Join my email list and get FREE ACCESS to the MSM Freebie Library, including my top printables & eBooks.

How To Shop With Little Children — Part 1

As a mom to 3 little ones, aged 3, 20 months and 3 months, I would love some tips and suggestions on getting through my shopping with them along. Right now, I typically wait until their daddy gets home from work and they’re in bed to get my shopping done. However, Daddy has taken a 3rd job to help us get out of debt, so that won’t really be an option anymore. Help! -Abbie

Great question, Abbie!

When we had one child, grocery shopping was fairly simple. We could get ready and out the door pretty easily (though it seemed like quite a bit of work back then!) and when we got to the store, I’d strap Kathrynne in a back carrier and we’d mosey through the store at a leisurely pace.

Grocery shopping was a nice diversion from our little basement apartment and I often shopped multiple times per week because I had more time than money in those days and was playing the Drugstore Game really hot and heavy in order to lower our grocery bill.

When child #2 came along, we were living with one car so we usually did our grocery shopping as a family — either in the evenings or on Saturdays. It was wonderful to have my husband along! He would push the cart and help entertain Kathrynne while I manned the coupons and grocery list with Kaitlynn in the sling.

As our social life was pretty nonexistent at the time (we had just moved to Kansas City and knew next to no one outside the people in the small church we attended), shopping together made for a fun family outing.

When we moved back to our hometown for my husband to start his own law firm, our quiet life changed dramatically. Not only did my husband’s firm take off at a much faster rate than we were anticipating (and soon he had to hire a full-time secretary because his workload was so heavy!), but we had so many social opportunities that we had to start turning some invitations down!

Gone were the days of slow-paced family grocery shopping outings. Instead, I started taking both little girls with me one day each week to hit two to four stores. This took an entire afternoon and it was a bit of a juggling act, but it worked fairly well and I came up with many different ideas for how to shop effectively with little children.

I thought I had a pretty good handle on things and was anticipating that adding in the third child wouldn’t be too much extra effort. But then I had baby #3. Contrary to what I had originally anticipated, I had to rethink my entire Grocery Shopping Game Plan from the ground up.

Stay tuned tomorrow for details on the creative compromise I’ve come to with grocery shopping at this season of my life. And on Friday, I’ll be sharing tricks and tips for successfully shopping with little ones.

photo by AlwaysBreaking

Subscribe for free email updates from Money Saving Mom® and get my Guide to Freezer Cooking for free!


  • Andrea Q says:

    Quick tips that might help: join a bulk foods co op, sign up for a CSA and consider having groceries delivered once a month if you live in an urban area.

  • Brian says:

    Fantastic article and post idea! What a great thing for growing families!

  • Princess says:

    It can definately be done! Ive shopped with five children, 5,4,2, and 2 under a year. I babysat for over a year for one child and he and my son were infants at the time 3 mo apart. The best thing is to not do shopping when its close to time for a meal. Some of my kids took bottles, so I would shop and give them the bottle in the carseat. As soon as my children would walk they learned to hold onto the carts sides, and they dont let go. Thats the most helpful thing I think! No touching or running or hiding because they cant let go of the cart:) My kids are older now, but my 8 and 7 yr old still hold on for dear life. I usually know what I’m headed in a store for, and have coupons already pulled and the list made out. My kids are not always angels in the store, and yes there have been times we have left early, or with nothing at all…Just keep training them, wether your out or home, let your yes be yes and your no be no…good luck!

    • Lindsay says:

      This would be my best tip also, teach them to hold onto the cart at all times. I just had my 5th child a month ago and my oldest turned 6 a couple weeks after. Now, the baby goes in the carseat across the back of the cart, the one yr old sits in the seat, and the other three keep a hand on the cart. I think I would go nuts trying to keep track of them or telling them to stop touching stuff if we didn’t enforce this rule. If anyone lets go the cart stops moving until they put their hand back. The same works with a stroller when out anywhere else.

  • Frazzled Mommy in WV says:

    i so need help with this!

  • Karrie Richert says:

    Thanks! I’ll be watching for the next posts! @Princess, the “hold-onto-the-cart” trick has been the biggest help for me, too. In the store, and especially through the parking lot!

  • Plan. Plan. Plan. That’s the only way I’ve found to do it with little ones. If you want to bargain shop, you have to know ahead of time exactly what you are looking for, and have the coupons pulled and in a seperate envelope.

    I actually find that the quick in and out trips for rock-bottom-deals-only are actually easier than when I used to try to do marathon trips to Walmart.

  • Christi says:

    I’ve done the hold on to the cart trick or when they’re a little taller, I have them put their hands in my back pocket so that I can “feel” if they leave me. I think shopping with an ERGO was the biggest lifesaver I had when shopping with my 4 children in a strange place for a year while my husband was deployed.

