How to Grocery Shop with Kids (and not lose your mind)

I think kids are great. I believe children are a blessing. But you can believe kids are awesome and still feel like grocery shopping with them will drive you crazy. How do you go grocery shopping with kids without losing your sanity?

Grocery shopping with kids

Taking kids grocery shopping, no matter the age, can be difficult. Its not particularly fun for kids, and really, can you blame them? Grocery shopping isn’t particularly fun for adults either!!  Kids would rather be doing something else.

But the shopping has got to be done. And while, ideally it would be nice if us moms could just go grocery shopping all by ourselves, that’s not always possible between schedules with our spouses and hours the grocery store are open, especially if you live in a small northern town like I do.

So, what are we to do when that happens? We can’t just not go. We need food to feed our families.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you CAN go grocery shopping with kids without losing your mind. You might even find it an enjoyable bonding experience with your children.  I’ve been shopping on and off with kids for 15 years now, and I feel like I’ve developed some effective shopping systems.

Sometimes I’m able to go grocery shopping by myself. Other times my kids come with me. And the odd time even the husband tags along, just because we want to spend some time together and at this stage of life, that’s what spending time together often looks like.

So it’s safe to say I’ve done the food shopping under many different circumstances.


If they are small enough, give them a snack.

If you have a child or children that are young enough to sit in the cart while you grocery shop, give them a snack. Preferably one that will take some time for them to eat, like goldfish crackers.

Kids are generally happiest when they are eating, am I right? While you are at it, make sure you’ve had a snack before you grocery shop because if you are hungry you are more likely to get frustrated more easily and struggle to stay calm if your child is acting up.

Have your child check items off the list

One of the reason kids get a little wilder in the store is because they are bored. Give them the grocery shopping list and a pen and give them the job of crossing items off the list as you put them in the cart.

This will keep them busy and distracted. Which leads me to my next point.

Be prepared and have a list

If you are stressed it’s going to make the whole trip with kids harder and you will find yourself frustrated with the whole situation. The last thing you want is to be walking aimlessly around the store not really knowing what you want or need.

A list will allow you to be in and out of the store without any extra wasted time. It’ll keep you focused on the task at hand and you will more than likely finish the grocery shopping with everything you need instead of forgetting a bunch of things because you didn’t have a list and you were too busy trying to keep Track of the kids.

Get your child to put items in the cart

Again, this another idea to keep them busy. When you find a product you need, point it out to your child and have them put it in the cart instead of you doing it. Kids like to feel like they are a part of something and want to feel big enough that they can help. Giving them a job makes them feel important.  This is how to make grocery shopping with kids fun for them.

Give them expectations before you go in the store

One of the reasons many moms don’t love taking their kids grocery shopping is because their children may ask for things they want excessively. Some kids will even cry and throw a tantrum to try and get something they want. 

I don’t know a single mom who’s never been in the store without ever experiencing a child having a tantrum.  It’s definitely not fun and if it hasn’t happened to you yet, chances are one day it will, at least once.

Set the expectation of what you will and won’t be buying before you go shopping. If your kids have struggled with this in the past you can also decide on a consequence if they don’t respond well when you tell them, “no” or a small reward if they make it through the trip without them asking you to buy them something.

I believe kids can rise to the occasion and if kids know the usual drill of shopping (for example, no, we don’t buy the sugary fancy kinds of cereal but the healthier versions) they are better at not expecting to get whatever they ask for.

Every now and then on a shopping trip I like to toss something I wouldn’t normally buy in my cart as a treat and the kids are always excited and grateful. If you don’t do it every trip it becomes special for the kids.

Have the kids help load and bag the groceries

When I’m all done my shopping I’ll have a kid help me load the groceries on the conveyor belt, and the other two will go to the end and start bagging the groceries.

When they were little it used to slow me down. It wasn’t really helpful to me but it made them feel important. But now that they are older, because they’ve been doing it so long it now saves me time and is extremely helpful. 

And bonus points because they are going to be really good at bagging their own groceries one day after years of practice!

Pick a time to shop that is less busy

There’s nothing more frustrating than grocery shopping with kids at the peak of the busy time. It’s so much easier to grocery shop with kids when the store is emptier.

I personally avoid grocery shopping on a Saturday at all costs. But if a weekend is the only time you have, you might find Saturday evening less busy than earlier in the day. Shopping right after work hours can be quite busy too.

Pick a grocery store with an accessible bathroom

Most grocery stores have bathrooms for customers but what I’ve discovered is that not all of them make them easily accessible. Some of them require you asking an employee and then they take you back through the employee doors to some back room, and others have a key you need to ask for. Or is that just a thing here in Canada?

Anyways, we all know when a small child has to go, they HAVE TO GO RIGHT NOW!! Make your life easier by knowing where the bathroom is in the store and also expecting your trip will get interrupted for a bathroom break or a diaper change.  Also, always make the kids use the bathroom BEFORE you leave the house for your shopping trip.


Bringing your kids grocery shopping doesn’t have to be something you dread. Using the ideas above will help the trip go smoother for everyone.

When my kids were really small it was quite an ordeal to take them. 3 kids under the age of 5 is quite an adventure at the grocery store. But we got into a routine and developed a system and over time it got easier.

Ove the years I’ve even had multiple people approach me in the grocery store to comment on how well behaved my kids were in the store. This isn’t because I’m some super parent- it’s because of a lot of practice over the years and developing a system that works. It comes down to consistency, expectation, and involving them in the process.

Make a plan and implement it the next time you go to the grocery store with the kids.  There’s a good chance you’ll find shopping just that much easier than it was before and you will no longer dread grocery store day!


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