People usually have mixed feelings about grocery shopping, to begin with. For me, it is usually one of the last things on my “To Do” list that I finish- or it is the first thing I finish on my list just so that I can get it over with. Yes, there are times where filling up the pantry and fridge is fun but other times it is a dreaded task that just needs to get done. For those of you who have a hard time getting the shopping done by yourself, just try doing it with a baby or toddler, and you might change your mind.
Grocery shopping with a baby or toddler can be either an easy task or a more than difficult task to accomplish, especially on a time crunch. I have most likely experienced it all with my toddler, and let me tell you; it usually ends with my son being crazy and me being slightly embarrassed. But, that is just part of being a parent!
Below are 15 tips on how to make it through those rough days at the grocery store- or to at least ease your families shopping experience.
Go while the baby or toddler is napping
Honestly, this is probably the best and most effective way to shop when you are in a rush or wanting to have a stress free shopping experience. As a mom, there are many things that we try to cram in while our younger kids are napping. Whether it be laundry, cleaning the house, cooking, or even attempting to get a few minutes of shut-eye ourselves but there always seems to be something extra that we try and crank out during that one or two hours of “kid free” time.
If you have a day of shopping planned I would recommend loading your youngster in the car around naptime and then head to the store. As my son gets older, trying to plan out “nap time” and my errands are becoming more challenging, but I like to still try to plan it out so I can put my toddler in his stroller and grab all of the essentials for at least dinner. This allows me to get in an out of the store super speedy, even giving me the opportunity to get back home fast and lay my son back down in his bed for the rest of his nap.
But do remember that it is not a good idea to leave your young one inside of the car by themselves even if they’re napping; especially on warmer days.
Go right after the baby or toddler has napped
There is nothing better than a happy baby or toddler. So, going right after naptime is another great time for you to get that shopping out of the way. They are freshly awake and most likely ready to get out of the house.
I love including my toddler in grocery shopping, but it is not the easiest task, especially when he is tired. The tantrums make life in the grocery store hard! And I am assuming some of you, parents, have experienced the challenges that come with shopping with a toddler. A happy child equals a happy mama!
Get the shopping done in the morning
My son usually has a ton of energy in the morning. He is also a homebody. Because of this, I like to get the shopping out of the way nice and early so then we can play at home for the day if we are free! I like to keep my morning routine with my toddler the same before abruptly getting him going, so, he wakes up, relaxes, plays a little, eats breakfast, then I change him. I also like to “talk- up” the grocery store activities. If I am going to Trader Joe’s, I usually get my son super excited that he can push his own cart and anywhere else I love to give my son the idea that he gets to actually “help mama” with the shopping.
Toddlers and young children love the idea of helping, so get them up and get the shopping done in the morning when the kids are up and ready to go!
Keep your child occupied while they are in the cart
I am not usually one to allow my son to play with my phone or use the iPad, but sometimes I do allow him to mess around with technology when we are trying to speed shop. One way to keep an antsy kid busy while you are trying to get shopping done fast is to let them mess around on some sort of technology. I have found some really awesome learning apps for my toddler, and he LOVES them. Things like puzzles, counting, and alphabets allow me to get shopping done super quickly and for my toddler to get some learning time in!
I also like to bring books to the store with me, for my son. You could even look into getting some “food-based” children’s books to help your child learn different foods. These little suggestions keep your kiddos occupied and allows them to learn while giving you the opportunity to get your shopping done fast if you are in a rush!
Let your kids be involved during the shopping
My son absolutely loves helping me with the shopping. It may not be the smoothest or the most time efficient way to handle shopping, but it is honestly so fun when my son helps me with picking the groceries. He thinks he is totally in control.
I tell him what to get, and he grabs it off of the shelf. He loves it! I really like to do this when we have a lot of time to shop. We can go aisle by aisle and pick healthy groceries to stock up our pantry.
This is an easy way to keep the kids occupied. Put them in the cart and then feed them some snacks they love. This keeps them engaged and, let’s face it, a full baby/ toddler is a happy one! When we go shopping, I like to have a stash of snacks to go. Sometimes it is easiest to go shopping in between that awkward breakfast/ lunchtime or lunch/ dinner time and out babies are hungry. So it does not hurt to be prepared.
