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How to Shop with Young Children

I received an email yesterday with a question from a young mom asking for suggestions on shopping with young children:

Most young moms I know go shopping on their own when their husband gets home from work and I wish I could do that. But my husband is a first-year medical resident and works over 90 hours a week.

I would definitely prefer shopping by myself but more often than not that just isn’t possible. As with most young families our calendar gets full quickly and the few nights a week we don’t have something scheduled I hate running out the door as soon as THE HUSBAND gets home.

So, right now if you are cruising the aisles of Kroger and you see a lady with a large grocery list, an envelope of coupons, wearing a baby, with one child in the front of the cart and one trying to hold her hand that would be me. Stop and say hi.

Some ideas to make the trip easier:

Have a plan. This is key. A list of everything you want to buy (I now make mine in order of the aisles) and an envelope with all the coupons you want to use.
If you are going to more than one store have an envelope with and list and coupons for each store.

Prioritize– Grab the “needs” on your list first and save the items you would like or want to price check for last. That way if your children start to melt down you can just head to check out. If you are hitting several stores shop the most important first.

Prepare Your Children-This works well with my 3 and 4 year olds. I have boys so I usually try the team approach. I tell them we have a mission and we need to use team work to get it done. Everyone has to help. That means cheerfully obeying and helping mommy. Let your children know what is expected and then praise them for their help/behavior while you are shopping.

Involve Your Children-My older two love this. Let them pick out some of the produce or hold open the bag for you. Keep them on the lookout for free samples and blinkie machines. Let them cross items off your list or pick non-breakable items off of lower shelves.

Relax and Be Flexible– Some shopping trips are more successful than others, and that is okay. Be ready to change plans, be willing to be creative.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Do the best you can to serve your family, enjoy your time with your children and hopefully buy some groceries.

I remember asking a friend about this  when I only had one baby and she told me it would never be easier to shop with children. I thought she was absolutely crazy.  Then I had two and I thought “One was so easy, two is what is hard.”  Now I have three and two feels like a breeze.  It is all about perspective.

There are so many more ways to make shopping when you have young children easier. I am really interested to hear your ideas! What are your best tips?

Comments

  1. I let my five yr old push a small cart and she LOVES it!

  2. I agree with what you said Katie. When you have young children you have to make priorities and move quickly! I let my kids get a bag of popcorn at Target. It only costs $1 and they will split it into smaller bags if you ask 🙂 I might also try to find another mom with small children. You can then trade babysitting and get some shopping time alone.

  3. I only have one child, but he is a full blown toddler complete with attitude, so it can be challenging. When daddy can’t watch him, I use the carts with the car in front. The basket is a little smaller, but it keeps him entertained for a few minuites at least. I also bring LOTS of snacks…sometimes lunch. It may not work for every age, but it usually does the trick for my little one

  4. Thanks for sharing this, Katie! The only advice I have to add is that I make sure we go shopping right after naptime when he is happiest!

  5. I print the coupons in color and then do a scavenger hunt sort of deal. It’s matching so it’s educational right? I save the cereal isle for last and let them pick one snack type item for their lunch boxes fro school.

  6. Personally, I find that by God’s grace, I am more likely to be patient and interact with strangers when I have my little one with me (mostly because she is so good at drawing attention to herself!). Granted, I only have one at this point, but for those of you looking for opportunities to talk with strangers, kids are always an attention getter!

  7. Honeysmith says:

    Once my kids outgrew the carts, I had them look for blinkies (coupon machines). They love doing that!

  8. I put the baby in the stroller, give the 4-year-old the “job” of pushing the stroller, and give the 3-year-old the job of helping push the cart. I also give them other things to do while we’re there. They like to put produce on the scales and help look for things on my list (like if we’re in canned goods, I’ll ask who can find black beans first…). If we’re at a store that has freebies for the kids (popcorn and/or cookies), then I leave that section for last. They get the treat as a reward for good cooperation. Yeah, it’s a bribe, and I’m not ashamed to admit it!

  9. I put the baby in the stroller, give the 4-year-old the “job” of pushing the stroller, and give the 3-year-old the job of helping push the cart. I also give them other things to do while we’re there. They like to put produce on the scales and help look for things on my list (like if we’re in canned goods, I’ll ask who can find black beans first…). If we’re at a store that has freebies for the kids (popcorn and/or cookies), then I leave that section for last. They get the treat as a reward for good cooperation. Yeah, it’s a bribe, and I’m not ashamed to admit it!

  10. Oh, and I forgot to mention, where we used to live there was a grocery chain that had a supervised play area for kids (I checked it out, and it was nice and clean and they made the kids wash their hands before coming in, etc.). The play area had cameras, and there were a couple of spots in the store with screens so you could check in on your kids while you shopped. I’m one of “those moms” who pretty much never leaves her kids, but I felt comfortable with that place and the kids loved it. It was a little more expensive than other stores, but it was worth it to be able to get my shopping done more quickly. I miss it.

  11. I definitely found something had to give. I could either shop with little ones in tow OR coupon. Something like this week’s mega event w/ buying specials in increments of 10 and using coupons would never have happened while interacting with my children. I do fine going aisle to aisle w/ no set time schedule, or sticking to a strict list (but can’t use the mental energy to calculate which brand is cheapest – if many are offered – grab store brand and go). A friend shops after 10 p.m. once a week or twice a month at her Kroger in Knoxville. She says the store is dead. The same employees work that shift and know her. She is well served (going in the back to grab things that have been wiped out during a sale, knowing she will want them). They even accept her expired coupons. Sleep is critical to parenting well in my home, but if a mom of young ones could plan to nap with them the day after the big, late night grocery run, maybe it would work. As long as there is a hubby or grandparent in the picture, it would at least work to go after everyone is in bed on a Friday night to do a big stock up once per month.

  12. Mmslattery says:

    I often shop with at least 2 of the 3 and it is stressful, especially during mega sales. But I try to stay organized, focused, and moving! My best tip is trying to spread out your trips to 3 instead of 4 in a month. It saves you time, money, and meltdowns by aisle 11!

  13. Floursackmama says:

    Some stores will give the kids a free cookie from the bakery or something like that. If we can make it through half of the shopping trip, then get the cookie as a treat for good behavior, it helps the time go more smoothly.

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