I’ll admit that grocery shopping is one of my absolute LEAST favorite tasks in the world. I have to plan the meals and then make the list. I have to then drive to the store, find it all and then come home and we (my family helps) put it away. I go though this same routine week after week.
And, while I do my best to make the list out long enough for everything to last the entire week, it does not always happen. That may mean an occasional return trip. I just do not like the grocery store.
The one saving grace for me is that my kids are now older and they don’t tag along with me when I head out. However, I remember those days all too well. For me, I was exhausted just planning the trip to the store with the three of them — before we even got into the van!
After our first few outings, I knew something had to change. I had to find a way to make it fun for them and help me to keep my sanity. Here are some fun things we did to really make shopping much easier.
1. Plan your trip. This is one that I started even before the kids were a glimmer in my eye and it still is what I do today. I sit down and plan my meals before I head out. I then create my shopping list. The list is divided into categories. That way, when we head to produce, all of the items I need in that department are listed together.
While I have a free shopping list form you can print and use, what might be better for you is to create your own. Go through your store and take snapshots of each of the aisles. Then, create your own list accordingly. Group all of the items you will find in each aisle together under that section. I have a free template you can use right HERE to make your very own list!
2. Plan a kids’ list. One thing I did was to make a shorter list for my kids. I would add items they needed to help me find. When they were very young, I would draw a picture (or find one in our weekly ad) and put it onto a piece of paper. They had to find around 4 – 5 items.
As they got older, I would start to write out the words and also show the picture. This also helped them to learn to read.
Now that they can read, if they do come with me on the rare shopping trip, I hand them the list and make them help me figure out what we need to get – and they even cross the items off of the list for me.
Here are some great options for you to make a list for your own kids:
3. Get a free treat. Many grocery stores offer a free sample or even a free sweet treat in the bakery. If your store does this, try to visit that first. Then, your kids will be munching away and will be entertained with their food (at least for a few minutes).
4. Have a chat before you leave home. Make sure your kids know what will happen before you get into the store. We have kids’ shopping carts with cars on them for kids at our store. I did NOT always get these for my kids. First off, they were always gross (even if I wiped them down) and secondly, by the time you add in 2 kids and a cart full of food — those buggers were hard to push!
I made sure the kids knew that they would be walking and that we would not be getting any candy. If it was a quick trip, I would tell them we have 3 things to buy.
Keeping your kids involved in what is going on helps them to feel more comfortable and confident and can actually make your trip much, much better.
5. Forget the coupons (if needed). Sometimes, you just have to do what you need to in order to get your shopping done. If that means you can’t use the coupons when you shop – then don’t. Maybe it means you start trying to shop at another store instead (such as Aldi’s).
You might find that it saves your sanity to pick up the toilet paper at the grocery store – even though it may cost a little bit more. Your sanity may not allow you to try to visit more than one store. It’s OK.
6. Give them a job. Younger kids can hold items like the cereal. Older kids who are walking can help by getting the item you mention. They not only feel good about helping, it keeps them focused on the task at hand (and the eyes tend to wander less).
7. Make sure you allow enough time. If you have only 20 minutes to try to fit in a trip to the store, that may not be enough time if you have kids with you. By giving yourself enough time (and even building in additional time) to shop, you will feel less stress and so will your kids.
8. Know what to do for the melt downs. Let’s face it. Kids will cry and maybe even have a tantrum when we least expect it. I still remember the time my oldest was only 3 and started having one in Target. I left my items in the cart, pulled her and my bag out of it and left the store. I told her we were done shopping and when she behaved we would go back.
About 20 minutes after we left, she said she was ready to go back and so we returned (and our cart was there waiting for us). She learned that Mom was serious and that I would follow through with my threat. She never had another meltdown like that again.
Some things you can try if your kids get upset is to redirect them. Start to talk about different things in the store. Or, share the recipe you are going to make for dinner and how they will be a big kid by helping to set the table. Of course, you know your kids and know what will work. Just try this the next time they start to act up and you might squelch the breakdown before it really gets started.
Now, the other element is the sibling fighting. Trust me, with three kids, I know about this more than I would ever want. If they were fighting over who got to sit and who had to walk – they would both walk. If it was over getting the same item from the shelf, they would both give up the job. We would then talk about taking turns and they learned that if they fought it would not help, as NO ONE would get the job.
9. Promise a fun task after you shop. My kids did not enjoy shopping with me. It is not a fun place. I would always tell them that when we got home and had the food put away, we would do something fun. It might mean puzzles or games — or even a movie with popcorn. The caveat I always told them, was that if they did something I wanted to do, I would do the same for them.
This worked well and gave them another reason to just behave and get through our shopping trip. They knew that something fun was waiting for them at home.
10. Create games. Our local store actually helps us with this. They have a small picture of a chicken named Clifford that the kids look for while we shop. This helps them just really focus on something. When they find him, they get to tell customer service and are rewarded with one small free grocery item.
If you don’t have this at your store, ask your child to find letters or prices or other things in the store. This gives them a job to do and something on which to focus while you get the shopping done.
11. Make it a chance to learn some math. As my kids have gotten older, I have allowed them to learn to compare prices. I make it easy as we compare like size products. They have to look at the prices on the shelf to determine which costs less. This is just another way for them to think they are having some fun into another way to learn.
12. Know when to shop. Never shop at your kids’ “bad time” of the day. If it is close to nap time or if they are just worn out after school, those may not be the right times to visit the store. Sure, they may be the time that works best for you, but if you can try to change your schedule to make sure that your kids are going to be in a better mood, it will be a much better experience.