Make Grocery Shopping Fun Again

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Almost every parent dreads grocery shopping with their kids.  Whether it’s one child or six, as in my case, grocery shopping can be pretty miserable.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Here are some tips and tricks for making shopping fun again.

When my wife Carrie tells people that I take all six kids with me on my once or twice per week shopping trips, they shake their heads as if to say “better him than me.”  I can certainly understand.  Who wants to take up the multitask of shopping and cat herding.  But what they don’t know is that I have a plan for keeping my kids happily engaged in the process.

Here’s Why Your Kids Drive You Crazy At The Grocery Store

It’s important to understand why your children aren’t always on their best behavior in the grocery store.  In my family, I have two types of kids when it comes to shopping.  In fact, I think most kids fall into one of the two categories below.

  • The first type of kids are the “why are you making me do this” kids.  They hate shopping because it’s boring.  For them, following their mother as she meanders her way around a store is slow and certain death.  These are the kids who don’t understand why they can’t they be at home on their tablet?  More importantly, they are miserable so they are going to make it their mission to ensure that you are miserable too.
  • The second kind of kids are the “every place is a playground” kids.  These are the kids who if left to their own devices would destroy the store and send the rest of the shoppers fleeing for their lives.  Their goal is to play hide and seek behind the toilet paper and have shopping cart races.
Having your kids help pick out produce keeps them involved in the shopping process and also teaches them quality control skills.

Plainly stated. Your children have no part in, or ownership of your trip to the grocery store. They hijack the shopping trip either by turning the store into their own personal playground or worse yet, they sabotage the trip so that you can join them in their misery.  So what do you do?

Before You Shop

A successful trip to the grocery store begins long before you ever leave the house.  If fact, some of these tips are on-going actions and behaviors that you  incorporate into your family life.  Being important skills in their own right, they also set the stage for a successful trip to the grocery store.

  • Get Your Children Involved In Cooking

Teach your children to cook, especially their favorite meals.  If your kids like to cook they will probably like to gather the ingredients for their favorite meals.  They also take pride in knowing what ingredients go in to certain meals.

  • Involve Your Children In Meal Planning

Ask your kids what they want to eat for the week.  I narrow the list down to meals that I like first and then let the kids pick their favorites.  Again, your kids will be more likely to be involved in the shopping process if they know you are gathering the ingredients for snacks and meals that they love.

  •  Have One of Your Children Write The Grocery List

This is an opportunity to use shopping as an excuse to get your children to read and write.  Most families have a kid who likes to be in charge of the grocery list.  This is an especially good way to involve your kids who think shopping is boring.  They feel more control when they are able take ownership of some aspect of the shopping trip.

Grace is learning how to order he favorite food. Pepperoni! Children often don’t engage with adults enough, so placing her order gives Grace confidence and independence.


Timing Is Important

If you are a stay at home parent you have the distinct advantage of being able to go shopping when you want.   The best time to go to the store is early on a weekday, the earlier, the better. Here’s why.

  • Your children aren’t at their peek energy yet. They are less likely to be rambunctious in the morning.
  • The store will be nearly empty.  An empty store means your children are less likely to become over stimulated or distracted by what’s going on around them.
  • You will be less likely to become frustrated if you aren’t dodging other shoppers as you try to shop and keep your children engaged.


Give Every Kid a Job

  • Put one kid in charge of the grocery list – If possible this should be the same person who drafted the grocery list.  This gives that kid ownership of the list and makes them the expert on what you are having that week.
  • Put one kid in charge of pushing the cart – most families have that kinesthetic kid who seems to enjoy a task more if they are using a tool.  Pushing the cart is perfect for that kid.  Note: never get two carts.  I’ll let you use your imagination as to why.
  • Send your kids on Retrieval Missions – Divide and conquer.  I usually assign two kids to go across the store to get things.  They must be trustworthy and know the layout of the store.  By doing this we are not a gaggle of 7 people taking up a whole aisle. Also, shopping goes faster and you are finished before the kids get bored, or rambunctious.
  • Let your children choose the produce and other items where the specific product you choose isn’t so important, like which flavor of chips. This is a great way to give ownership of the shopping.  Kids love it when you trust them to make decisions about quality and amount.
  • Use your shopping trip as a school field trip! Grocery stores are a great place to practice reading, learning weights and scales, money math, and the list goes on.

    JoJo is my kinesthetic kid. He likes to push the basket.

Try To Say Yes As Often As Possible

Children enjoy shopping more if you say yes when they ask for certain items. They don’t only ask for cookies and ice cream. It’s OK to say yes when they ask for fruit or for pancake mix etc.  The more you say yes, the more enjoyable the trip to the grocery store will be.  Let them know that you will be correlating their behavior with your willingness to say yes to their requests for reasonable food items.

I use products that have similar labels to teach JoJo how to read. Note that Sweet Baby Rays comes in several varieties. Here, he was looking for the word Maple.

Shopping can be a much dreaded chore or a fun family outing. It all depends on your approach to it.  Yes, it takes a little more work to set the stage for a successful visit to the grocery store.  It’s easier to cook meals without help from your six year old.  It’s also easier and faster to just make a list yourself.  It might take a little more patience to watch your child attempt to choose the perfect avocado, but in the end the shopping experience will be less painful and perhaps even fun.

How About You?

Which of these tips are you going to try?  Do you already have some tricks that you use to create a better shopping experience for both your kids and yourself?  Did I leave some out?  Either way I would love to hear from you.  Also, if you have some funny or tragic shopping experiences, please do share.  I love a good story!

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Carol Darden
Carol Darden
5 years ago

I would give my son the coupons I had for toiletries and have him figure out if using the coupon on name brands or buying the generic or store brand was the best deal. He helped me save lots of money and we had a good time together. People would ask me if it was a school project. I answered, “No, someday, he’ll be a great husband and father.” And it’s true.

Ashley Vecheruk
Ashley Vecheruk
5 years ago

Awesome Advice and Tips! I love how you manage them all and turn it into an educational and engaging experience. It’s exactly what your kids NEED. Good job, Brian!

Jeremy Sohlstrom
Jeremy Sohlstrom
5 years ago

Our grocery store offers a free piece of fruit to kids, as well as a cookie in the bakery. That definitely makes shopping easier, as it takes the edge off of junior’s appetite and so he seems to ask less for every food item with Black Panther on the box, etc.

Stacey parke
Stacey parke
5 years ago

You are awesome!

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