Let’s face it; no one likes to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach! You either come home with way too much food or you are just hangry (hungry-angry.) Think of your child through the hungry eyes! Do not forget to keep those tummies nice and fed!
Let your kids pick out one thing from the store that they can open when the task is done
I do this when it has been a slightly stressful shopping experience for my son and me. This gives my son something exciting to look forward to for when we are done shopping. It can be a fun fruit to try, chips, crackers, or even a small toy- this usually helps me keep my son excited and behaving well during the shopping.
I like to do the whole, “if you behave and let mommy get the shopping done fast you get to open this right when we get into the car!” speech this keeps my son looking forward to getting the tasks done!
Let them help “push” the shopping cart
This one definitely does not speed up my shopping ritual, but it makes my son more than happy to contribute to the whole process. If I know, he is not exactly in the shopping mood I usually try and bribe him with the ability to push the cart. This is when I enjoy going to Trader Joe’s with my son. I am not sure if every Trader Joe’s in every state has the mini kids shopping carts, but a good amount of them do!
This makes shopping super fun and exciting for my toddler! I like to do this when I do not have too many groceries to get, but I also like to write up a little list that my son can help me check off as we go. I read my son when we need off of the list, and I direct him to what he should grab. He has a blast!
Have a surprise activity for after the shopping is done
Back to the bribery. Sometimes I put something small such as a lollipop, fruit snacks, or even some gummy bears in my purse. When I need to get in and out of the store but my toddler is not feeling it and just having one of those rough days, I tell him I have a little treat or a little surprise for him when the shopping is over.
On top of this, it is still important to keep your little one entertained as you move along through the store.
Bring a favorite toy
My son absolutely loves his trucks. Anything monster trucks or race cars. So, before we leave the house, I let my son pick out either a monster truck or a race car to bring with him on our little outing.
I usually try and keep my son’s toys altogether and leave them in the car so that his stuff does not get misplaced, but sometimes it’s almost a “treat” for him to bring his favorite daily toy out and about with us while we run errands.
There is nothing better than running through the grocery store singing the ABC’s or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, or The Wheels on the Bus! This is a great time to give your youngsters some music time. It is just as entertaining to us mama’s as it is to our kiddos! And it makes our shopping a little more fun.
There is almost nothing cuter than a singing toddler. This is a fun way for your kids to learn on top as practicing their singing skills.
Explain what will be used for lunch/ dinner
Toddlers love to be helpful. So, in using this, maybe let your kids pick what they will want for lunch and dinner! Give them about three options to choose from (so then you, mama, are not so overwhelmed trying to deal with an indecisive toddler) and get shopping.
As you go through the store explain what each thing is that you are grabbing. Such as: “this is for the salad, this is for soup, this is for the chicken, and these are for your snacks.” This keeps your toddler entertained, and also it teaches your toddler different fruits, veggies, and what is in their meal. (You can sneak the green veggies if your toddler is not that into them at the moment.)
Make picking out veggies fun
Think of vegetable shopping as “creating a rainbow.” I like to make the veggies colorful. Red, green, white, purple, orange, and so many more. I like my toddler to help me pick out what he wants! Even if it is something new that he has not tried yet, or if it is just something to dip in hummus.
Make veggies fun and bright! This can make the eating of veggies easier also.
Let the kids pick out a dessert for after dinner!
Now, this is a true treat. Sometimes a toddler or younger kid is just not having it when it comes to shopping. So, make it where he gets to pick the final exciting treat of the evening. However, make sure that they understand that the dessert is strictly for after they eat all of dinner.
Whether it be ice cream or even something they can bake for later on! This makes all the shopping totally worth it.
Let them help you unload the car/ unpack the groceries
This is a perfect way to end the shopping day. Having my son help me unload groceries allows him to continue to learn responsibilities. I usually pack some of the more “light” stuff, such as chips and the snacks into a small bag and then give those for my son to carry into the house. Once everything is back into the house, I sit my son on the counter, and he helps me unload the bags.
After that, I love to cut us up some snacks (usually veggies and hummus), and we relax. This is a great way to end the shopping while continuing to keep my son involved!