  • Susan says:

    Oh Abbie…I remember the days… I have nine children now and in a lot of ways it’s easier than when I only had 3. Three was just a hard number for me.

    I agree, that if you have to take them with you, you must be organized. Don’t go when it is close to nap or lunch time.

    But my biggest advice to you is to ask for help. Maybe find another mom that would trade out a couple of hours of babysitting with you. There is also nothing wrong with asking a friend for help occasionally and certainly don’t turn away from an offer for help. If someone says, “I would love to watch your kids for you sometime.” Then you say, “Oh, that would be great. I grocery shop on Wednesdays and could really use the help.” I think that you will find that if you are not ALWAYS imposing on other people, they are happy to help out a mom with little ones.

    • Aimee says:

      @Susan, What an incredibly wise post, Susan. I think we all feel like we’re being a burden by taking people up on their offer to help. We recently moved across the country. During the final months of living in our last home, my husband was already living in our new state. I really had no choice but to accept the offers for help because there was only so much I could do alone.

      It was such a blessing to me, to our kids, and honestly to the people who helped. I realized how much our neighbors and friends really did love our kiddos. I also realized how much joy I had forfeited by being so worried about being a burden by either accepting help or taking my kids along with me to visit, have lunch, etc. While I had been feeling lonely and isolated, I could have been feeling loved and supported.

      Huge lesson learned for me to not be afraid to accept help and to not be embarrassed to ask for help. You never know what a joy it can be to you and to the other person.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Thankfully my children are older now and more spread appart but I’ve had to go shopping with my neice and nephew intow also and I found that children can stay on good behavior only for a bit after awhile they get the ‘wiggles’ and the ‘squirms’ and when they get older it’s that whole ‘they’re feet are on my side’ and ‘she’s touching me’ so good to start getting into strong habits now.
    I highly agree with the suggestion of being organized having your meal plan ready the day before to build your list off of and going through store ads before shopping.
    I would also suggest while ‘bargin’ shopping is what a lot of us are trying to do that you also weigh your stress level, time and even fuel costs to weighing how much of a bargin something really is. Try to limit the # of stores you go to. While at 1 store the hamburger is a penny cheeper than the other if you’re only buying 3 lbs that’s 3 cents… yes it can add up but even if you buy 3 lbs of hamburger every day of the year for that penny cheeper it’s only $10.95 so was it really worth it?
    Good luck with all the kiddos! And hope perhaps a friend or family can help you out so you don’t pull out all your hair too quickly 🙂

    • Laura says:

      @Elizabeth, I agree with you so much on weighing in the bargain. In the beginning I would probably have shopped at many stores, and even went just for item. Now because I have a more heavy load, I go to school, ((Cal State San Marcos, California yay!!!!)) , I have a 3 year old, and I have a Aust. Shepherd, which is like having another child. I cook for my husband everyday, and when he’s deployed of course I cook less so I would constantly chase that bargain. Now I really think about it, because now I have to take into account time, I need more time in the day, so wasting even 10 minutes I can’t afford. So I AGREE AGREE AGREE, that penny saved won’t be worth it if you have to use up more gas, and more time ..

  • Cherith says:

    Well…I’m not against a little bribery when it comes to getting the grocery shopping done! If the kiddos are good at Meijer, they get a penny ride on the horse. If the kiddos are good at Aldi, they get a pkg of trail mix (49 cents) from the checkout counter. If they’re not good, we walk right by those treats, talking about how we must obey and if we don’t there are consequences. This tactic seems to work with my children and all it takes is a time of no reward to remind them.

    I also have my 5 & 2 year olds ‘help’ me. They look for the items we need to purchase. (Sometimes even ask if we have a coupon for certain items!!) It’s a good learning experience for them and keeps them entertained as well.

    Happy Shopping!

  • Liz says:

    I agree with the comment above about asking for help. When my children were young I never asked for help because I didn’t want to be a burden. Looking back I realize that there were people who would have been willing if I would have just reached out. Do you have a friend that’s in the same boat? If so maybe you could each take a day a week to watch the kids while the other runs their errands. That way your able to have a day to get everything done while not feeling like you are taking advantage of anyone.

  • Teresa says:

    This has not been a big problem for me till this last two weeks. I have 5 and my second youngest has screamed the last three times out. I have taken him and corrected him each time, but as soon as we start to shop he starts again. It’s hard because I can’t leave the other 4 alone and most stores don’t have a private enough place to discipline. He hates to sit in the cart and has since he was born, but he is getting to be a real hand full. I would simply go home, but it is 30 minutes just to the closest store and we can’t afford the multiple trips either. My husband has sat him down and explained things to him, he has been disciplined, but it just seems to be getting worse. Help;(

    • Heather says:

      @Teresa, How old is he? What worked for your oldest ones may not work for him. Unless he is rather old, having dad talk to him later is too late for it to have much effect, as you’ve already seen!
      Maybe have a bag of small treats. Hand one to each child that is not screaming, explaining that’s why they’re getting it. Perhaps he will make the connection and stop screaming so he can have one, too. Of course, he might start up again once the treat is consumed.

