For years I refused to go grocery shopping with my kids. I found that the trips were usually disastrous and I left the store feeling defeated. When the storm came crashing down on our home, all of that changed. While I do still look for those golden opportunities when the kids are at Awana or otherwise occupied, most of the time I shop with all 4.
Yes, you heard me right. I take 4 children grocery shopping. I have two girls ages 7 and 6 and two boys ages 4 and 19 months. I thought I would share with you some of the things that I have found to work for me. Some are obvious, but perhaps they will serve as a good reminder.
#1 Use your stores wisely: have a plan
I shop every week at Harris Teeter (my loss-leader, or coupon store).
I shop bi-weekly at Wal-mart (primarily for cheese, yogurt, and non-coupon items).
I shop Costco bi-weekly for produce mainly.
I don’t go into other stores unless I am alone. I also use the internet or garage sales to meet many of our needs.
During the summer months, I shop less frequently because I use fresh produce from the farmer’s market instead.
#2 Planning is key
I NEVER go to a store without a detailed list. My list is organized by aisle in the store. This step saves me a lot of time and a lot of turmoil from running back and forth for forgotten items in the other side of the store. Not to mention, it is virtually impossible to think while shopping with 4 young children.
I use the grocery gadget app for my list. You can build a list by typing an item in or by scanning the bar code. You can also use the website for entering recipes or tracking your family’s spending.
#3 Don’t shop at peak times
My first choice for shopping is 10am on a weekday. Second choice is evenings between 6:30 and 7:30. I avoid weekends if possible and NEVER go between 4-6 pm during the week.
#4 Review your expectations
Before going into the store, I tell my kids how I expect them to act and how long I expect to be in the store. This way I don’t have to remind them in the store, I skip straight to a consequence. After you do this a few times, you will find that you do a whole lot less nagging while in the store.
#5 Come bearing food
If you bring a snack, the kids will stay busy and be less likely to ask for things. I prefer lollipops. I only give food to toddlers. The older kids get special treats or snacks when the baby is napping and I usually have to remind them of this.
#6 The cart is your friend
My 4 year old still doesn’t realize that getting out of the cart is an option. I like it that way. I use standard carts, never the bigger two seater carts. They are simply too heavy and I can’t see over them with children inside. Our current arrangement is: baby in the seat, 4 year old in the basket, and the girls walk on each side of the cart. Many of the groceries end up under the basket, but it always works for me.
#7 Give everyone a job
The 4 year old is in charge of stacking and arranging the groceries within the cart. The 6 year old gets the items off the shelf and the 7 year old checks the items off the list. Occasionally the older two switch jobs. They love feeling like they are a part of the process.
#8 This is not the Indy 500
Quiet frankly, it’s ludicrous to take 4 children to the grocery store in a hurry. Somedays I regret that I don’t remember that. The store does not need to be a race. Take your time and enjoy it. Use the time to teach your children about nutrition and healthy food choices. Learn to read labels. Or teach them how to look for a good buy on a product.
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