How to Grab Groceries with Kids Without Losing your Mind

It was a hot and sticky summer day when we brought my first born home from the hospital. I sat in the back of our car, next to William who was snuggled in his brand new car seat. We stopped at a 7-11 for gas and my husband delivered a red slurpee to me through the open passenger window. It was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted.

Once I walked into the house, it was many days before I ventured out again. I was too busy learning how to take care of my baby. The days and nights ran together in a happy, exhausted blur.

But one day I discovered that a trip to the grocery store was in order: our pantry and refrigerator were looking pretty bare. It was the first time I had left the house in a week. I stepped into the store and was immediately struck by the bright lights and the hustle and bustle of dozens of other shoppers. How strange that the rest of the world hadn’t stopped turning when mine seemed to have come to a halt.

There have been hundreds of other grocery trips since that day, some with a toddler, some with a toddler and a baby, and some with two precocious preschoolers. I’ve picked up some sanity saving tips if you find yourself in the unfortunate predicament of needing to shop for food with kids in tow.

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How to Grab Groceries with Kids without Losing your Mind:

Set Expectations (as age appropriate)

On your way to the store, prepare them for what you’re going to do, and what they’re going to do. “Let’s have good behavior at the store! What does that mean? Quiet voices! Walking feet! Hands to yourself! Mommy is going to get food for the week. We are not here to buy toys.” Bonus points if you can get them to parrot it back to you: “So what does it look like to have good behavior again?”

Park Next to the Cart Return

In your childless, carefree days, it made sense to park as close to the entrance as possible. It’s time to ditch that conventional wisdom. Park near the cart return so that you can quickly and easily transfer your toddler (or infant car seat) right out of the car. This will minimize any running off into the street, or laboriously slow toddler-steps from dear little ones who insist on walking all by themselves. Just as important, when you are parked next to the cart return your get-away is that much quicker!


Some people call it bribery, I call it the natural order of things. “If you can show mommy good behavior in the store, you will earn ___.” A treat is the obvious choice, but a PBS show has worked, as has “letting” them put items on the checkout line. My four year old is highly motivated to behave when I promise him he can climb into his carseat through the trunk. Whatever works.

Accept Help

You know the nice person who’s bagging up your groceries as you pay the cashier? They usually ask if you’d like help to your car. I used to think this service was purely for the little old ladies, but one day as my baby was crying in his sling and my toddler was fussing and wiggling in the cart, I took the plunge. “You know what? Yes. That would be amazing, thank you.” And the nice man followed me to my car and loaded my groceries into the trunk. I almost begged him to come home and unload it all for me, too! My point is that help is available on those days when you feel that you need it!

What about you? What tips and tricks have made your grocery shopping easier? Let me know in the comments below!


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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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