    • Laura says:

      @Teresa, Sounds like your son has learned to get out of sitting in the cart. Whenever my son doesn’t want the cart, I use a lot of distractions. I’ll say like , Look Oh My, is that a purple elephant.!!!!. Depending on his age I guess this will usually work. Or i’ll tell him if he’s going to help me pick out his favorite fruit. I guess its just getting creative, and getting them involved in your conversation, and in anything else. My son had the biggest tantrum a few weeks ago, it was at the end of my shopping trip, and he was fussing about which box of cookies I should take. Once I saw he was being demanding, and almost crying, I put both cookie packages back on the shelf. I walked right to the register, and paid for my items. He cried the entire process, and couldn’t believe I wasn’t going back for the cookies. I went home, and had a talk with him. He was crying so hard people probably thought I beat him, and all I did was not buy him what he wanted. He told daddy Mommy was mad, and it was cute seeing him be nice to me. That day was so embarrassing, but I did what I thought was right. Plus I got out of that store as fast as I could.

    • Shea says:

      @Teresa, Try letting him plan the shopping trip and help out with the shopping. Letting him look for his items and help put things into the cart. Maybe a reward of sorts when you get home for him doing a good job.

    • Mom of 3 under 3 in central Virginia says:

      @Teresa, I don’t know if you have a Giant/Stop n’ Shop in the area or not but the have a system where you can check yourself out while you shop. This helps me because I can put the groceries into the bag and I can leave the store quickly if things get too bad. I let my 18-month old son help me push the button when scanning an item and he would get a kick out of the scanning light and the sound it makes when the item is scanned. This does not help with deal shopping, but is a way to handle someone tired of sitting in the cart. Maybe this can trigger a creative way to shop at other stores. Best of luck!!!

  • Lyn says:

    It takes deliberate teaching and training, and lots of patience! I had one walking, one in the cart and one in the carrier. Plan trips ahead to make them most efficient while you are there. Go right after breakfast(or as close as you can to ensure you’re done well before lunch) and make it quick! 🙂 It is possible to shop with three very young kiddos by yourself…I’ve done it!

  • Rachael says:

    My two year is very entertained if you go to the store on sample day–we did this at Sam’s Club last week and he had a blast. (I also love the free samples–it keeps your energy up, too!)

  • Rena says:

    Thanks for this post and for all the comments. I’m just adjusting to shopping with two and needed the encouragement. I have the baby in a front carrier and my two-year-old in the cart. That seems to work best for us.

  • Mommieof4 says:

    My n’bor is 84. She sometimes sits in the car while I run into multiple stores for my 3-10 minute errands (i.e the dry cleaner, the post office, a SMALL cvs run, the grocery store to buy a couple of things).

    Also I have a mothers helper who is 12 (she looks older) and she stays in the car with the kids occasionally.

  • April says:

    I have a 9mth old and a 2 year old. For mine it takes training. Even this morning, my son who is 2, kept wondering to far from the basket so he got a time out in the store. I don’t care if it is private or not. I sat him down in an empty corner and he had a time out. Most people that happen by during this sort of thing say positive things, like good for teaching him well. He also helps me put things in the basket and look for items. I agree that planning is also a huge part of shopping with kids. I always do my shopping with a plan and at times that are good for the kids. Usually in the morning is best for us. When I go to CVS, Wags, etc, I like to go by myself. I am only in the store a few min and hate to drag the kids in and out of the car for such a sort trip. I do these shops in the late evenings after the kids are in bed and my hubby is home.

  • Dee Wolters in TN says:

    I have 4 teenagers now, but they were 4 preschoolers/ babies not too long ago. The youngest would be in the cart closest to me and the others had to hold onto the cart. There was no money for extra, so I never got into the habit of buying them special things, so they rearly asked and there was not a problem when I said, “no.” I usually only shopped at 1 store and the bread store because we lived in small towns and there was not much else. I would shop in the AM because the kids and I were fresh. I might not put everything away when we got home from a big trip, but made sure the ref/frozen foods were bagged together so they got put away. The rest could wait until after lunch and naps. As the kids got to be about 6, they could help get items that they were familiar with- cereal, milk, juice, etc. Also, sometimes I would have them compare prices to help me and to exercise math skills. I would talk to my kids alot while shopping and all the senior citizens in the store talked to them too. If one had a melt down I would leave the cart near the door, take them outside to deal with it and come back to finish. Did not happen very much.

    Enjoy your little ones, they grow up too fast! Now my kids drive and sometimes do the shopping for me.

