How To Make It Through The Grocery Store (With All The Children)

Trips to the grocery store with children can sometimes seem like the most daunting experience.  The possibilities of something going wrong are endless.  What if someone needs to go to the bathroom?  What if someone is tired?  What if someone has a tantrum?  What if someone becomes defiant in the store and doesn’t want to listen?  I’ve been there and done that on multiple occasions.  I’ve learned a few things over the years with my 7 children in tow.  Now we have a great time, and we’ve even been given flowers at Trader Joe’s because they were so impressed with how well our entourage navigated the store with no mishaps.  Here are 7 tips that I’d like to pass along:

Discuss Expectations

I try to get to the store in the morning when minds are fresh and spirits are high.  However, before we even leave the house, I let the children know what the plan is.  First, I discuss with them how many stores we’ll be visiting.  I’ve found that two is our limit.  Then, I discuss with them my expectations about behavior and conduct while we are in the store.  My main expectations are that they be in control of their body, do not touch items on the shelves unless I have asked them to get it, and speak in an inside voice. I then ask them if they have any questions.  Once, we arrive in the parking lot of the store, I again remind them of the expectations we discussed earlier.  

Bathroom Break

One of the most difficult things to do when you have multiple children with you, is to make a detour for the bathroom.  I always insist that everyone, including myself, tries to use the bathroom before we set out on our grocery shopping adventure.  Knowing that everyone has tried also helps me to determine how long we can reasonably be out before someone may need to go again.  My goal is always to get back home so we don’t have to use a public bathroom.


Pairing up has become extremely helpful as my family size has grown. The older children have a younger buddy that they either hold hands with or push in a cart.  Having a buddy also makes it easier for the children to help with shopping.  They can work together to grab something off of our list.  

Hold The Cart

Before there were buddies, my younger ones would hold the cart when we went to the store.  This was the easiest method for me to ensure their safety and my sanity. 

Sometimes, if a child is excited and having a challenge honing their energy or touching things without permission, I simply tell them it’s time to hold the cart.  Having them hold onto the cart as I navigate the store gives them something tangible to hold onto while they get their energy calmed down.  After several minutes, if they are in control of their body, they are permitted to help again.  

Nurse When Necessary

I nurse on demand, and sometimes that demand requires that I nurse while shopping.  I prefer to use a nursing cover and have one of the older children take over pushing the grocery cart.  However, in one more step to try get through the store while having fun, I will usually nurse the baby in the van, as soon as we arrive to the store parking lot.  This will usually give me some time before nursing again.

Recognize and Reward Good Behavior

Grocery shopping is fun! As I discuss expectations with the children before we go out, I also discuss rewards.  Everyone, young and old, likes to be rewarded for a job well done.  While we’re shopping, I will have a special item that we purchase as a snack for them to have once we return to the van for doing a good job.  On several occasions, the staff at Trader Joe’s has given me flowers in recognition of how helpful the children are while shopping.  I always tell the children that the flowers are for them because if I had been shopping alone, I would not have received them.  It always makes them feel good, and that is always my goal.

Recognize and Reward Yourself 

In addition to the children receiving a reward snack, I also make sure to reward myself with a healthy snack.  Sometimes it’s a cold bottle of kombucha or a fruit and nut bar.  Whatever the choice, I deserve a snack as well.  Although my children are used to the routine, it still takes a lot of mental energy to make sure everything goes smoothly.  By the time we’re done, I’m definitely ready for my treat.

Do you have a method for getting through the grocery store? I would love to hear about it.  It is my hope that some of these tips will be helpful as your children accompany you to the store.


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