5 ways you can help parents survive the grocery store

I take my kids to the grocery store about once a week, and it might be the errand that has been most wildly affected by having children. I dread going to the grocery store; every part of it, from making the list to putting the groceries away. And then there’s the actual shopping. Do you know what Mary Virginia does while I try to shop? Every time I try to look at my list, she grabs it and puts it in her mouth. Every time we go to the store, I always forget things, get more than I need, go over budget, and make horrible judgement calls. Remember when, the day before Mary Virginia was born, I impulse-bought Sour Patch Kids, iced coffee, and a bag of chips? Because the stress of shopping leaves me defenseless against bright shiny packaging. Chocolate covered pretzels? Yeah, I think we’re out of those.

Every week I use a Hot Wheels car as a bribe to get David to sit still and stop stomping on my tomatoes. But, wait a minute, why are there Hot Wheels cars at the grocery store? Because you know who knows best how hard it is to go to the grocery store? THE GROCERY STORE. That’s why it’s FULL of balloons, balls, and Elmo merchandise. If you don’t have kids you might not have noticed the balloons. Trust me, the grocery store has more balloons than chicken.

To be honest, for the wild island savages they are, my kids do pretty well in the grocery store. (I say that because I’ve never had to abandon a full grocery cart.) But in the almost three years I’ve been doing this, I’ve thought of a few things that can make shopping easier. Next time you’re in the grocery store, just cruising the aisles like a normal human being, and you see a mom ready to wave a white flag, here are some ways you can help.

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First, a tip. Now Mary Virginia sits in the cart, but for months I wore her in a carrier. A mom saw me struggling to lift David into the cart (while wearing Mary Virginia) and taught me this trick: lift the front of the cart and let your kid to climb in. I took these photos of David climbing into the buggy while holding Mary Virginia, so they’re not great, but hopefully they make sense. Every time I do this someone mentions how genius it is, and I’m so thankful for the woman who let me in on it.

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1) Don’t talk to them
Normally I like chatting with people at the grocery store. In fact, I don’t mind shopping on Tuesdays (Senior Citizen Day) because I like chatting. But just say hello and let me go. There are times when David is whining and Mary Virginia is eating my grocery list and someone is telling me about their niece whose third child weighed 9 lbs 2 oz. at birth and all I can think about is how I wish your niece was here to tell you to leave me alone and let me move to aisle 9 where David might stop asking for cheese. Say hello, tell me how cute my kids are and how much I’ll miss these days, and move on.

2) Pick things up, reach for things, you get the idea
This is what we look like when we shop. Kid in the front with a ball, kid in the back with a ball, and who put that bag of cheese balls in the bottom?

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Until a few weeks ago, I wore Mary Virginia in a carrier and David rode in the front seat. Now both kids are in the cart, but its hard to navigate either way. I can never abandon my cart, and when I was wearing Mary Virginia it was tough to lean down and pick things up. Now that David is in the big part of the cart, I don’t have a lot of room for groceries so a lot goes in the bottom. And here’s the problem: things roll out of the bottom, it’s hard to reach things, and you’d be surprised how often the box of graham crackers I need is blocked by a tower of cardboard boxes by someone who used to be stocking. The point is, if you see a mom struggling to reach something or a can of tomatoes rolling out of her cart, help her.

3) Let her go in front of you in line
I know, I know, you’re very important and very busy and you can’t spare the five minutes it will add to your day to let someone in front of you. This one doesn’t apply to you. But when I no longer have kids in my buggy, I’m going to spend my days opening doors for people pushing strollers and letting those same people go ahead of me in line.

4) Put things on the conveyer
I only add this because someone actually did this for me, and I was so thankful I teared up. Someone behind me in line started putting the groceries that were under my cart on the conveyer belt. I was wearing Mary Virginia (which, again, makes it hard to bend down) and they just started helping unload my groceries. It was simple, and I won’t forget it.

5) Put the cart away
The juggling act isn’t over once your out of the store. I roll my cart out with the kids, put my bags in the trunk, and then I have a choice. I can put your kids in the car and leave them in there while I take my cart back (with it running if it’s really hot or really cold). Or I can take the cart back and carry my impatient, grocery-weary kids back to the car.

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I try to park next to the cart retrieval but those spots aren’t always available and the “Mom with children” spots are NEVER beside the cart retrieval spots. Once I was loading my kids in the car and some guy walked by and asked if they could have my cart. REALLY? You’ll take my cart? Do you know you just eliminated one of the steps of this 1,098-step process? THANK YOU! It was such a help.

