As a mom of four kids who are very closely spaced in age, I am at a sweet spot in the parenting gig. We have rounded the corner of the stage of complete and total chaos, and now life feels same again. Everyone can use the bathroom independently, everyone can make their own lunch, and temper tantrums are at a minimum. Life is so much easier today than it was when they were younger.
With one exception . . .
Yes, Karis. I feel the same way.
I hated it when they were little, and I still hate it. It has just never gotten easier. It is one of those things I just don’t like doing. I hate to do it when the kids are in tow, because they are whiny and annoying and start begging for me to buy them things by aisle 2. But I also hate doing it myself, because it is definitely not my preferred way to spend my precious moments alone. So, despite their protestations, I usually take them along with me when I grocery shop.
I have never learned to love it, but I have learned some techniques for making the experience more enjoyable. Here are some of my best tips:
Try a “pick up and pay” option
Yes, that’s right. My first piece of advice involves avoiding most of the actual grocery shopping. Many stores have options where you can order your groceries online, and then simply pick them up when you arrive. BJ’s Wholesale, for example, has an option where you can reserve your groceries online and pick them up in two hours. They have everything ready and waiting at the front of the club so you can check out right away. It’s a fast and easy way to get in and get out.
You don’t want to be meal planning as you shop. Make a list so that you can get things done quickly. If you are really type A, you can even make the list in the order of the isles at the grocery store.
Go at the right time
It sounds obvious, but you don’t want to be grocery shopping when your kids are hungry. Avoid meal times, and avoid rush-hour if you can. The after-work, dinnertime crush means crowded isles and long lines. I find it better to go mid morning or mid afternoon.
Review expectations and consequences before you walk in
I typically park my car and then have a little chat with my kids about what kind of behavior I expect. I outline what will happen if they misbehave, and try to preemptively project and avoid any negative behaviors. For us, this usually involves begging for food not on the list, whining, and running through the aisles.
I’m not above it. If I offer my kids a reward of a small snack for good behavior, they are often much better behaved. I don’t dole it out until we are out of the checkout line, because it keeps them motivated to be appropriate through the store.
Shop in bulk
Shopping in bulk means less trips to the grocery store, and less time wrangling kids. Stores like BJ’s Wholesale can allow you to buy in bulk so that you run out of things less frequently. It’s also more cost-effective for a big family.
Use the cart
Take advantage of the prison of the shopping cart if your kids still fit. It is a good way to keep kids contained as you shop. If they are older, you can ask them to keep a hand on the side of the cart as you walk.
Let them help
This can add to the chaos, but it can also teach kids valuable lessons and help quell boredom at the store. As you make your shopping list, you can designate items to certain kids, or simply call out the items you need as you’re walking through the store.