Are you a mom who really doesn’t like to take your kids grocery shopping? There are a million other things you’d rather be doing like pulling your toenails out one by one. You’ve probably had a bad experience (or 2 or 10) that makes you feel this way.
As a mom of 4, I totally get it. I know where you are coming from because I am also there. Grocery shopping with my kids is one of those things that I dread doing. And I have really great kids. But they are still kids, and taking them to the grocery store is like trying to bathe a wild hyena- at least I imagine it is.
Once #3 came along, I knew I needed to get some kind of system in place or we would never eat again. I needed something to help make these trips to the store a little less chaotic and a little more manageable, especially since I meal plan and shop only once or twice a month. Most of these tips are common sense, but putting them together on paper made them a little more tangible. So, here you go. From one Overwhelmed Mama to another:
Tip #1: TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Choose your time wisely. We moms understand this concept all too well. Sometimes, though, we just get caught up in “all the things” and end up in a rush. A hurried, messy rush.
We all know when the kids are usually cranky. We all can read our children better than anyone else, and we know when their little horns are most likely to appear. Let’s just avoid these times, okay? Early afternoon is not a good time at my house. The toddler usually gets up early and is ready for a nap. We also don’t go shopping after we’ve been out in the heat or sun. Or if we’re hungry. Or if we are just having a crappy day.
Usually early mornings are better for us. This means that I do my grocery shopping mostly on Saturday mornings while everybody is still in a good mood (since I work Monday thru Friday). Plus, I can get it over with and still have my weekend to enjoy. Did I ever mention that I really dislike grocery shopping??!
Tip #2: ALWAYS HAVE A LIST
I cannot even imagine trying to take my crew into the grocery store without having a list in my hand. I would be a babbling mess trying to figure out what in the world I came to buy.
Making a grocery list goes hand in hand with meal planning. If you haven’t jumped on the meal-planning bandwagon yet, now is a good time to do that. If you aren’t sure what you are going to be eating, how do you know what you need to buy? And I speak from experience when I tell you that trying to “wing it” in the grocery store with 4 kids in tow is an absolute nightmare.
So plan your meals out for the week (or 2 weeks or even a month) depending on how often you choose to shop. Make your list using your meal plan (don’t forget staples like milk and bread 🙂 I mean, I am from the south, so….
Tip #3: EVERYONE GETS A JOB
When you are tackling this task on your own, make sure to use the help that you have. Plus, we all know about those idle hands…
When we do our shopping, my oldest (12) is in charge of the list. She tells her sister (6) what to get off the list and marks it out as we go. My son (7) is in charge of keeping the baby (2) entertained. And the baby…well, she just does whatever the heck she wants. I mean, let’s be honest. You can only entertain a 2 year old for so long. She does have to stay in the cart, though, and we manage with snacks and things.
Tip #4: SET SOME GROUND RULES
Before we go on a trip to the store, we have “our talk”. It usually consists of me telling them what I expect and making sure everyone is in agreement. We go over our jobs, and everybody knows what to do.
The kids know that if everybody cooperates, and Mama gets the shopping done without having a nervous breakdown, they are allowed to get one item of their choice. If they don’t, they don’t get anything. This is individual to each child, and it only takes 1 time to make a believer out of them. A few months ago, we were doing a 2 week grocery run, and my son was in a funk and didn’t want to do anything I asked. When we checked out and his sisters got something and he didn’t, you would’ve thought his life was over. But, you know what? He learned his lesson and hasn’t done that since. Gotta stick to your guns here, Mama. If they know you are bluffing, you won’t get anywhere.
Tip #5: HURRY THE HECK UP
This is paramount. The trick to getting this done smoothly is to get in and get out. This is where your list and your helper system comes into action. Get what you need. Nothing extra. And get the heck out. If your kids are anything like mine, you can only keep them on task for a short amount of time. The longer you spend in the store, the more likely someone is going to have a breakdown or have to pee.
Do yourself a favor and get up and down those aisles quickly, get what you need, check out, and leave. If you need to open a box of snacks on the way through the store to keep the little one occupied, by all means, do it. You can pay for it when you check out. I assure you people would much rather you do that than hear your screaming child all through the store.
Tip #6: STOP WORRYING ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS
So you have your list and everybody has their jobs. You have covered all the ground rules and you are trying to get through the store as quickly as possible. Yet somebody still decides to have a meltdown on you in the middle of the store, and you can feel the piercing glares coming from all directions. What do you do now?
I’ll tell you what you do. You hold your head up like the boss that you are, and you get your job done. You’ve made it this far. You can’t give up now.
People may stare. Some may even have rude comments. That’s ok. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. However, unless these people are going to pay the bill once you get to the counter, their opinions are irrelevant, and you will forget them as soon as you get in the parking lot. Motherhood is no place for thin skin. You can’t let people get to you. Just tell them that you will pray for them and move on. That usually hits a nerve or two 🙂
Tip #7: GO BY YOURSELF
Why didn’t I think of this before??? This is the answer to all the problems, right? You can stroll the grocery admiring each canned good and frozen bag of brocolli florets. It feels like a mini vacation. No one yelling “Mama”. No one poops their diaper. No one is fighting over who gets the last bag of dinosaur fruit gummies.
REMEMBER…We are all doing the best we can!
Of course, we would rather go by ourselves, but that isn’t always an option. If it was, we wouldn’t need to have these types of conversations. The reality is that most of these “duties” usually fall on mom to handle. (Notice I said usually. I know many dads have assumed these roles, but they are USUALLY still done by mom. At least all the moms I know.) And we moms have our kids in tow 9 times out of 10. Especially if you have more than 2 because nobody wants to keep them. So we have to make do with what we have.
No system is perfect, but using these tips will at least help buy you some time. They will help you hang on to the little bit of sanity that you have left. And remember, we are all doing the best we can. We have to eat. We have to buy groceries. And we have kids. And also remember that these days only last for a little while. One day we will miss having our little mess makers around. Well, maybe not at the grocery store.