Wednesday, February 9, 2011

All in a Day: Grocery Shopping

Today the All in a Day bloggers are talking about grocery shopping with a large family. So pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea, sink into your favorite chair, and drop in on each of the following Moms to see what they have to say about this topic. They'll be expecting you! ;)

Carrie @ Our Full House

Elizabeth @ Yes They're All Ours

Kathy @ Kathy Mom of Many

Kristy @ Homemaker's Cottage

Lori @ Happy Busy Mama

Monica @ Natural Mama

Renee @ Bakers Dozen

Christi @ Ants on a Farm


I have found that how and where I shop has changed through the years, depending on a number of variables.  Currently, my husband takes us to SAMS Club once a month, where we stock up on many things that we like to buy there.  We always fill the back of the van with coolers, and fill them up with our favorite refrigerated and frozen items.  We also stock up on paper towels and toilet paper and stuff like that from SAMS.  Then, each week I shop from the sales ads at Publix, Winn Dixie and CVS, using coupons as I am able.  I love to stock up on the Buy One Get One Free items that are advertised each week!   I used to save a lot of money by shopping at Aldi's but we haven't lived near an Aldi's for the past five years.  :(  I also order my grains, honey, sucanat and coconut oil from a whole foods co-op -- and used to buy fresh, local free-range eggs and raw milk -- but since I've recently relocated to the other side of the state, I will need to do some research and see if I can re-establish sources for these items.

As far as my weekly grocery shopping, at this point in my life, I often go to the grocery store ALONE or with just one or two helpers!  But, it wasn't always this way!!  I can't help but laugh when I hear of young mothers of one or two little ones who can't go to the grocery store unless their mom or mother-in-law watches the babies!  Before I had my own home-grown babysitters, I regularly went to the grocery store with all of my children -- which grew from one to seven before my oldest was old enough to be left in charge of everyone while I ran to the grocery store.  Believe me, that was quite an entourage!!!  ;)

So, how did I manage with as many as seven children in tow??  I want to share some tips that helped me, and will hopefully help you, accomplish such a task!

Survival Tips for Grocery Shopping with Young Children:

1.  Schedule your trip! 

If at all possible, do not attempt grocery shopping during naptime or with hungry, sleepy, cranky or sick babies and children.  It will be a disaster every time!  (Guess how I know!)

2.  Make a list! 

You will want to progress through the store as quickly as possible, while everyone is in a good mood!  So, make sure to have a grocery list prepared, with like items grouped together, if possible.  Have the coupons you plan to use clipped onto your list, tucked neatly in an envelope, or at least squished into your pocket.  You will not have time to sort through coupons if you are shopping with an assortment of babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers!  You will also be too pre-occupied to plan your meals as you go, so it's best to plan your meals and shopping list beforehand.

3.  Have a plan! 

Know how you will actually keep all the children corralled.  When I was at this stage, I usually had the baby in a sling (so I had my hands free), the toddler in the front seat of the cart, perhaps a pre-schooler in the back of the cart, and the other children walking along side the cart.  The younger ones were instructed to walk holding on to the cart, so I could see everyone and wouldn't run over any one's heels with the buggy!  Eventually, we got to the stage where one of my older daughters also pushed a cart, which doubled our space for kid containment!  I decided not to worry about which store was the cheapest, and chose to shop at the store with the Widest aisles so we wouldn't always be in the way of other shoppers!  :)

4.  Train your children! 

If children know what is expected of them during a trip to the store, are drilled in proper behavior, and know that you are willing to leave a cart full of food, if necessary, to tend to a discipline issue, then you will get satisfactory behavior most of the time.  Of course, children will always want to test the limits from time to time, some more so than others!  So, you have to be prepared to follow through with whatever discipline you have decided upon.

5.  Reward good behavior!  

This is not exactly bribing, I think!  ;)  The key is to communicate your expectations beforehand and tell the children that if they behave appropriately (make sure they know what that means!), that you will buy them one treat.  I suggest getting something that everyone can share -- such as a box of cereal (fruit loops was a favorite!), a bag of Goldfish, a box of cookies or some other treat.  Many times these were enjoyed in the van on the way home! 

6. Allow Your Children to Help!

Children love to help; it makes them feel needed.  Point out what you need and let them take turns getting cans or boxes off the shelves and placing them in the buggy.  Be sure to praise them for how Tall, Strong, and Grown up they are getting!  Children especially love to help unload the cart, and keeping them busy unloading prevents them from begging for candy or staring at the appalling pictures on magazine fronts at the check-out queue!  

