Successful Grocery Shopping with Two Little Kids

Aisle in Grocery store in New Orleans, 2008. (...
It doesn’t have to be a scary place

Generally speaking, I avoid going to the store with both my kids.   I usually do my grocery shopping in the morning when it’s just me and the baby, while Little Man is in school.  I rarely go at night (read: alone), since I’m usually wiped and in no mood to go out of the house.  Occasionally, if I desperately need something, or, more likely, if I could use some essentials and also need an activity for the boys, I will go to the store with both kids.  Here’s how I maintain my sanity in those situations:

Plan for success

I don’t go when they’re tired, sick, or hungry.  That’s just asking for it, in my opinion.  I also don’t go when I have to find some obscure item (like kosher miso paste), but rather, when it’s a trip where it won’t matter if I forget something or have to leave before I complete my list.

Bring lots of supplies

Snacks, pacifiers, bribes, change of diapers (though I have yet to change a kid on a grocery shopping trip), toys, whatever I think might be useful.  If I forget snacks I’ve been known to buy a box of crackers and open it, but some people don’t like to do that kind of thing.

Hype hype hype

I make a huge deal about the shopping basket Little Man got to pull to distract him from the fact that he wasn’t going to be riding in the cart.  I also ask them to help out – kids love that kind of thing.  My baby will happily toss apples into the bag for me.  He loves it!  Little Man will gladly carry (light-weight) items in his basket.  He’s also great at unloading the basket and putting things on the conveyor belt.

Have a defined policy about candy and treats

I don’t buy candy at the store.  Ever.  Cookies, either.  Some moms like to get their kids a cookie treat when they go to the store, which can be a great incentive (“When you sit nicely, you can have a cookie,” or something like that).   I will let Little Man put random items in his basket, but he hasn’t done that as of late.  Sometimes it’s something yummy, like corn on the cob.  If it’s something I don’t want I can always give it to the cashier when he’s not looking.  Whatever the policy, consistency is key.

Be prepared to abandon ship

If it’s getting out of hand, behavior-wise, I’m prepared to leave in the middle of the shopping trip.  I have yet to have to do this (Baruch Hashem), but I’m ready if it comes down to that.

There was a short period of time when Little Man became extremely upset at the idea of having to pay for the groceries.  Like, he would throw a tantrum when having to relinquish the items to the cashier.  Awesome.  I love public tantrums soooo much.  I would have to pick him up and hold him while I paid, and carry him, still flailing, out of the store.  I was probably also pushing the cart with his brother in it.  Fun times.

Now he’s excited to go pay, and reminds me multiple times per trip that we have to pay (as if I’m going to try and walk out the door with this cart, little guy?).  But there’s really no telling what the next toddler trigger will be.  They’re unpredictable that way.

Make it educational

Yes, I know that it may seem impossible, especially in a potentially stressful situation, to imbue a shopping trip with education, but there are tons of things to teach in a grocery stores.  Shapes, colors, letters, sizes.  We even have a couple of singing fish in one store (I’m not sure what that teaches, exactly).  There are also derech eretz things, like picking up trash if we drop it, waiting our turn in line, being friendly to the cashier, or saying thank you.


This is probably the most important step.  I try to remember to daven that things should go well, that I should have patience when needed, that I should be relaxed and smiling, that the boys should listen to me and that it’s a good trip.  This little step can make all the difference.

What are the tips and tricks you use when shopping with multiple children? 

15 thoughts on “Successful Grocery Shopping with Two Little Kids

  1. It’s tough going with one child. Can’t imagine going with two! I try to get Sophie involved. She’s old enough now that I tell her to get something in the aisle and she will. We do most of our shopping at Trader Joe’s and they are so kid-friendly. They even have the “find the hidden monkey” in the store. That always keeps her occupied.

    1. I love those kiddie-sized carts at TJ’s (Whole Foods has them, too). The only thing about them is the little flags. I feel like I have to be extra-vigilant to make sure no one gets a flag in the torso! I didn’t know about the hidden monkey, though. Thanks for the tip!

  2. I take my nephew or niece shopping with me only when I know I can get them interested in what is going on, otherwise I just forget about it. Taking two kids sounds very brave!

    1. After a few less-than-ideal shopping experiences with both my boys, I realized that I had to be more strategic about it. It really helps that my oldest is in school during the morning hours.

  3. When mine were 2-5 yrs old, I’d only take them to ‘the big supermarket’, not the kosher delis/grocery shops. They’d unquestioningly accept ‘It’s not kosher’ as a reason they couldn’t add X (biscuits/crisps/sweets) to the basket :-)

  4. Ha! This post made me smile. The only thing that bothers me about grocery shopping trips is how exhausted I feel afterward! But I thoroughly enjoy shopping with my kids. I think that because I’ve been taking them to the store, alone, for so long, it doesn’t seem like a chore. It’s just one of those things, you know?

    That said, these tips are excellent for any parent. Child developmental psychologists would approve. : )

    1. I totally feel you on the exhaustion bit. On the days where I think I can shop and do a lot of cooking on the same day, well, I just shake my head when I remember (again) that I just don’t have the energy for that combo!

  5. Here’s something to look forward to: my 12-year old son and I each take the cart and we split the list in half! I am in and out of the market in 1/2 the time these days. It is awesome. And the day will come.

    It will come.

    Enjoy these days when they are young. ;-)

    1. That is a beautiful vision of the future, Renee! Love it. If you ever want to relive the days when kids are little, you’re more than welcome to come over here and spend some time with my boys. ;)

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