  • Michelle says:

    Things that have helped me over the years:

    – park next to the cart corral (you can grab a cart to use as you go into the store and your kids are contained, it is way shorter distance to haul a baby in a car seat and I don’t have to wonder far from the car to put the cart away)
    – our store offers a different fruit free each week for kids to try and offers a free cookie to kids in the bakery (remember to bring a drink if you give them a cookie or snack, they will be thirsty)
    – head out early in the morning (after breakfast), when the kids are not hungry or tired and the store is not crowded
    – look for the carts that look like cars
    – stick to essentials. You might be in a season where putting ingredients into a bread machine is easier than a huge list that includes bread (for example). Staples like flour, baking soda, etc. can be bought in bulk and you can make fewer trips.
    – If you use coupons, have them ready to go
    – Make your list in the order of the store’s aisles – nothing will kill a grocery trip with kids faster than hauling your cart back and forth all over the store.
    – If you don’t use coupons, consider grocery delivery (if it is in your area). I found that this cost me less than grocery shopping without coupons in the store because I really cut down on impulse buys from roaming the aisles or from kids asking to try something they saw. It was a lifesaver for me for quite a while.
    – Give yourself a break. No matter how hard you try, not every trip will be glorious. Do what you can as you can and call it good.

    Good luck!

  • Here’s a tip…don’t walk up and down every aisle at the store if you don’t need anything on those aisles. I saw a lady at the grocery slowly walking up the ice cream freezer aisle with her 2 little girls (pointing out as she went how yummy the treats looked) and then tell them they weren’t buying anything. She deserved the temper tantrum that came from her babies. Make a list, stick to it, offer a treat at the end if it fits your budget. Only venture into parts of the store with stuff on your list.

    During Christmas I didn’t take my daughter to the toy department of any store. She always found more stuff that she “had” to have that she had never seen before. Same with commercials. Don’t watch them or mute them.

  • Abbie says:

    I’m the Abbie who asked the question. Thanks so much for posting this, Crystal! I never imagined it would get turned into a 3 part series!
    I do have help with the kids. My family lives about a mile away, so I can call on them when I need to. However, my mom is caring for her parents, and still homeschooling my 4 teen siblings that are at home, so their lives are very busy and I try not to abuse the “family privilege”. When I have to do a major shopping trip, I get babysitting. The hard trips for me are the quick errand runs. The drugstores are the worst, because their carts are so small I can’t fit kids and groceries in them. There was a memorable trip to Walgreens a couple weeks ago that involved me running through the store, chasing down the 3-year old, (a very active boy, by the way) the baby screaming for some unknown reason the whole time I was trying to check out, and the 20-month old grabbing a bottle of black nail polish and painting her toenails and the floor while I was distracted with the crying baby. I try to have my trips completely planned out before I go with all the coupons I’m planning on using already pulled together, but organization can only go so far!
    Thanks so much for publishing my question and thanks also for all the great reader ideas. I’m eagerly waiting for the rest of the series.

    • sarah says:

      @Abbie, could you ask the teen siblings to take turns coming and wait in the car? they could listen to radio shows (free downloadable ‘podcasts’ of old radio shows), sing, play games, etc and count it as a home ec class. plus count the radio shows as history or whatever its about. my 14 yr old is currently teaching my 3 little ones German and it’s really helping his retention.

    • Mom of 3 under 3 in central Virginia says:

      @Abbie, Personally, I would rather have the family help to do your quick errands like CVS so that you could go on your own. Doing the big shopping trips are easier to handle 3 under 3 than the small quick trips to possibly multiple locations. Check out my post on the bottom on how to handle 3 kids under 3 during a grocery trip. Another thing I will do is leave my middle child with my Dad during his nap time in a pack n’ play while I shop with my 3 year old and 9-month old. This would also help to do the quick errands because it is the 18-month to 2-year old that causes the most problems. Got to love that age! :-/

  • mindy says:

    I have 5 and right now 2 are under 3. I would say step number one would be not to go out if you are already frazzled because then everything will be worse. I would take the advice on going right after breakfast because it is the best time. I am not a fan at all of bribing. I have definitely had my share of screaming kids and some of the times I just ignored it and went on with my shopping. I do make my children walk in a single file line with their hands behind their backs sometimes so they aren’t temped to touch anything. Our meijer store has double seat carts so the little ones can sit next to each other. We have a talk before we go in with what I expect from them and they all pitch in inside with the shopping. I do still take a half hour longer than neccessary every week because I have to keep stopping and telling them to stop touching things but it’s a work in progress. Just keep your head together and don’t stress out about it too much.