Once my groceries are in my car and my cart is put away, I buckle my seat belt, take a deep breath, and prepare for phase two: going home, getting the groceries inside, and putting them away.

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I’m still pretty new at this; anyone have any other ideas? Specifically, I want to know what you do when you have more than two. And I’m running out of excuses to keep David away from those carts with the cars on the front, and those ridiculous kid-size grocery carts.

Once when I was shopping, David was fussing and someone said, “I know what this little guy wants,” and lifted him OUT OF MY CART. That would be at the top of my list of “Things not to do unless you want me to call the cops.”

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17 Comments

  1. Kristie May 5, 2014

    My grocery store doesn’t have carts that kids can ride in. So no, I don’t have any ideas for you. Honestly, I’m kind of thankful to live in the city at this moment.

    Reply
  2. Tiffanie May 5, 2014

    The gift of people taking your cart for you is HUGE. It changes my life every time someone does it for me and I try to do it for someone else whenever I can.

    I have a friend who would buy her child an apple to gnaw on first thing at the store, it became his treat and took him forever to eat. That was her way of getting through.

    I have other friends who go shopping once the kids are in bed. Grocery stores are open late! It takes at least 30 minutes less, you can chat on the phone with a friend while you’re doing it, and will save you buckets in terms of bribing your kids. I urge you to consider this option.

    Stay away from the carts with cars on the front as long as possible, those things are impossible to steer and inevitably, David will be hanging out the side, getting his hand run over by the cart or just make a break for it in the store. They seem like they might make the trip easier at the beginning, but it is NOT worth it.

    We all find our own way to get through. With Abby in school, I regularly marvel at how easy the store is with just one in the cart. But then, I might be bribing Clara with my iPhone.

    Reply
  3. Becky May 5, 2014

    I agree with this post and I tear up every time someone helps me with something at the grocery store. It gives me the stress sweats. I love how you encapsulated all of the things that are helpful to us mamas. You are lovely.

    Reply
    • amandakrieger May 5, 2014

      isn’t it amazing how these little things make such a difference! i’ve teared up when people help me, too.

      Reply
  4. Jessie Harvey May 5, 2014

    I think my Mom, once she had four kids, abandoned for awhile going to the store with all of us. She’d go early on Saturday mornings, leaving us behind with my dad. That’s making some good sense to me right now.

    Reply
  5. Lynsie May 5, 2014

    I have started, like you know, only going once every two weeks and I take only 1 kid, max two, and leave one, hopefully 2 at home with Daddy. Once my kids hit 3 years they help me with the picking up things from the lower levels. Once they are old enough to stay in the carts with the cars, if I only have one big child, I LOVE the cars. Now if I have two big kids, they fight like roosters inside the car and my feelings about them change completely. I hated to spend time while Ryan was home going to the store, but once I hit more than 2 kids, It works and it so much quicker than taking them, and less taxing. If I absolutely have to go during the week the only time I am down a kid is when Peyt does dance, so I will take the boys during that time.

    Reply
  6. Jennifer May 5, 2014

    both ross and i work, so we may manage our time differently, but I can count the times I’ve taken Jonah to the grocery store on less than one hand. Our “system” is that I do all the grocery list making (phone app: outofmilk.com FTW), menu planning for the week, and probably 85% of all the cooking, so Ross does all the grocery shopping, usually right after work on his way home. So there’s no kid wrangling involved, no budget-busting impulse buys, and no breaking down and stress-eating an entire bag of cookies within the same aisle i just put them in the cart. and on the unintended plus-side, all that practice has made ross quite the savvy and reliable shopper.

    Reply
  7. Tori May 5, 2014

    You are a brave woman. I just email Tim a list and get him to stop on the way home (or I do the same). This is a great reminder to help other moms that I see in the store though! Most of my grocery store trips are between work and my time at home so I’m probably not very considerate.

    Maybe you could try to go while David is at preschool?

    Reply
    • amandakrieger May 5, 2014

      that was my plan! but then mary virginia refused to sleep on the go, so i had to nix that idea for the sake of her morning nap.

      Reply
  8. Callie May 5, 2014

    Go on the weekends and leave the kids with Dad.