7.  Be Prepared for the Unexpected!

It just goes without saying that your baby will have the worst blowout of the week, while you are out shopping and out of diapers and have only an outgrown shirt or onesie in the diaper bag!!!   ;)  So, try to have a well-stocked diaper bag with you!  But, if you don't -- there is no need to panic.  Proceed to the nearest baby row and purchase a bag of diapers, a container of wipes, and if necessary, a new outfit and then calmly walk to the restroom and strip that baby down to his/her birthday suit and rebuild from the ground up!  (Then store these diapers and wipes in the car/van for future emergencies!)  I remember more than once throwing away an entire outfit in the Wal-mart restroom that was just too nasty to try to salvage, and buying something off the clearance rack for a baby that had pulled such a trick!  This problem may resurface with potty-training toddlers -- Don't panic!  It's the same problem, same solution, just a bigger mess!!  ;)

8.  Be Prepared for the Expected!

If you have more than two or possibly three children, you can count on the fact that people will be watching you and counting heads and shaking their heads in wonder.  You also know that you will receive many comments and questions from strangers, some admiring, some curious, and some just downright rude.  The best thing you can do is to just accept it and purpose not to be offended, but to look at it as an opportunity to share the message that children are a blessing, and that you may have your hands full, but you have your heart full, too!  It helps if you prepare a few witty quips that you can use for common questions, as people will always catch you when you are the most distracted and unable to come up with a good retort!   

Hopefully, the above tips will help you navigate the grocery store with a cart full of little kids with some degree of dignity!  Oh, and one more tip -- if you want to maintain your dignity, make sure you read the sign above the register before you unload your cart full of groceries!  Otherwise, you may find yourself in the humiliating situation I was stuck in one time:  I had finally unloaded an overflowing cart of groceries, while juggling a crying baby and some grouchy little ones, only to notice after the last item was unloaded that the check out was clearly marked "Express Lane: Twenty Items or Less!"  I realized that other customers were looking at me accusingly, and oh how I wanted to sink down through the cracks in the floor!!  ;)

Grocery shopping with older children is quite a different experience.  I no longer have to change dirty diapers or visit every bathroom in every store for the child who is potty training, but now it is my bladder that is likely to be the cause of a hasty trip to the grocery store bathroom!   (Some of you older moms of many know what I'm talking about!!!!)   ;)

Helpful Tips for Grocery Shopping with Older Children:

1.  Make a list.

It is always more cost and time effective to enter a grocery store with a plan!  Know what you need and have your list ready, along with any coupons you plan to redeem.

2.  Divide and Conquer.

Nowadays, when I take the children with me to the grocery store, I divide them into groups of two or three and give them a few items from my list to find and bring to the cart.  They love doing this, and it really speeds up our trip!

3.  Teach them about Getting the Best Deal.

Take time to teach them to look at the unit price to discern which item is the best bargain.  Also, teach them to look for store brands instead of the national brands.  Make sure they know to look for the Buy One Get One Free items, and know whether you need to buy both items to get the discounted price.  (For example, you need to buy both items at Winn Dixie, but can only buy one item if you choose at Publix.)

4.  Enlist their Help with Couponing.

Instruct your children to look for "blinkies" and other coupons.  Many times they are located at their eye level, so they can help you find coupons you would otherwise miss.  Show them how to select the right size and number of products so that you are eligible to redeem the coupon you have.

5.  Teach them to Read the Labels.

Grocery shopping together gives you a great opportunity to teach your children about ingredients you want to avoid, such as trans fats, hydrogenated oils, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, etc.  As your eyes start getting older, your children will be invaluable at helping you actually read those fine-printed ingredient lists!!!  :) 

So, there you have it -- my tips for grocery shopping with a lot of little children and with a crew of older children.  I bet you have some helpful ideas to share about grocery shopping, too.  We would love to have you link your blog with us for All in a Day.

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Noel said...

great post! :) These tips will help me even with just my 3. Enjoyed reading this

Noel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Samantha said...

Great tips!

MamaAnt said...

Great post! I ditto your ideas for shopping with older and with younger children!

mommyx12 said...

Great post. I look forward to reading what other's are saying about their 'shopping days' but I dare not share my scary shopping days!! It is just now getting a bit easier at times but still not as easy as when I go alone or take older children only.

JCF said...

Thanks for the tips! I only have three kids (the oldest is three), and we get CONSTANT comments everytime we are at the store, which cracks me up. I don't feel like three kids is anything to gawk at or comment about--but we live in a big city, where most people only have one or two kids. I do need to focus on responding with a smile and letting people know that my kids are a blessing. I tend to be a bit short with people who comment, since I'm so preoccupied with trying to get what is on my list and get out of there!

Happy Busy Mama said...

We have walked a long road together and it shows. I laughed to see how similar how tips were. I am not sure I could accomplish that much multi-tasking now. Also, I want to add, I did what I had to do at the time. Any mom who has the opportunity to shop alone, should enjoy it. :-) However, there will always be times you have outings with children so training is so very helpful.

Debbie @ Cheaper by the Bakers Dozen said...

I love your #8. God definitely uses our unique situations as moms of large families to give us a chance to give testimony of His blessing. It also forced me to be nice to my kids at the store - since it was impossible not to notice us :) Gotta love that external motivation.

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