  • amanda says:

    Any tips to make them sit down in the cart? I’m constantly getting reprimanded from produce managers, little old ladies, and other moms because if I turn my back for a second, both kids are trying to climb out of the cart. Abby screams if I try to put her in the Ergo or the front of the cart and goes all limp. Mostly I just try to shop without them! I have a 3.5 yr old boy and a 1.5 yr old girl.

    • Anitra says:

      @amanda, Can you strap them in? Maybe with straps that fasten behind them instead of in front?

      I put my daughter in the cart and then give her something that she likes to occupy her – lately, a big one has been that she can have a notebook with the grocery list in it, and help me cross off each item as we get it. But I’ve also used books, food, and toys.

      • Leah says:

        @Anitra, My LO climbs out of the cart, no matter how tight I strap him in. I try my best to occupy him, but he never lasts more than 15 minutes, so I always end up carrying him while pushing the cart, which is very difficult! Lately I’ve just been putting him in the back of the cart, which is a slightly safer place for him to be standing, but doesn’t really resolve the issue.

    • sarah says:

      @amanda, my rule for the cart is the same for the car, it only moves when their sitting. in the back it’s criss cross apple sause or we dont move at all. it may take longer but it’s worth it. mine now have it so ingrained that my youngest will scream if i start the motor on the car w her not buckled. Dr Dobson once said if you squeeze the back of their neck a little it gets their attention w/o ‘spanking’ them in the store. and they never get too tall for that. if they go “oooooouuuchhh” i just say, are you ok? did you hurt yourself? and everyone around just thinks they stubbed their toe or something. and it doesnt take much.

  • Heather says:

    I bring small boxes of raisins and a sippy cup for my two oldest (twins). It keeps them occupied for awhile anyway… The baby is happy in the carrier, thankfully! I admit though, I don’t do my best bargain shopping when they’re all with me. Something else that has helped me is to plan my menus every two weeks. I try and go every other shopping trip with the kids – taking them all with me one time and then leaving all home with daddy for the next trip. That way, I only go twice a month to the grocery store! I do miss out on a few good bargains doing it that way, but my sanity is maintained somewhat. 🙂

  • AllieZirkle says:

    LOVE THIS POST! I’m so looking forward to hearing more this week. I have 4 and can’t get to the store – ever!

  • Lana says:

    I cannot take credit for the following tip as it comes from a super homeschooling mom of 12 in our area. When I had 5 young children I would often promise them discipline in the store only to forget about it by the time I got home and put everything away. The way to remember is to put a pen mark like a tally mark on the back of their hand. Some of my boys would earn more than one. I usually had a pen out anyway to mark off my list and it was easy to do and I didn’t have to say a word. I found that just seeing that mark on the back of their was a reminder to behave and not get another. Now that they are all grown my youngest tells me that she spent all the time in stores rubbing off her mark if she got one, I guess it kept her out of mischief!

    • Hannah says:

      @Lana, Wow, what a wise idea! I always forget and my almost-three-year-old actually is the one who reminds me because he asks about it when we get in the house. But he’ll soon learn not to do that, so I’d better have another plan!

    • Jessica says:

      @Lana, I LOVE this idea! May have to try that with my 3-year-old. 🙂

  • Jessica says:

    I have a 2 year old and it has been a bit of a challenge. My husband works out of town, so I have to take my daughter with me. We usually go after I leave work (5:30 or 6), but I make sure and bring snacks, juice, and my prepared list with coupons in a binder clip. I shop at Publix, so I use their printable shopping lists online, which separates everything into the correct category (produce, dairy, etc.). This has been a big help. Also, if there is an opportunity to get a balloon we take it. This keeps her occupied a little longer. If she does not want to be in the cart that day, I may let her down, but I do not chase after her. If I chase her, she tends to run. She has gotten better with the trips and we try to make them fun and we try to be in and out in less than an hour.

  • Hannah says:

    I have a three-year-old and one-year-old and they generally do well when we’re shopping. There are so many people and things to watch while they ride in the cart. What I want to know is how to go to the library with children! It’s fine if we’re in the children’s area and choosing books for them, but what if I need to browse the adult section? Yesterday I was trying to choose some books about home improvement and do-it-yourself repair. I had to just grab a few off the shelf, not really having time to thumb through them to see if they’d be helpful. The kids were just getting to antsy in that narrow aisle with me shushing them.

    • Heather says:

      @Hannah, Yes, I agree! If only they had shopping carts for the library!

    • sarah says:

      @Hannah, does your library have a website? i can hunt and request books w/o leaving my house and just go in to let the kids look and pick up mine

    • Mom of 3 under 3 in central Virginia says:

      @Hannah, Here are a few tips to try:
      1. THIS IS MY MOST USED TATIC TO GO TO THE LIBRARY WITH 3 KIDS 3 AND UNDER. If your library has this resource, place the books you want on hold online.
      2. Go to several libraries in the area and find the one with the best layout… it may not be the most convenient, but it is worth it in the long run. The one I go to is small and I can keep my youngest 2 in the stroller while my oldest plays on the computer. The kids area is in the corner and even if I cannot directly see my daughter, I can keep an eye on the area where she would not be able to leave the area without me seeing her. I make sure there are no back exits first of course.
      3. I leave my middle son, now almost 2, napping at my parents’ home in a pack n’ play… if you have that option. Otherwise, I go during lunch or snack time so that he can entertain himself with food.

