grocery 1What IS it about grocery shopping exactly that sends kids – and their parents – over the edge?  Is it the tiny cart?  The inability to run around without bumping into another cart or shopper?  Over-stimulation caused by the number of different sights, smells and sounds?  The sheer tediousness of it all?

Whatever the reason, kids, I hear ya.  I dislike grocery shopping with a passion.  No idea why exactly, but it has always my least favorite thing on my “to do” list (ironic considering the fact in my pre-baby existence I actually worked for a food distributor with a major grocery chain client, which meant I lived and breathed everything grocery on a daily basis).

I’ll admit though, that grocery shopping has actually become – dare I say it? – fun now that I have kids, and I say that sincerely.  I truly enjoy having people to talk with as we meander around the store.  I love stopping to say hi to the lobsters in the tank, racing up and down the aisles, and giggling over balloons and silly things we see.

Yes.  Grocery shopping with kids CAN be fun.  Enjoyable even.  You just have to employ a few strategies in order to have a truly pleasant experience.

1.  Go at the Right Time

This is the most important step. Don’t even think about attempting a trip to the grocery store when it’s almost time for a nap or a meal – a meltdown of epic proportions is pretty much guaranteed.   If possible, shop early in the morning for a nice, quiet experience with very few other shoppers (less shoppers = shorter line at the deli counter and a quicker check out).  We’re fortunate here in Charlotte to have a lot of different grocery stores nearby; familiarize yourself with them.  I have a few Harris Teeters a short distance from our house, and prefer one over the others.  It may be smaller, but it’s typically much quieter, which is less stressful for me – it’s easier to find a great parking spot, and I’m able to shop and get in and out much more quickly than at some of the bigger, busier stores.

2. Make a list.

Yes, we’re officially old.  Make a grocery list before you go already. This way you don’t spend tons of time going up and down each aisle in the store wondering what it is you came there for in the first place.  Time is of the essence when shopping with kids – there’s no time to wander aimlessly!

3. Bring snacks.

Oh yeah, I’ll admit I use food as a means to placate and calm angry or fussy kids.  I don’t go overboard (the snacks are relatively healthy and I try and stick with things that aren’t super messy to eat), but being able to whip out a squeeze pouch of applesauce or a cup of cheddar bunnies or even some fruit snacks to buy myself a few more minutes of peace and shopping?  Totally worth it.

4. Don’t Forget the Cookies

Harris Teeter and Publix have free cookies available to the kids while you’re shopping, which is always a nice treat.  I know some moms will offer up a cookie at the start of the trip to keep the kids happy, while I tend to save the cookie for the end as a reward (and incentive) for a calm experience.  Whatever works!  Just don’t forget to grab one.

grocery 25. Laugh

Lighten up a little.  It’s not the worst thing ever to let your kids push the small, kid-sized shopping carts available for use at HT.  Or if you have to push them around the awkwardly huge shopping cart with the Cozy Coupe attached.  Sure, the trip might take a little longer than anticipated, but those little things will go a long way to helping to make grocery shopping a fun experience, not a torturous, meltdown-inducing ordeal.  Or, make it into a game.  Print pictures of what you’re looking for and give your kids a “list,” asking them to let you know when they spot what you’re looking for.  For older kids, give them your coupons and let them have the job of finding the items pictured.  Kids learn and have fun at the same time!

While I can’t guarantee a perfect trip every time, I can promise a little planning goes a long way to a successful grocery shopping trip.  What are your tricks and tips for making it through without major issues?