Meltdown in Aisle Five: How to Go Grocery Shopping With Kids

It’s an inevitability that every parent has to experience. A rite of passage, the “supermarket shakedown” is one that indeed shakes your maternal/paternal resolve to the core. This unique meltdown of sorts is atypical in that it is usually precipitated by the perpetrator’s viewing of candy-coated confections, promptly followed by an unequivocal “No!”.

It’s them or you, the line has been drawn in the proverbial sand (or in the cereal aisle) and the standoff ensues. Will you relent and give in to the demands for chips, cheesies or chocolate? Will you capitulate, in an effort to calm the inevitable tantrums, screams and foot-stomping, or will you stand your ground, repeat the parental party line – “NO!” – and keep walking? Will you too melt down, overwhelmed with the situation at hand and the apparent lack of solution, or will you be strong, be firm in your resolve and let calmer heads prevail? Will you get through your grocery list and not forget the two dozen eggs and bread required for tomorrow’s breakfast??

The answers to these questions are rooted in one of the anchors of parenthood: being prepared – which will allow you to circumvent the loudest screams and the most extreme meltdowns.

Following are tips for parents on how to go grocery shopping with their children and how to keep kids calm at the supermarket:

1) A Fed Child is a Happy Child – ALWAYS make sure that everyone is fed before venturing into the cereal aisle. This includes you, mom and dad. You will be less likely to give in to demands for sugar-coated crap on a full stomach.

2) Ground Rules Rule – Make it clear to the kids before you go to the supermarket that under NO circumstances will you be veering off your shopping list. At all. No sugar-coated cereals, no candy-covered chocolates and no chips or cheesies.

3) Case the Joint – Supermarkets have this annoying habit of changing their floor plan every so often, in order to force you to go down aisles that you didn’t plan to before. This is to assure that you (and of course your kids) will be caught by surprise by the “new and improved” chocolate-coated marshmallows in aisle three that you were trying to avoid. If you can, make a mental note each visit of any changes regarding where food is positioned and keep them in mind before you venture into the vast expanse of food with the kids in tow. It will save you not only your nerves (not having to listen to screaming demands for goodies) but your sanity as well. Which leads us to tip #4:

4) Cows and Chickens First – Go down the dairy aisles first – they are usually located at the furthest expanses and corners of the stores. There is method behind this madness with supermarket planners and marketers realizing that making you pass all of the enticing items, foods and sale products before getting to the staples – milk, eggs and cheese – may make you give in to your (and you kids’) primal desires. Don’t fall for it. Keep your eye on the prize and don’t walk – run with your shopping cart – to the staples. Once you’ve got them, high-tail it out of there, if you can.

5) Make a List, Check it Twice – Not only will having a pre-written list in advance save you from the horror of the latest sale on bulk-sized Cheezies, but it will keep you focused and on your game as well. Plan your week’s menu in advance, check your fridge and pantry/cupboards and make your list. Refer back to tip #2 and reiterate to the kids that you have a list and are not buying anything that’s not on it. If the kids are too small to understand, resort to Parenting 101: Bribery, Negotiations and Threats if necessary. Really.

6) Diversion Tactics – You will need these, particularly when you finally dodge the sugary crap and make it to the checkout. This is where they really get you – and your kids. Feeding upon our human nature to “impulse shop” as well as the fact that a large number of us will have our kids with us, candy bars, useless electronic gadgets, comics and National Enquirers will stare you down. Don’t stare back and don’t let your kids stare back either! Pull out your bribes items from home, such as new stickers, a colouring book or similar and keep the kids occupied at this crucial time in the shopping process.

So you see, shopping with kids can be done. All it takes is a little planning, determination and a resolve. Okay, perhaps nerves of steel as well πŸ˜‰

How do you get through grocery shopping with the kids? What works best for you?

How to go grocery shopping with kids

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  1. JDaniel4's Mom says

    We stop by the bakery first to pick up the free cookie.

