February 15, 2010

Parent Hacks to Simplify Grocery Shopping

We are excited to bring you this best of Parent Hacks - a guest post by Asha Dornfest, founder and publisher of ParentHacks.com. If you don't know Parent Hacks, and you should, it is THE place for advice from real families on how to deal with the stuff that comes up when you have kids.

by Asha Dornfest of Parent Hacks

Grocery DecisionsDo the words grocery shopping with kids strike fear into your heart? Do your trips to the supermarket start out innocently enough-some milk, a loaf of bread-but then turn into teeth-gritting dramas? Bribery, exasperation, frustration, candy "rewards" at the checkout... sound familiar?

Grocery shopping with young kids in tow can be an adventure, to say the least. But it needn't be a dreaded chore. Not only can you get your shopping done, you can potentially have fun doing it. Most of the time. No tips are fullproof, and some days just end up in the toilet, don't they? But, with a little bit of planning and creativity, you can navigate the grocery store aisles with a little more aplomb, no bribery required.

Before I share my tips, however, ask yourself if it's possible to avoid the problem altogether, at least while your kids are in the midst of their grocery-resistant phase. In my family, this phase hasn't always been age-related. My son, who by this time "should" be able to behave in a grocery store, goes through periods where the noise and chaos of the supermarket are intolerable. Perhaps you can shop online, or shop at off-hours (a revelation during busy holidays), or shop on the weekend when your partner or a friend can watch the kids. Sometimes, eliminating the problem is better than solving it.

If not, or if you want your kids along for the social, financial and nutritional education (this is great life experience, after all), here are a few ideas that should keep things rolling a little more smoothly. As always, I bow to the collective wisdom of Parent Hacks readers, from whom most of these tips come:

Plan Your Grocery Shopping

Advance planning (something the Cozi community knows all about!) will cut shopping time and impulse buying.

  • Keep a grocery list and note items as you need them. Grocery list tip: online shopping services often print out lists organized by aisle.
  • Plan your meals for the week. This can be as simple as "if this is Tuesday it must be spaghetti," or as detailed as full menus for the week and beyond. If you do plan menus, stick to a single cookbook for a week or longer. Benefit of simple meals: shorter shopping lists, shorter shopping trips.
  • If you can, shop at a single store.
  • Scan the weekly grocery flyers for good deals. A good online option: MyGroceryDeals.com.
  • Be clear about expectations. If your kids are old enough, talk with them, or draw a picture, or write a little story about how you expect them to behave in the store. Don't assume they already know. Demonstrate "respectful asking," "staying near Mommy," and other behaviors you expect.

Execute a Grocery Shopping Trip with Kids Along

You're in the grocery store. Ready, set, shop!

  • Park your car near the shopping cart return.
  • Involve or distract. Some kids will behave better when given jobs to do ("Pick four firm apples from the pile," "Which vegies should we put in the stir fry?" etc.), others will do better when simply distracted. Identify which strategy works better for your kid.
  • Try not to buy "distractor" items or treats while at the store. You're setting a precedent you don't want to be pressured to maintain. Suggest they bring a favorite toy, or keep bubble wrap, balloons, chewing gum, or "grocery store only" toys in your purse. One Parent Hacks reader brings along a calculator to keep her kid's hands off the card swipe machine.
  • Bag frozen and cold items together in case you need to make a stop on the way home.
  • End shopping on a happy (and motivating) note: we used to stop at the library on the way home so there was always something to look forward to.

Hopefully these tips will save you a little money and a lot of brain cells. I'm sure you've got more great ideas-please share them in the comments


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