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How To Survive Grocery Shopping With Kids In Tow

Mar 15, 2008
"Before kids I used to happily peruse the supermarket aisles, slowly selecting interesting new items, scrutinizing labels and creating a few evening meals in my head as I shopped. Now I have two small kids and my creative shopping days are over. I run through the store and I am lucky if I get half of the essentials that I need to get through the week," writes a frustrated mom when asked about her biggest daily stressors.

With small children in tow, visits to the supermarket can be unproductive and filled with anxiety. An extra twenty minutes of indecision, waiting at the deli, or traveling unneeded aisles, is just enough time for kids to lose their marbles and cause the parent to flee the store, shopping incomplete.

Supermarket shopping must get done, and bringing the children, for the majority of parents, is the only viable option.

Survival Tips

Create a weekly menu.

On Sunday, find 7 simple dinner recipes made with basic, healthy ingredients. Include an easy lunch menu for 7 days and then decide breakfast choices for the week. The Food Network website yields hundreds of tasty, easy to prepare meal ideas like beef stroganoff and tacos. Writing a weekly menu will relieve the stress that families feel each evening when deciding what's for dinner, leaving more time and energy for family time.

Make a list.

Using the weekly menu, make a shopping list on the front of a plain envelope (reason for envelope in next tip) of all of the items needed to prepare the week's breakfast, lunch and dinner meals. The food list complete, go through the house and add to the list, beverages, paper, cleaning, and bath and beauty products running low. A pad of paper and pen in an accessible area lets family members jot down items they need.

Study the floor plan of the grocery store.

It is really helpful to know the layout of the grocery store when creating a grocery list because the list can be made to correlate to the store. For example, if the deli is the first place passed and the dairy is next and then meat, deli items should be grouped at the top of the list followed by all of the dairy items and then meat. Although seemingly obsessive-compulsive, correlating the list to the store layout eliminates doubling back and can save enormous amounts of time.

Clip coupons.

After the list is created, find coupons that match items on the list. Only use coupons for those items regularly used, or those items the family might enjoy trying. Put the coupons needed for the current shopping list into the envelope with the grocery list printed on it. Place a check next to those items on the list that have a coupon. Don't add extra items to the list just to use a coupon. Compare prices, sometimes another brand might be cheaper than the brand with the coupon.

Do be creative with the weekly menu to incorporate coupons, for example make chicken instead of pork chops if there is a chicken coupon. Don't compromise on health to use a coupon; don't buy a 10% juice beverage with a coupon instead of 100% juice without a coupon or settle for high sugar cereal with a coupon in place of a healthy cereal without.

Choose off-peak hours.

It is much more efficient and pleasant to schedule supermarket visits when the store is empty. Mornings, after people are at work and older children are in school, are quiet in grocery stores and lines are short or non-existent. Later evening for working parents, or early mornings on weekends are typically light. Take note when visiting or just call and ask a store manager, "When is the store is at its most quiet?" Schedule visits during off-peak hours. Workers are much more pleasant and helpful on a whole when not facing hoards of impatient customers.

Hug the perimeter.

The healthiest items in the supermarket are found along the perimeter of the store. Fresh produce, meats and seafood, and the dairy cases all sit along the outer edges. The majority of cart time should be spent along the perimeter. Fresh foods are, more often than not, healthier than the ready-to-eat foods found in the middle aisles. The amount of sodium and fat added to fresh foods while cooking is up to the cook, not the manufacturer.

Ask for help and bring a pen.

Supermarket workers are knowledgeable and generally willing to help. Instead of wandering the aisles in search of a product, ask. Staff will often go out of their way to locate a hard to find item. The butcher can slice cuts of meat and chicken exactly as recipes call for, saving prep time at home. It is perfectly reasonable and a good use of time to alert the butcher or deli clerk, and shop while they are preparing the order.

Bring a pen and cross items off of the list as you put them in the cart, or you will waste time checking and rechecking your list.

Finally, accept the bagger's offer to bring bundles to the car. Let the bagger push the cart, load the groceries into the car, and return the cart. The parent can keep the kids safe in the parking lot and buckle car seats and seat belts. Safer and a time saver - and baggers often like to get out of the store.
About the Author
Elena Neitlich is owner of Moms On Edge at http://www.momsonedge.com. If you would like to buy everything on the grocery list before your kids lose their marbles, try her ingenious Supermarket Bingo. Find many creative parenting tools at http://www.momsonedge.com
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