  • Clare C. says:

    Wow, reading this post brought back some memories. After my twins were born, I started once a month stock up grocery shopping trips to Wal-Mart. I would plan one Saturday a month when my husband was available and we would all go spend the day shopping. He would wheel the twins around in their double stroller and generally entertain them while I shopped with my 2 1/2 year old daughter. Before we bought any perishables, we stopped to eat in the in store McDonalds, I would take a nursing break with the twins and then we’d finish up shopping and go home. Probably not the most entertaining way to spend a Saturday but it really helped me with my sanity. Then I could pop into a local store during the month to buy fresh produce or dairy and it would only have to be a quick outing with the 3 of them.

  • shelah says:

    I love all the ideas! I personally only do one store a day, but that gives us other reasons to get out.

    I also keep mine in some sort of carrier for as long as I can. They can last a long time in the backpack-type carrier, even close to 2yrs old.

    Once they are free, the training begins.

  • Heather says:

    4 kids here: 7, 5, 3, and 1.

    Never, never let the toddler out of the cart to walk until they are as old as possible! I’ve learned that the hard way. Once they have had a taste of that freedom, they won’t ever want to go back in. (It’s kind of like the carseat principle.) I try to wait until past 3 years. My 3rd child (who is my most difficult so far) sat in the front of the cart until after her 3rd b-day, with hardly any fussing. At that point I needed the front for her younger brother, so she graduated to walking, and has been decently behaved.

    It’s hard to have a toddler in the front, and a baby carrier in the basket, and then have room for groceries, but it’s worth in in my opinion to have the toddler contained. (I don’t like slings, etc. ) However, on the plus side, with less room for groceries, it helps me not overbuy!

    Once you have a kid about 5 years old, they can push a half-size cart (if your store has them) with the food, and then you push the younger two in a separate cart. Or younger kids can push those kiddie carts at Kroger, which helped me out a lot. We would be quite a sight to see: me pushing two kids in a full size cart, followed by my 4 and 6 year old each pushing a kiddie cart. Once I got them to stop ramming me in the back of my ankles, it was great! Lots of amused comments from other shoppers.
    And now school is in session, so I am down to 2 kids while shopping!

    I personally find that those car shopping carts cause more trouble than they are worth. Fighting over who sits in it, and they also wiggle out of the straps and run away. I never use them. I’m such a meanie!

  • Julie says:

    These tips are so wonderful.
    I have only one child, but I’ve discovered a few tricks that make shopping with him easier.
    – Our usual grocery stores offer a cookie for children in the bakery department. If he’s been a “good shopper,” he can claim the treat. (Of course, he must practice waiting his turn and asking politely.)
    – I keep a few grocery store emergency treats in my purse. Sometimes one lollipop is all it takes to occupy him until I finish.
    – If I need a minute to double check my list or rearrange my coupons, we head either to the pharmacy area where he can sit or to the seafood department so he can watch the lobsters swim around the tank for a bit.

  • Cricket says:

    If I take the kiddos to the store I go in the morning so it’s less crowded and less hectic. If I have to go in the afternoon I only get absolute essentials. DS is 2 and I tell him how many of an item we want. He helps me count them as they go in the cart. I also let him hold items like PB that are VERY hard for him to hurt. Of course no shopping trip is complete without DS (aka my little chef) getting to see his pots. He will even see a Paula Dean pot and say “That’s Paula Dean, Mama”.

  • Cathy says:

    There are so many great practical tips from many experienced moms. I know Crystal is going to say more but the one thing I want to add is “Mom’s Attitude”. It’s important to think of grocery shopping as an opportunity. An opportunity to talk to the kids about things outside the home. An opportunity to show patience. An opportunity to teach them. An opportunity for them to ask questions.
    Go to the store ready to have fun with the kiddos. I know the days “I” need need need to get things done I am less likely to love and have fun with my kids… that includes shopping.

  • I have a 3.5 yo DD and 10 wk old DS. I wear him in the Moby wrap, which I love. No one can touch him and he usually sleeps. My DD has always been a good kid in the store. She usually stays in the cart, especially if it’s a racecar cart. She is allowed to get the free bakery cookie. I also let her see the vacuums and fish if she wants to. In general, my store trips are less than 1 hour and we live just a few minutes away.

