Taking one, two, three or more children grocery shopping may seem daunting. I have found that starting by taking small steps toward a full shopping trip can be helpful. If you just had a baby, make a practice run! Go to the grocery store with very few items on your list and bail at any point. I have found it usually goes better than I expect it will go.
When you're ready to take on a full grocery shopping trip, here is what I have found to be helpful:
Prior to leaving for the store, clear off your kitchen counter so you have plenty of space to unload your groceries.
If lunch is scheduled right after you return from the store, make lunch beforehand so it's ready when you get home in order to avoid (minimize?) meltdowns. Or, let’s be real, stop at the McDonald’s drive-thru on the way home because you just survived the grocery store.
For children who are potty-training (or have recently been potty-trained), have the child go to the bathroom before you leave for the store and ask them as you enter the store if they need to go to the bathroom (before you have a cart full of children and groceries). You may still have to bolt to the bathroom with a cart full of stuff but at least you tried to be proactive!
Bring a snack the children can eat in the cart (granola bar, applesauce packet, banana). Some stores offer a fresh fruit or cookie for children - check in the fruit or bakery areas.
Park near the cart return and grab a cart on the way in so the children can ride in the cart into the store. Keep a towel or rag in the car that you can use to dry off the carts. Then return the cart nearby when you are done.
Keep children in the cart for as long as humanly possible (age-wise). Keeping them contained has worked best for me to keep chaos to a minimum. Costco and many Aldi carts have spots to hold two (sitting) kids. Target has a cart that holds one child but also has extra large carts that can hold three (sitting) children. It looks like a beast to maneuver but actually isn’t too difficult.
While shopping, engage the children as much as possible by talking to them about what you're getting, singing songs quietly and letting them help you pick items off the shelf and put them in the cart (if they’re old enough and are out of the cart)
.In general, we never buy toys or gifts while grocery shopping. I have found that it simplifies the shopping trip and sets the expectation that grocery shopping is not a time to buy fun things for them which usually results in less whining.
When you get to the car and need to unload the groceries and load up your children, put each child in their car seat first, then unload groceries and return the grocery cart.
While you are out and about, if kids are cooperating, complete another “car errand” like returning library books to the book drop, fill up gas, or run to the bank to avoid having to load everyone up again.
In the photo above, we had just braved going to the store for our first full shopping trip since our third son was born and it was windy! I placed our newborn in the basket of the cart and I shopped this way until the baby could sit upright in the cart. I'd stuff grocery items all around the car seat, in the unused seating area of the cart and below the big boys. It totally worked! If you try it, make sure you lift the car seat when you get to the check-out to make sure nothing has slid under it.
Share any other grocery shopping tips you have in the comments below! We are in this together.