Grocery Shopping Tips for Parents

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Leave them at home…the end.

Okay, I realize that might be impossible. But if you are trying to stay on a budget, shopping with your kids can make more difficult. It isn’t their fault really – companies spend billions of dollars marketing to children annually, and it works.

Take the grocery store, for example: all the sugary cereals with cartoon characters on the box aren’t on the lowest or highest shelf. They are right at eye-level with your little angel in the carriage just waiting to cruise by!

So, in the event that you can’t leave your kids at home when you go shopping, how do you stay on budget? I’ve brainstormed a few ways to make this process a little easier for when you can’t go it alone to the grocery store:

Find a grocery store with child care services. I didn’t know this EXISTED until the other day when a mom rang the alarm in a Facebook post saying that she just took advantage of it and was able to get all her shopping done in 15 minutes. Sounds magical, right? .

After reading the 38 comments (and 68 likes) on this post and it appears to be as good as it sounds. While it may not be available everywhere, it’s worth doing a quick search to see if this exists near you. The Big-Y near me offers this service and has a great process. They check licenses, give you a pager in case there is an emergency, have TV screens in the store where you can see the kids playing and they will watch the kids for up to 2 hours for FREE. Kids seem to love it and you get some time to shop (and possibly sneak in a coffee at the little café in the front of the store, I won’t tell).

Online Grocery Services

Most people still go to the grocery store to do their shopping, but online grocery delivery services are gaining momentum. We are getting more comfortable shopping online for EVERYTHING else, so it makes sense that a very routine chore that might not change much week to week could be done online.

Amazon FreshPeapod, and Instacart are just a few examples of the online services that deliver your favorite foods directly to your door. While it might not work if you need an ingredient for a recipe tonight, it could keep you on track if you plan your meals out in advance (until the drones start delivering).

Most importantly, when it comes to budgeting, shopping for groceries online eliminates impulse purchases. I’ve been known to shop hungry and come home with a few things I didn’t plan for. Also, it avoids the random toys/junk that you might buy to quiet your cranky child only to have them never played with again once you get home.

Little Kids

If your child is still young enough to be confined to the car seat or the carriage, there are some things you can do to avoid melt downs. The great thing about grocery stores is that there are lots of colors and shapes that you can point out and lots of different things that the kids can safely touch.

Bringing a snack with you from home will keep you from impulse buying.  If you don’t have anything on hand grab something you were going to purchase anyway and ration out a bit. Lots of stores offer a free piece of fruit for children under a certain age, too.

I still remember being psyched to get a slice of cheese from the deli (not going to lie, I still take it when offered). One game I’d play with my daughter was to ask her to point to a find a specific color in each aisle as we shopped. Trying to make games up as you go along makes the trip longer but minimizes the boredom and tears. Also talking to your little one as you shop can be fun and teach them a lot as they are learning about food, colors and new words.

Bigger Kids

My daughter still doesn’t mind being pushed around in the cart, but my son wanted OUT as soon as he was walking (running is more like it). To get through a shopping trip with him without screaming, losing him several times, and forgetting half of my items – I now give him jobs to do.

Once your kids can read, they can “help” a lot more with the shopping. I have him look for items he’d recognize on our list and then cross them off once they make it to the cart. He is a picky eater, but when he helps do the shopping, it is easier to get him to try new things.

You can also practice math skills (and very basic budgeting!!) with older children that know how to add, subtract and/or compare prices. It is never too early to understand how much things cost and make decisions about where you can save money.

Chefs-in-Training

Does your child love food and cooking? Include them in the process from the start! Two of my favorite kid’s cookbooks are Start Fresh by Tyler Florence and Cooking Light: The Ultimate Kid Approved Cookbook.

Find a recipe or two, and have them help write the ingredients on your shopping list. At the store, they can help find everything you need to get cooking at home.

Most of the recipes have at least one or two steps that kids can do themselves, and it’s a good way to get picky eaters to try something new. Have them look closely at the produce, learn what the ingredients should look and smell like and see how they describe the food to you as they learn more about cooking. Not everything we tried has been a hit but a few of the meals have become staples on our menu. I’d serve the Cauliflower Gratin from Start Fresh by Tyler Florence at a dinner party it is so good.

These are my tips for making shopping easier with your kiddos. What are some things you do to avoid spending money on things you don’t want at the store when you are out with your family?  Comment below with your favorite money saving grocery tips!


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