    Reply
  9. Danielle May 5, 2014

    I feel for you.., I have a two year old and a two month old.. And it’s a juggle at the store. The cars with the carts have buckles in it and it is a treat for my two year old who wants to “drive” the cart.. I also have dealt with those who want to talk while you are trying to get in and out… The thing usually do is start having a conversation with my two year old.. At the point usually talking with him, causes those who would normally just talk turns into them just smiling and going on their way… Since I will be going back to work here soon, my time of shopping then is during lunch breaks or I do it just before picking them up from daycare…

    Reply
  10. Coco May 6, 2014

    I think I usually went grocery shopping on my own, or just took one kid with me. Do you have a smart phone? I love my grocery list app. It might be harder for your daughter to eat. Do any of your stores have delivery (which usually costs $5-10) or pick-up (which is usually free)?

    Reply
  11. Hannah M May 7, 2014

    Oh, I love everything about this post… mostly because I can relate so well to it. Though, I only have one to wrangle at the moment – I feel like that is enough of a challenge in and of itself! You are amazing for doing it with two little ones in tow! Maybe you could find a time to go grocery shopping when your hubby can go with you or stay home and watch the kids? Or go after bed time? Or take snacks and special toys to bribe the kids while you shop? Hopefully you can find something to help make grocery shopping less stressful!

    Reply
  12. chrissy May 7, 2014

    That is a fantastic idea about lifting the front to let the toddler crawl in. I never thought of that!! Also, i never thought to help anyone put their groceries on the conveyor belt. I mean, I thought they would be weirded out by me touching their items but I see how it would be helpful. I’ll definitely look out for someone in need next time.

    Reply
  13. Pinon Coffee May 9, 2014

    Someone LET HIM OUT OF THE CART!?!? That’s an all-time fail. Definitely a way to make Mama breathe fire. I can’t even imagine.

    I wish they’d make the bars on the bottom of the cart closer together and maybe with cross bars, so things don’t fall through and slide off the front. Wouldn’t that make sense? Until then, I have two gigantic carabiner clips and big reusable bags, and sometimes I hang the bags off the stroller and shop straight into them. I just have to lift the bananas out every time I put something else in. Ha!

    There are a lot of balloons in grocery stores. Also, we have attained to the knowledge that grocery stores have doughnuts. (Sigh.) Worse still… Meg knows I like doughnuts, too.

    BUT. The advantage to the huge long cart with the car in the front (beyond the opportunity for children to learn wisdom and not put their fingers in the works to get run over) is that people take pity on you! You look really, really helpless, and more of them get out of your way. I am absolutely not above taking advantage of this.

    Reply
  14. Ashley May 10, 2014

    So I love this. But I will go on the record as the crazy lady by telling you that I actually LIKE grocery shopping. I really do! Even as a kid I loved it. My mom used to put my orange and yellow fisher price shopping cart in the back of her Volvo wagon EVERY TIME we went to the grocery store. I even used to play “store” and have my family “shop” our pantry so I could ring it up and bag it all again. Strange child, I know. Anyways, I guess I just enjoy it a little more even though I have the same struggles. I actually let Luke walk with me. I’ve been doing this since he was two and he loves it. We established early on that he has to hold on the side of the cart when we are walking and I have him put the groceries in the cart. Yes, shopping takes twice as long this way, but it allows me to hold my carseat-hating baby and also keep the tantrums at bay. Luke isn’t sly enough to start sneaking things in the cart, but I’m not naive enough to think he won’t someday. Until then I make him work for his groceries. And on days that I need it to be quick or I don’t have the patience for his small steps? I grab one of those $0.30 bags of UTZ chips, pop it open, plop Luke in the cart and make a run for it. 🙂
    Oh and let me also add that using coupons adds another dynamic. When I go “coupon shopping” I either go at night after bedtime OR I take DumDums. Lots and lots of DumDums. 🙂

    Reply
  15. Nikki May 31, 2014

    Peapod! (Or some other/any other grocery delivery or curbside pick up service). I started using Peapod right after #2 was born and they have now delivered my groceries to my kitchen (yes they carry them INTO the house!) every two weeks for the last 3 years. Whenever I’ve questioned paying the delivery fee (7.95) Andrew tells me it is worth whatever they charge. We usually choose to have them delivered between 7-9 am, I get a text when I’m the next delivery and 9 times out of 10 I have my goceries are unpacked and put away before the kids are up. Life. Changing!

    Reply

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