So you find yourself home with the kids and realize you have to make a trip to the grocery store? Between finding a parking space, navigating the crowds, and struggling to find everything on your list, this must-do task is stress-inducing on its own. Never mind adding kids to the mix!
But a trip to the grocery store with the kids doesn’t have to lead to yelling matches and grey hairs—we promise! Here are 13 tips for making it through a family trip to the grocery store in 30 minutes or less—and with your sanity still intact.
- Meal plan.
Before you even get to the store, figure out what you want to make for the week. Having a plan for dinners, at the very least, will not just make the grocery store trip faster but will also keep your sanity levels in check throughout the busy week ahead of kids’ soccer practices and piano lessons. It will also help you keep your spending in check. Bonus tip? Plan meals that share similar ingredients—particularly ingredients that expire quickly—to minimize any food waste throughout the week. This is friendly on both the environment and on your wallet.
- Have the weekly coupons ready and organized.
This one goes hand-in-hand with meal planning. Look for items that are on sale and plan meals around them. This is a huge budget saver, but it can also help when you’re cruising the aisles with your sticky finger kids—weekly sale items are often clearly advertised, and sometimes are featured at the end of the aisle, saving you a trip down to the center of the aisle, and saving you time. Some suggest perimeter shopping first and then tackling the interior aisles, while others prefer to zigzag their way through the store. Whatever method you choose, be sure it means you only have to hit each aisle once.
- Prepare a grocery list that’s organized around the store aisles.
Now that you have your meal plan ready, you can start to list out the ingredients you’ll need at the store. A grocery list is a must-have—studies show that people who impulse shop spend up to 30 percent more on their weekly food bills. Group your items around like categories—for example, place all frozen item needs together so you can easily check them off the list as you breeze down the frozen food aisle. Shopping without an organized list adds time—you inevitably have to go back through the aisles to grab an item you overlooked or simply forgot.
- Feed the kids before you shop.
We’ve all been there—you’re 15 minutes in to your grocery shopping, and your kids have already gone through the bag of goldfish and two yogurts that you intended to use for their school lunches. Now you find yourself in the checkout aisle paying not only for the bags of empty food, but you’ve had to buy double that product just to get you through the week. Put an end to in-store snacking by feeding both yourself and your kids before you go. Handy snacks like peanut butter crackers and cheese sticks at home can save you time and money while at the store.
- Try to go at non-peak times.
While we recognize that it’s not easy for all families to grocery shop at 10 am on a Tuesday, finding times to shop during non-peak hours (typically Sunday midday through late afternoon) can shave lots of time off of your grocery store visit.
- Don’t go just before nap time.
Another time to try to avoid grocery shopping? Nap time, or just before. We know meltdowns can happen at any time, but they’re most likely to happen to an overtired kid who is due for some zz’s. Meltdowns mean more stress for you and more time taken away from getting in and out of the store quickly.
- Spring for the semi-truck grocery truck.
Sure, no one likes being the massive semi-truck doing wide turns throughout the aisles, and sure it seems a little silly to be pushing a grocery cart with a red car attached to the end of it. But, man, it sure does keep kids happy (for limited periods of time). Make it more fun by letting them be the “horn” as you round corners, letting other customers know you’re coming.
- Avoid the toy aisle.
Depending on the store you go to, there may be a toy aisle lurking between the canned foods and the paper goods aisles. Stuffed full of colorful bouncy balls and seasonal items, it’s both a money suck and a time suck for shopping parents. Your kids will inevitably ask for “just one toy” and give you doe eyes, and then you’ll be trapped. Just. Don’t. Go. Down. The. Aisle. Some stores try to lure you in by putting sodas or flavored waters in the same aisle. If this is your store, do yourself a favor and sacrifice the soda purchase. It’ll be better for everyone.
- Make up games.
Okay, so you’re already driving the goofy semi-truck around the store, so why not throw in some fun games for the kids? It’ll keep them entertained and may even help you get through the store faster. How so? Say you’re in the condiments aisle and are looking for one particular product. Engage the kids. “Hey kids! Who can find the yellow bottle with the pointy top?” First one to find it wins, and you just scored the mustard in record time.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help finding an ingredient.
Stores rearrange aisles quite a bit. Sometimes what was once in aisle five suddenly finds a new home in aisle seven. If you’ve already searched high and low for a product, save yourself time and some sanity and ask the friendly store clerk for some help locating the item. Your kids, after all, can only sit through so much shopping… so best to save yourself time and enlist help.
- Commit yourself to the same brands.
It’s a good thing to price compare on brands. Once or twice a year, spend some time in the store (without kids) and compare prices on some of your favorite and most-purchased items. Once you get a sense of what brands work best for your budget, stick to them (at least, until your next in-depth brand comparison). Having a standard go-to brand can make shopping for an item a breeze, and it’ll save you oodles of time.
- Buy in bulk when possible to avoid having to always have it on your list.
Buying in bulk is proven to be more cost-effective, and it spares you from constantly having that item on your list every week. A shorter grocery list means a quicker supermarket spree, and more time with your kids on the playground.
- Pick your checkout line wisely.
So you’ve gathered all your items and have made your way to the checkout lines. Make some smart decisions when it comes to picking your line. Many stores offer self-checkout lines that are often shorter (people can be intimidated to check out their own items) and faster. If those are not available to you, or if you want to be checked out by a store clerk, pick a line that’s flowing quickly. If you are standing behind someone with her checkbook out, move to another line as fast as you can!
Photo Credit: Gabriela Pinto