited about grocery shopping and the whole trip goes much smoother. There are lots of ways kids of all ages can help. Older kids can make the list or check things off, and you can ask younger kids to help with decision making: "Would you like broccoli or green beans with dinner tonight?"
Kids can also help count out or bag produce, pull the right items off shelves, or even help put things onto the conveyer belt. Remember to be patient, make sure they're not in the way of other shoppers, and know they're picking up shopping skills that will serve them well in the future!
What tips do you have for grocery shopping with kids?