I'm so grateful to have plenty of grocery stores in the area in which to purchase all the food my family needs and the yummy items I want.
That being said, I also despise grocery stores with the passion of 1,000 unfed lions being taunted by a giant gnu just outside of their grasp.
In my many, many years of grocery store shopping, I have come up with a variety of tactics to make the trip with children a touch easier. By "a touch", I mean you have a good chance of making it out without having to do the walk of shame, dragging an out-of-control toddler to the car while your partially filled cart sits inside, waiting to be emptied by the grocery store worker who was giving you dirty looks as you left.
Here I have 10 Ways to Make Shopping with Children Easier.
(Daggum, I wish I knew how to make a badge/button thing. It's on my to-do list. Right after clean the outside of the windows. Pretty much means it's never going to happen.)
1. Leave the kids at home. It really is the best way to shop with children.
2. The worst part of any shopping trip is the check-out line. The candy aisle you can avoid. The paying for the groceries aisle, you cannot. Besides the candy and the stupid little toys, once your kid can read, those magazines take on a whole new level of danger. (Count how many times you see the word "sex" one week.) To combat this, we use the candy for good instead of evil. While I unload the groceries onto the belt, I have the kids find different letters of the alphabet in the names on the candy wrappers. And since I always choose the line that takes the longest (despite taking into account the check-out person, the number of people in front of me, and the fullness of their carts) we usually get through at least 18 letters.
3. The elderly and children generally have the same naptime, so you can't avoid them at the store, which means you can't avoid the comments and stares from the grandparent set. Instead of fighting it or trying to come up with good comebacks, be proactive. Give them something of your choosing to talk about. Let the kids wear the most outrageous yet adorable thing in her closet. She wants to wear a tiara and tutu? Go for it. He wants to wear his turtle costume in May? Certainly! The child will be happy in the costume, and the grandparents will smile and coo about how precious your little ones are.
4. Unless you are ready to buy something every time you enter a store, DO NOT buy them anything they want. EVER. If they ask, the answer is no. This is not a time to be wishy-washy. They can smell weakness a mile away and know when you are on the brink of giving in. The whining and asking will not stop until they get what they want. If they know that the answer will ALWAYS be no, they will no longer ask. And don't fall for the, "If you buy it, I'll pay you back at home," trap. These children have fried our brains. They know we'll never remember to collect the money.
5. Small children often just want to help. Unfortunately, their help means a waterfall of apples cascading onto the produce floor. Tap into their helpful nature by providing them their own "list" of things at the store. When the big kids were little, I made flashcards, each with something we normally purchased at the store. Each child had a ring of cards and was responsible for finding the items on their cards. These days, I don't bother with the cards. With two kids, it's a lot easier, so I just give them some coupons and tell them to find those items.
6. Our generation is very good at distracting our children with food. If you are going to try this tactic at the store, make sure to bring a snack that takes a looooong time to eat. Ringpops are perfect for this. Besides the fact it takes forever to eat them, ringpops are hard to drop. Always beware of the dropping of the food. The temper tantrum that will ensue when you won't let him eat something after it fell on the floor is just shocking to the system. I have seen women who failed to bring a snack simply open something they took off the shelf at the store then pay for it when they get to checkout. I have never done it, and I never will. (I can say "never", seeing as how I am well past the most difficult grocery store runs of my life, and if I didn't do it then, I'm certainly not going to start now.) It just seems too much like shoplifting to me. The kids see Mom open something and eat it right off the shelf, but how often do they see her pay for it? With a big box of something, it's harder, but if something smaller is opened and finished, how often is the item forgotten about and then not paid for? I would forget. So I just don't do it.
7. If it's a rainy day, let your kids wear rain boots to the store. It has two benefits. One, kids can't run as fast with boots on, so catching him when he runs down the cereal aisle while channeling Veruca Salt, screaming, "I want it all and I want it NOW!" will be a little easier. Two, you can be the awesomely fun mom who parks far out in the parking lot, next to the biggest puddle, so the kids can jump in it while you put the groceries in the van.
8. Bring a toy. The kind of toy is very important. It must be made of only one piece, seeing as how multiple pieces will only mean you will spend 19.6 minutes each aisle picking up dropped pieces. Examples of good toys are Travel Etch-a-Sketch or a "find it" jar. (I made these for the big kids long ago. Get a plastic jar with a lid, put lots of little items in it like coins, buttons, army men, marbles, etc, then fill jar with sand. Shake it up, seal the lid (fellow rednecks will use duct tape) and let the kids look for the items in the jar.)
9. Be silly, but not too silly. There is a fine line between silly to make a child happy and silly to get a kid all wound up and hyper. Try for the first one. Perhaps talk in a Julia Child voice as you pick things off the shelf, telling the kids why you're buying it. See how many "gross" things you and the kids can find, the definition of gross being whatever you want it to be. It's best not to do this from the moment you walk in the store. Save it for right before the kids are about to lose it. You do not want to be talking like Julia through the entire store. Trust me.
10. Talk and sing. If all else fails, talk and sing. I don't mean with the child. I mean to the child. I know you know what I mean. That way of talking to your child, telling him why you are doing something, but really you are talking to everyone around you, telling them how you aren't a horrible parent. You are doing a fabulous job raising your child, and he just won't meet you in the middle. Something like, "I know you want out of the cart, but when I let you out of the cart, you ran from Mommy. There are consequences for not following directions." All in a high-pitched, sweet voice as you look at items on the shelf and ignore the child's cries and kicks.
OK, so number 10 doesn't make the trip easier, but it usually doesn't get to this point until you are nearing the completion of your trip. Far enough in that there is no way on God's green earth you are abandoning your cart for some unpleasant toddler. It will give you the "respect" of the elderly and keep you from going all "Wal-Mart" on your offspring.
That's all I've got. Good luck out there.
And if you have any ideas to add, please do so in the comments.
Have a lovely day!