  2. Samantha says

    @JDaniel4's Mom Smart! The sugar in the cookie probably stops them from wanting all the other sugary sweets that they'll see along the way. Gotta try this next time…

  3. Melanie says

    Great tips – whether you have kids or not. Never go grocery shopping hungry – it's a recipe for disaster and a big bill!

  4. Samantha says

    You said it, Mel! And it just gets worse when you add hungry kids into the mix!

  5. Lifewith4girls says

    I love your blog! Thank so much for sharing!

  6. Samantha says

    Thanks for the kind words! So glad you like the blog πŸ™‚
    Thanks for commenting.

  7. hoLLy says

    awesome post! agree with every word. with 4 kids, i have a few tricks up my sleeve. we always bring snacks..either that or i let them pick out donuts from the bakery if we go in the morning(i know, super healthy!!! i'm mother of the year) as our fun breakfast to eat right when we get there. that makes them happy and gives them a sugar fix. it also makes them feel like grocery shopping is fun πŸ™‚ so, yes, food is important. either full kids or kids that are eating is the only way to go.

    i also remind them of the ground rules before we enter the store. no touching. no whining. if you ask for something you do not get it. ever. if you are really good, mom might grab something special…

  8. Samantha says

    Well said and I totally agree! I think one of the key things to do is to set the ground rules in advance so that the kids have no surprises when they step into the store. Letting them know ahead of time that they will not be getting whatever item they see that they want goes a long way when you're in the thick of shopping and nerves are frayed!

  9. PVDela says

    Great post, I used to have my groceries "shopped" for me for $5 but the grocery stores here don't do it. Thanks for the tips.

  10. Samantha says

    Wow – I'd love someone to take over this task! For $5, it would definitely be worth it! Thanks for the kind words.

  11. Dial Doctors says

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. Jennifer Pereyra says

    My best tip is to avoid the grocery store altogether! I built my master list online, every week I peruse it and choose what I need and the quantity. For a $5 charge, they even meet me at my car and load the groceries up for me!

  13. Samantha says

    @Jennifer Pereyra Sounds like you've got a pretty efficient system figured out, Jen!

  14. @cgoschdesign says

    I like to give the kids jobs (they are a little older, 7 & 10.) As I'm moving along down the aisles, I send them off to grab certain items not more than an aisle away. They enjoy being my helpers and it keeps them focused on the job at hand rather then the distractions.

  15. Samantha says

    @@cgoschdesignYes, I find that's the key – keeping them busy and distracted. Get them to do something and while they're engaged, grab the groceries!
    Thanks for commenting πŸ™‚

  16. AnneM says

    Really funny! Next time I brave the grocery store, I will be sure to practice this. My son loves dumping stuff in the shopping cart! These tips should put a stop to it!

  17. Samantha says

    @AnneM So glad to hear that you got a laugh and some advice as well, Anne! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting πŸ™‚

  18. MommiesBackpack says

    I’m a mother of 5, my kids are all under 18 years. Thinking back to the days before I started shopping exclusively from our online grocer, when I went to the store I made it a point to use grocery shopping as a competitive sport/learning session when the kids were in tow.

    We had rules, and how it worked was, I assigned each child items to find and place in cart depending on their height, and where the food was stock.

    It turned out to be a competition of who would find the most items. And they all received various rewards – choosing what’s for dinner, movie night… as we are a TV free family, weekend trip or other treats they’ve been asking for that’s appropriate.

    Excellent topic and insights Samantha. : )

    1. Samantha says

      Thanks so much for the kind words πŸ™‚
      Sounds like you had it all under control as well. I think the commonality in our experiences is keeping the kids busy, having a plan and sticking to it. If you were indeed shopping with more than one small child, you know first hand that things can go south fairly quickly. Getting in, being focused and assigning tasks is a great way to circumvent the inevitable meltdowns that often come with little planning. Thanks for sharing!