  • Jessica says:

    My three children are almost exactly the same age as yours, Abbie! My husband is out of town a lot, so I almost always take them along with me for grocery and bargain shopping. I agree with whoever said that, for bargain shopping anyway, very particular planning is absolutely a MUST. I always write out exactly what I want, how much I expect to be spending OOP, how much I should be getting in ECBs or such things, etc. This way I can quickly check to make sure everything rung up correctly, etc., without having to figure it out as I’m standing in the store with screaming toddlers and then have to go back to get something fixed!

    For shopping in general, I still dread it at times — and at times I leave one or two of the kids with my husband on an evening or weekend if possible to get some random things done — but I have mostly found that as I take them out more, they have adjusted to it and are learning to cooperate better. My biggest pet peeve is when my 3-year-old has to go to the potty for the umpteenth time on a public toilet… AAGH! But I think a lot of it is just that I am having to learn that it is always going to take longer than I think, and I need to learn to be flexible and patient.

    One practical tip: I tend to go shopping in the late morning before lunchtime. It helps if I have an easy lunch prepared and juice cups ready in the fridge for when I come back, as well as snacks / drinks along with me (sometimes), so we don’t have as many thirsty/hungry/tired meltdowns in the store or right after we get home. It is exhausting, I know, but you will probably find that you are a lot stronger and more capable than you think!

  • Jessica says:

    p.s. I meant to say also that my kids LOVE to go shopping now! They are not always as well-behaved as I wish, but they are usually comparatively quite good, and I keep telling myself that it can only get easier from here. 🙂

  • Carrie says:

    Funny that you posted this today, because I have been debating all afternoon whether to run out and shop while my mother’s helper is here with the kids, or wait until she leaves because I don’t want to waste my “on the clock” time.
    For me, grocery shopping with 3 works ok for shorter trips. Baby in the cart seat, 2 girls walking if they’re behaving or the 3-year-old in the cart if she’s not. I also shop with a wide double stroller (on off hours) but I have to go through the handicapped checkout lane!

  • Jen says:

    My trick is…we stop by the library on the way to the grocery store, then my twins (5) are thrilled to read their new books while sitting in the basket. This has really helped me. Maybe the older kids could read to the younger ones?

  • Kimberly says:

    I’m soooo glad you posted this article. I was just talking (or nearly crying) on the phone with my husband because I’m struggling to shop with my kiddos in tow! I can’t wait to read more!

  • Ms.M. says:

    My kiddos are 4, 2 and 7 months. We handle shopping several ways. If all of us (incl. hubby) go, we use two carts – baby sits up front in one, the 2 yo in the other, while the 4 year old walks. Both big kids ‘help’ choose items if possible – for instance, if I know we’re buying 5 boxes of Kelloggs cereal on sale w/ coupons, I allow them to choose which 5 we get, etc. If it’s just me, baby is in a sling carrier, my toddler rides in the cart and my big boy walks. Most often, however, I shop w/ hubby and no kids! I work almost full time (I teach college 32hrs/week), and Fridays classes start 1.5 hours late. On those days, the kids go to daycare at the regular time and I get my shopping trip and drug store trip in and done (hubby works from home, so he often comes along and it’s sort of a weekly ‘date’ for us), and then I head out to work.

    If the kids are coming along, I always make sure that my list is in order by aisle and my coupons are in a similar order well before I head to the store – it saves tons of time and helps balance the distraction of having 3 kids in a store full of temptations.

  • ann says:

    DD 5, DS 16 months

    I’ve always tried to give my daughter a “job”. Since she was 2 1/2 or so, she has located items for me at smaller stores. When standing close to the item, I ask her to find the kind of peanut butter we use, for example. That gave us the chance to talk about colors of jars, etc. too. I’ve also given her the job of greeting every child she saw, etc. It often helped her and distracted another child for their mom!

    I also take turns with my daughter…I shop produce and meat, then let her look at the lobsters, then I shop another area and let her look at the pretty cakes in the bakery, etc. It has helped her learn to take turns and share, and often even captivates my son.

    The rule for my daughter has always been that if she goes too far from me, she’ll have to ride in the cart (something she considers “babyish” and very embarrasing). Her riding in the cart has the side bonus for me of entertaining her brother too. 🙂

  • Cathy says:

    Mine are 9, 6, 4, 2, and 6 months. Dh is often out of town for 2 weeks to a month when he isn’t deployed for a year or longer, so many times I must shop with everyone (though occasionally I will splurge on a sitter…not so much these days). When I do, I find it helpful to stick to a list. Also, I’ll have the 9 YO push the baby in stroller. The 6 YO can walk alongside us and that way I only have two taking up room in the cart.

    While shopping with all kids is not my idea of fun, it can be done. And I’m not above a small bribe, as in telling the kids if they can behave all the way through the store we’ll buy a carton of ice cream.

