5 Tips for Surviving the Supermarket with Your Children


young boy in grocery cart

photo: Amanda Tipton


This is a guest blog post by Aviva Goldfarb, founder of  The Six O’Clock Scramble

Recently I was at the supermarket without my kids on a weekday morning. I had a long list and was flying through the aisles pretty swiftly. As I rounded the aisle, my cart came to a screeching halt in front of a frazzled looking woman with two young children who were clearly not making this shopping trip a pleasure for their mom. It was only ten in the morning but this poor woman had clearly had it for the day. Seeing her brought back some pretty dark memories of when taking Solomon and Celia to the grocery store could be more exhausting than taking a three-mile run in the heat and humidity of Washington, D.C. in July.

While most of us want seize opportunities to relax and hang out at home with our kids when we can, we are also faced with the reality that we still need to get certain things done to keep our lives running smoothly. One of those things is grocery shopping. I know many parents who, when possible, choose to do the shopping when their kids are in school or occupied with other activities. On the other hand, I often feel like I want to save those precious solo hours for less mundane tasks and want to get our kids in the habit early of sharing the household chores like shopping and cooking.

But let’s face it; grocery shopping with young children can be less than relaxing and, sometimes, downright exhausting! The good news is that as the kids get older, especially as they learn their way around the supermarket, they can be a big help at the store, so hang in there.

Below are some suggestions that may just save your sanity at the market, and keep you from hiding behind that cereal display at the end of aisle 8!

1. Go when the deck is stacked in your favor: Make sure your child is well rested. If he or she still naps, avoid going during or just before naptime. While you’re at it, try to make sure you’re in a decent mood and not in a giant hurry so you can relax a little and enjoy the “adventure” of shopping with your kids.

2. Be prepared: Make sure you have an organized grocery list to help you get through the store quickly (piece of cake for all of us Six O’Clock Scramblers). Also, bring some things that will help keep your child entertained (think small and seldom-seen toys and special fun snacks, like animal crackers.)

3. Offer a free ride: If your child is young enough to sit in the front part of the grocery cart, take advantage of it! If you’ve got them confined (please use the safety belt), you can engage them in a game of “I Spy” with items on your grocery list. If your kids are too big (or unwilling) to ride in the grocery cart, you can keep them close at hand by having them help you push the cart. Try assigning your kids the task of getting some items you need and putting them into the cart.

4. Turn the shopping trip into a sensory experience: As we all know, kids are like sponges, soaking up sights, smells and sounds wherever they go. The supermarket is a great place to take advantage of this (and to keep your child engaged and cooperative). Some examples of this are, “Feel how cold this bag of frozen vegetables is,” or “Which bananas look the most yellow,” or “Which peaches do you think smell fruity and ripe?” or “What kind of sound does this cereal make when you shake the box?” The opportunities here are endless.

5. Take advantage of teaching moments: If you have an older child, you can keep them interested in other ways, including helping them use the Fooducate app to determine whether your grocery choices are the healthiest ones. While in the produce section, talk to them about which fruits and veggies are best for their eyes and which are good for encouraging strong bones. This may get them interested in trying new foods when they get home, too. And grocery shopping presents a great opportunity to talk with your child about using money wisely, sticking to a budget or even how to compare prices of different brands or package sizes.

Armed with these suggestions, I hope the idea of heading to the grocery store with your children is a little less daunting. If you have some ideas on how to make this food gathering adventure more palatable, I’d love to hear from you. Just email me at aviva at thescramble dot com or share your ideas on The Scramble Facebook page.

Aviva Goldfarb helps busy parents let go of all the stress at 6:00 and bring joy and good nutrition back to the dinner table. She is a mother of two and the author and founder of The Six O’Clock Scramble, an online dinner planning system and cookbook (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), and is author of “SOS! The Six O’Clock Scramble to the Rescue: Earth Friendly, Kid-Pleasing Meals for Busy Families” (St. Martin’s Press, 2010), which was named one of the best cookbooks of 2010 by on the Washington Post. 

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  • Tom Arr

    I go shopping with my 5, 3 and 18 month old regularly, alone. I get one of the carts that has an add-on seat for two toddlers to push the cart with. All three sit in the cart and entertain each other(no toys ever leave the house except on big road trips). My oldest learns a lot of songs both at school and at church, so she teaches/sings to my second child, and my youngest is quite happy to listen to that. When they aren’t singing, they talk and giggle amongst themselves, or look around and ask questions about things on the shelves. We have a consistent shopping history, so there has never been a time when we would get one thing, and then not get it later. If one of them, usually my 5 year old, asks why we don’t get this item or that item that other people are getting, I tell her the truth-> “It isn’t food, and they just don’t know any better.” We say no to requests for special things often, and then frequently and arbitrarily give special things when they don’t ask. This way they are used to not getting what they want, but also receiving things that they want when they don’t expect them. It’s an easy time all around.

    • Hey_anna

       Love your response… we also try to teach that some food is “not real food, it’s junk” or “that’s just sugar in a box”.  I’m teaching my now 4-yr to estimate and ask her if she thinks the onion will weigh more or less than the lettuce…

  • http://www.rainbowplate.com/ Janet Nezon

    Aviva, you’ve given me flashbacks to the years I spent making trips to the grocery store with my three kids in tow! I agree with you that it is a great learning experience, and your tips are terrific.  A bit of planning is all it takes to make it positive, even with the company of kids aged 2, 4 and 6! We used to play “I spy” all the time, and I would always give my kids age-appropriate “jobs” to help pick out items from our list.  In the produce aisle we often made it a game to pick out items by color -eg. “let’s try something new that’s green!” We also worked to pick out an entire rainbow to take home each trip! 
    Those three little kids are now 17, 19 and 21. The older ones live away at university and do their own grocery shopping.  I not sure if they still play those games, but I do know that they know how to shop for healthy food at the store!

  • Ashley T.

    Two words: baby carrier! I couldn’t have survived the past two yrs without my ergo carrier and ring sling. Even naptime was doable. Whether grocery store or clothes shopping or shopping of any kind, the carrier helped with interacting and teaching moments and spared me the stress of squeezing through tight spots with a stroller. And your tips are great too–I’ve utilized these as well. :)

  • MrBillWest

    Our kids have typically walked with us (well usually just Mom). The store we go to has little cart for the kids. They love grabbing stuff off the shelf, bagging fruit and assisting at check out. They learn about food and money.

  • Mbasappa

    Grocery shopping visits have served as a practice zones for my 9 & 10-year-olds with the help of fooduate app. They love scanning items and looking for best alternatives.

    • Lisa Pedersen

      i agree!  how are our kids supposed to learn how to shop and feed themselves properly if we don’t expose them to this practise by shopping when they are with us???  I especially hate that mobile commercial that shows how easy it is to shop with your children when they’re watching a show on your phone at the store?!?!?!!   Infuriating….sure, take the easy way out…or actually do your job as a parent?  to me, the choice is easy….and far more rewarding to show them the way….

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  • Lisa Pedersen

    best moment ever shopping with small kids:  rounding a corner with my 4 yr old son saying out loud “I love a price cut!”  just as an old lady passes and grins from ear to ear.  (I have my kids trained to spot those on sale stickers)

  • Lisa Pedersen

    or when my step son (10 yrs old now, but 3 at the time) rhymed off all the ingredients for making pie crust from memory!!!  Other store patrons have laughed out loud at this sight!

  • Amanda

    Hello, so glad you liked my image but curious why you did not credit me?

    Amanda Tipton