  • Stacy says:

    I have three (4yr, 3yr,10m) Always set ground rules ahead of time, set expectations for the kids. Always feed them prior to the trip. Bring strap/clip-on toys for infants. Incorperate your pre-schooler helpers- mine love to get coupons from the blinkie dispensers- hands holding coupons are unable to hold anything else. Shop during weekdays- more likely to have large-toddler/kid seating carts. Take advantage of bakery freebies- Kroger, Publix and super target all offer free cookies that are behind the counter- mine kids know they must be well behaved to get the coveted “cookie”.

  • Melinda says:

    I understand that it can be a great deal of work to take young children shopping with you, especially when you are using a large amount of coupons.

    I have a three year old daughter and a 12 month son. I trained my daughter at a very early age to walk outside of the cart and to help me push it. I would also bring her doll stroller along, not only did this keep her entertained, I could also hear her pushing it. I also have a small plastic shopping cart that I bought at Target, that she would push too.

    I am very blessed that my son has always been a good baby to shop with. He does get cranky sometimes when we are out and I always make sure to have plenty of snacks and drinks.

    I would also suggest that you could use a sling to put your infant in, then you could put your 20 month old in the cart and let your 3 year old walk. It is also easier to go early in the mornings to most grocery stores because it is not as busy.

  • Mom of 3 under 3 in central Virginia says:

    I used to wait until my Mom could shop with me but it tends to be more like having a fourth child to deal with. At first, I learned how to shop with 2 shopping carts, one for children and bags (diaper, reusable, etc.). When shopping with two carts, a lot of times I feed my 2 older children lunch in the basket while I have my infant in the travel carrier on top. But I kept dreading to go out even though a lot of people were super nice and were amazed as to how I could even shop! Now, I plan 5 meals and plan for 2 left over days. Gather recipes based on the savings I can get for the week and shop once. That way if I have to go out, it would only be for one or 2 items like milk and it not be a big deal. Now, I only shop at grocery stores with the cars (locally, my choices are Kroger and Giant Foods – or Stop n’ Shop). That way I have the infant carrier on the top and the kids in the car. My oldest I will let roam since she will help, but if she is being disobedient, I will strap her into the car. If your child is not in an infant carrier, my second choice would be to get one of the cloth shopping cart covers (and spend the money to get Floppy Seat – they are cushioned and very durable) and lay down a travel size pillow to prop your child up… and be sure to strap in your little blessings. If you have to, you could use a harness, but I have done that once and hated the feeling of bending down feeling like by baby was going to fall out (even though he was secure). I hope this helps from one Mom to another. I have found out that you usually get the hang of things by the time the youngest is 7 to 8-months. I have usually gotten pregnant around that time… I guess I like a challenge ;-D.

    • Mom of 3 under 3 in central Virginia says:

      @Mom of 3 under 3 in central Virginia, Also, as a Mom of 3 kids in diapers and one drinking formula and a one income family, we need to deal shop while being realistic. I shop this website for all the local grocery stores and pick the one I can spend the most. I keep the other shopping lists handy in case I need to run out and get an item or 2 and can go to one of the other grocery stores that I already have a list of items I can shop for. I will also hit a bulk food place like Sam’s Club because I can rarely find a better deal on meat. In summary, I shop all grocery stores and pick one to go to (save the other lists in case I have to go out later in the week) and go to a bulk food place. I hope this helps.

  • with children that age i would start by feeding them first before the outing. this way distractions will be low. grap a package of amimal crackers and open the bag while shopping so the kids do not get too bored. ask the eldest for suggestings about dinner and such, this way the participation level increases and it will help you remember things you did not get on the list. last things to get is ice cream or popsicles on the way out. preplan, heavy stuff on bottom light things on top eggs, cheese, bread. carry the 3 month old with a shoulder harness for children, the next one in the cart and the eldest tagging along with a leash for children. have the leash attached to the wrist so if it goes limp you will notice right away. have a list and the best plan before going. clip your coupons beforehand and have them ready at checkout. do use an organizer for couponds and pull what you need before you leave the house. have your bottles filleds with cold clean fresh water instead of sugar based drinks as they tend to get kids hiper during shopping. have fun and half way through go use the facilities so the eldest can go potty and you can check the others. of course you will do that before you leave for the store, you would have done that but going to the store will get exciting and the freezer section may want you child to go. everyone looks over that when they hit the ice cream section. keds get into the cold and boom they need to go. bring a toy for the elder children with something that makes noise. the 20 month old will be in the cart seat and do not use those cart cars for children. they are too big for the isles and makes too many distractions. these are some ideas you have tried before but they are good one’s.

Money Saving Mom® Comment Policy

We love comments from readers, so chime in with your thoughts below! We do our best to keep this blog upbeat and encouraging, so please keep your comments cordial and kind. Read more information on our comment policy.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *