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How to Shop With Little Children — Part 2

If you missed it, read Part 1 of How to Shop With Little Children here.

After my third child was born, I waited a few weeks to try shopping with all three at the store at once. When I finally did, I realized that it was doable, but it was a lot of work. In fact, it felt more like a three-ring circus act I was trying to oversee.

“Be careful, you’re going to smoosh the whole loaf of bread.”

“Sit down in the cart, please.”

“No, honey, we’re not going to buy those. Put them back on the shelf.”

“Please do not push your sister.”

“Has anyone seen the coupon for the ice cream? It was just right here.”

We’re working on first-time cheerful obedience, but we’ve far from completely mastered it at our house. And I’ve decided that I’d rather choose other places than the grocery store to work on child-training right now.

I know there might be women reading this who are just shaking their head in disbelief that I can’t get my act together as you effortlessly shop at five stores every week with your seven children under four. More power to you! 🙂

But personally, I don’t find it easy to shop at multiple stores, use coupons and bring three children with me. So instead of beating myself up over this, I’ve decided to rethink my Grocery Shopping Gameplan for our current season of life.

1. Simple is Good

To be perfectly honest, since having three children, I’ve cut way back on shopping and using coupons. Whereas it wasn’t uncommon at all for me to shop at four to five (or even more!) stores many weeks back in the earlier years of our marriage, I now rarely go to more than two stores in one week.

I try to have one or two weeks each month where I put forth some concentrated effort on stockpiling and then I usually stick with the barebones shopping the other two to three weeks, occasionally even skipping shopping entirely for a week (outside of a few things like milk).

We’re keeping our meals extremely simple, too, so that makes shopping easier as well. We usually just have oatmeal or cold cereal for breakfast, smoothies of some sort for a mid-morning snack, veggies/fruit and some kind of protein for lunch, and for dinner we just rotate between a beef or chicken for the main dish, and have salad, fruit and maybe some bread made in the bread machine for sides. Other snacks are usually yogurt, cereal, fruit, veggies, muffins (from the freezer), hard-boiled eggs, protein bars, peanut butter toast or something else which is equally simple.

I know that this menu plan probably wouldn’t work for many people as it’s just so Plain Jane and redundant, but my husband is happy, the children are happy and we’re eating a balanced, nutritious diet (well, at least it works for us and we feel energetic and healthy!).

2. Flexibility is Key

Instead of having one afternoon a week dedicated to marathon shopping, I’m learning to be more flexible and stick with fitting in shorter shopping trips whenever they fit in. If we’re going to be getting together with friends on the other side of town, I might swing by a store while we’re out. Or, if we have a free evening and my husband gets home early, I might run out to do a quick shopping trip with one child after dinner while my husband is home with the other two.

Some weeks, we have a free afternoon, I’m feeling energetic and things are running pretty smoothly so I’ll load up all the kids and we go do a marathon shopping trip. However, freeing myself up from feeling obligated to do a big stock-up trip with all the children every single week has been so helpful.

While we might not be as stocked up on everything as we once-upon-a-time were and while there are weeks when I feel like I wish I were more organized and always did the shopping on the same day like I used to do, rolling with the punches and fitting shopping in when it works is getting us by.

3. Help is Wonderful

I think the biggest shift in my thinking about grocery shopping (and life in general) since having three children has been that it’s okay to accept help. After Silas was born and I was struggling a great deal with postpartum depression, my husband hired a wonderful young lady from church to start coming over one day each week and helping our family. This has been one of the greatest blessings in my life and I’d highly recommend something like this to every mom who has young children!

Our helper comes over each Tuesday and does laundry, cleaning and whatever else I need done. After our morning school lessons are finished, I’ll often take one of the girls with me on a quick shopping trip while our helper stays with the other children and feeds them lunch/plays with them. It gives me the opportunity to get some quality one-on-one time with a child and also allows me to get some efficient grocery shopping done!

In addition, Jesse’s step-grandma comes over every Thursday morning to spend time with us and I’ll occasionally run errands or do some grocery shopping while she’s here, too. And on those really busy weeks, Jesse also will gladly stop by the store — sometimes even taking some (or all!) of the children with him!

Creative Alternatives to Hiring a Babysitter So You Can Go Grocery Shopping

If hiring a babysitter or helper is not an option and you don’t have family nearby, don’t despair! Here are some other ideas:

::Swap With a Friend — Know another young mom who is also struggling with grocery shopping with young children? How about asking her if she’d like to swap babysitting with you so you can both get your shopping done each week?

::Shop With Your Husband — If your husband is game, find a time that works to shop when he can come along with you. It can make it much easier for you and can be a fun outing, too!

::Shop When Your Husband is Home –If there’s a time which works out for your family, consider shopping when your husband is home and able to watch your children.

::Bring a Friend/Helper Along — If you have a friend who’d love to spend time with you and would willingly be an extra set of hands, ask her about coming along with you. If you have a few quick in-and-out trips, perhaps she could even just sit in the car with your children while you run in. Or, if you know a mature teenage girl who is looking for a small part-time job, you could ask her to come along with you. For a small hourly pay, you may be able to provide a lot more sanity to your shopping trips.

While these things I’ve learned might be helpful to some of you, there are others of you who have no alternative but to shop every week with little children. So for those of you, stay tuned for tomorrow’s post for my ideas and tricks for pulling off a successful shopping trip with young children in tow. And come prepared to share your tips, too. (I already know that my readers are going to have dozens of amazing ideas to share!)

Do you have a creative alternative to hiring a babysitter not listed? Have you changed your gameplan when it comes to shopping as a result of having young children? I’d love to hear your thoughts and input!

photo by AlwaysBreaking

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  • FishMama says:

    I’m always so impressed with how you guys problem solve and figure things out to be better and easier for your family. (I want to be like you when I grow up.) 🙂

  • Great ideas Crystal.

    Shopping has certainly become more of an effort since I had my third child last year. I try to stay away from the store as much as possible 🙂 I am thankful to have access to Azure Standard and do a lot of my groceries through there.

    I also shop online for food whenever possible. Amazon is a good source for this. Also, if I am ordering vitamins from vitacost, I add on any food items they carry that I will need soon. Since they always has flat rate shipping, it makes no difference to the shipping price.

    I try to be as frugal as I can, but definitely am not a wonderful coupon shopper. This is working for me right now, and helps me keep my sanity 🙂

  • Mary says:

    Another great idea is a babysitting co-op, of sorts. Being a military wife, it isn’t that uncommon to find myself sans husband for months at a time. With two little ones, it can get really overwhelming if I let it. We use poker chips (each color designated a certain number of hours). If I watched 2 children for 2 hours, I got 4 hours worth of chips. This way no one felt like they were being taken advantage of. If you are in need of chips, you can have a play date at your house with several children — get lots of chips in one day.

    This really worked for me while DH was at DLI studying from morning til night. I felt that I got a break whenever I needed it and didn’t feel bad about asking someone.

    I am not a big fan of shopping with my girls and usually try to avoid it if possible. 🙂

  • It’s nice to see I’m not the only mom who does this! Until a few weeks ago when my older daughter started school, I did my shopping whenever I could fit it in, usually going in the evening or on weekends when my husband was home to watch the kids.

    Now that my daughter’s in school, I do all my shopping in one day, broken up throughout the day. On Thursdays my daughter has a slightly different schedule than normal, so I use that to my advantage. After I drop her off, my younger daughter and I hit at least one grocery store (and two if we have time) before lunch. If I didn’t get all my shopping done before lunch, we go right after my daughter gets out of school since we have a little more time than usual during those afternoons. We still get home at the same time as any other day, so it doesn’t really mess up our after school schedule.

  • Tonight I placed my first delivery with… I’m pretty amazed that I don’t have to go to the grocery store but I’ll still get all my basic stuff delivered to my house tomorrow morning. 🙂

    Granted, I most likely won’t be doing the delivery ever again because I ordered under a promotion to make it worth it, but this is an option worth pursuing if all others have been exhausted.

    I do my grocery shopping when my husband is home with the kids. However, I usually bring them along to the drug stores when we’re stocking up on coupon deals. Because I usually know exactly what brand, item, size, etc I’m buying it’s much easier than the grocery store where I spend a considerable amount of time comparing prices. I actually enjoy their rowdy company on trips when it’s 30 minutes or less, even when I have a mountain of coupons. I am thankfully able to manage with a 4 & 2 year old.

    I can’t wait to read the rest of the series! I love it so far.

  • Celia says:

    It is such a breath air to learn that you have a helper! Jesse is amazing for doing this! I refused to hire a cleaner after my son was born (out of pride and I was embarrassed I needed help), so my husband did it for me! I thank G-d that he did! I am more relaxed and happy. The money spent on our cleaner is worth my sanity!!!

  • cristina says:

    I am so grateful for all your posts,it literally makes my day to read your blogs. I am the proud mom of a 2 year old boy,that is Insanely energetic and spoiled(first grandson in my side of family),and I’m also 4 months pregnant with our second child. Our shopping trips are being done with daddy,we just started using coupons and I’ve been blessed to be very organized,I managed to put our son on a schedule, wich controls a good deal of his tantrums,and honestly makes my life a lot easier. I am a little worried about shopping a few months from now,but reading about your experience makes me hopeful. So,thank you!

  • Alicia says:

    I have three small kids, and there are several things that help me make shopping doable. First, I subscribe to The Grocery Game, shock saves me a ton of time and energy comparing costs and matching up coupons at the store. Based on the weeks sales, I make a menu for two weeks of meals and then also do some stockpiling on super cheap/ free items. I go into the store knowing EXACTLY what I’m getting, and that saves time and stress!! I also allow my four-year old to help me shop. If given specific instructions, she stays busy and distracted. My younger two ride in the “racecar” double-seat cart and munch on snacks that I bring along. This serves two purposes: their hands and mouths are busy (meaning they are quiet and well behaved) AND they are not hungry and doing the “gimme” game. Hope that helps!

  • Alea says:

    Since grocery stores in my area stay open late and several are located close together, I shop after I put my youngest down for the evening. (He goes to bed at 8, so I am usually home between 9 – 9:30).

  • Joy says:

    I used to go grocery shopping once per week and get groceries to last an entire week. Since my daughter was born I find it easier to make smaller grocery store trips to get groceries that I will need for a few days. I have found that I prefer shopping this way as I use what we already have in our home and only need to buy a few items needed to complete a meal as well as a few items that are on sale that I regularly use. I have found by doing this it is easier to manage our budget.

    I find it best to go shopping when my husband comes home from work or to have one of my sister in-law’s who live only a few minutes from us watch Heidi. I have brought Heidi with me but have found that it is easier and quicker to have my husband or a sister in-law watch her.

  • Allison says:

    I avoid taking our 4 year old and 18 month old with me to the store whenever possible. Shopping doesn’t seem that fun for them – they’d rather be home playing – and they add complexity to the task at hand. So, I head to the grocery store (well-prepared) directly after work and quickly get in and get out and then head home to relieve our nanny. Since I can shop much more efficiently alone, this frees up time that I spend playing with them. During the time I am in the store, they are happily at home (typically on our playground) instead of sitting in a shopping cart. It seems to work for us. The downfall is it doesn’t give me much time to hit a variety of stores like I did before kids. I’ve had to limit myself to the store or two each week that has the best deals for that week and then build our menu accordingly.

  • Tammy L says:

    I have never really liked grocery shopping (I would much rather put away the groceries than purchase them!) but thankfully Joshua does! When we were first married (before kids) we always shopped together.

    In Ohio, I went shopping with my mom a lot. She picked me up… WITH my kids… in her van! SO nice. She’d take a child (or two) in her cart and I’d take a child (or two) in mine. We’d shop and meet back out at the van. 😀

    Now, Joshua usually does the grocery shopping each weekend while I work on my blog! And I totally think he deserves Dad Of The Year award because he almost always takes along our 6yo, 4yo, and 2yo! 🙂 Good thing Costco carts are double-seaters. 😉

    • @Tammy L, Amen to Costco carts! I don’t how if grocery stores realize how much business they are losing when they don’t offer carts that seat more than one child. I have a 3 and 1 year old (both boys), and the 3 year old is just too energetic to let him walk around silently holding on to the cart at all times, so he has to be strapped down in some way. If he rides in the back of the basket, it limits how much I can buy.

    • Emily says:

      My mom and I were just talking about the carts as we went into Sams last week!! Why on earth don’t stores like Walmart and Target and Aldi have big carts? Or better yet the car carts like Dillons and even Lowes and Home Depot have?!

      • Jill says:

        I completely agree 🙁 I have 2u2 and #3 is due in December to make it 3u3 and we live very rural. Our local stores do not have carts conducive to little ones. Our Meijer and Walmart has the bench carts but the bench is to big for my 14month old but putting her in the front of the cart (in the seat area) has her 2 year old brother kicking her =/ Shopping is NOT easy with LO’s. TY for posting all your suggestions!!

        The carts with the 2 seats up front (like at Costco/Sams/Home Depot) are wonderful!!

  • Carrie says:

    My one huge recommendations if you have to take little ones with you to the store is to have a stockpile of “treats” in your bag so that they can have a special something to eat while you are walking past all those things they want you to buy.

  • Rachel D. says:

    it’s so funny to me that I used to think shopping with one kid was hard, then shopping with 2 kids was harder, now that 3 is here, I find it impossible and can’t wait to shop with just 1 or 2 of them. maybe as my newest (4months old) gets bigger it will become easier to make it out with all 3 kids, but I don’t think there will be room enough for FOOD in the cart. I mostly wait for friday when my husband is home, and take the baby with me and get it done. if the bigger kids feel like it, and daddy wants to come along too, we will all go and DH and the kids will go off and read books or eat samples or test kickballs in the aisles, while I shop.

    I do venture out with them once a week somewhere like target or costco, but never for actual shopping where I need to remember to get or do this or that. it is more just to get into air conditioning and get a snack and walk around somewhere other than our neighborhood.
    lollipops are definitely worth every gram of sugar in them. it’s amazing how cheerful and compliant my kids are when there is a lollipop involved. LOL

  • Melissa says:

    I have a 13yo and a 3yo and I give them each tasks to help with the shopping process. The older one can help find what is on the list and bring it back while the younger one puts the groceries in the cart and helps unload at the register (her favorite job!) She also has paper and crayon to make her own “shopping list”. She asks what we need and tells me what she is writing down. She LOVES to be my helper when we shop! My teenage son also helps at home by carrying the groceries in and putting them away.

  • Stacy says:

    Our third child is due in December so I am loving these posts! Right now, our family includes a 1 yr old and a 12 yr old so it goes really well at the store. My son, the 12 year old, is awesome at keeping the baby entertained. He keeps her happy and I can shop and coupon with relative ease. After the new lil’ one it may be a whole different story!

  • Liz says:

    I have 4 kids (6,5,3,&8mo) and at any given time I’m shopping with at least 2-3 of them (4 during the summer). One rule that I’ve pushed since they’ve been old enough to walk next to the cart (approx 2yrs) is “Keep your hand on the cart”. I can’t think straight when I’m trying to keep them in the same aisle or from running around. This system works out great for me – I have 2 at the end on each side, one next to me at the front, and the baby in the seat.

  • Leslie says:

    I love to hear of other mom’s asking for help as well. When I mention that I’ve hired someone to come clean my house and help out for 4 hours a week I feel like people think I should be able to keep up while at home. I work from home, care for our 2 boys and participate in some ministries at church and was finding myself frazzled and behind. Giving up that portion of my list has a been a huge burden and I feel like I can spend some quality time with my kids instead of worrying about the weekly cleaning.

  • Jen says:

    I love taking my 2 yo shopping. It takes a long time to get through the store but it such a great opportunity to talkj about everything in the store that we see and to count all of the items we need. He totally gets the idea of a list — that’s what we are looking for and helps to find things. He also knows we will say good bye to those things not on the list! So we are working on language, math and reading skills.

    • Tara says:

      @Jen, I like the “it’s not on the list!” response. It completely takes the blame off of “Mean Mommy won’t let me have what I want!” At least at age 2 – ha!

      • Becky says:


        I tell my son, “Sorry, it’s not on the list. We’re not buying that today.” Now he picks things up and says “Mommy, we’re not buying this today”, sets it down and walks away.

        • I have used the “Not on The List” for years and now my older teens give it right back to me if I pick something up that isn’t written down. It has been a life saver when they were little and even now.

  • Jen K says:

    i have index cards with staples on them (words on one side pictures on the other) the younger 2 (5 &6) get a couple of these (milk, eggs, cheese, veg, fruit, and yogurt etc) one of the older gets part of the list and my husband and i get the rest while one pushes the cart. (we all stay together they just look for the stuff on their list ) This works well for me especially when we go either first thing in the morning or later (after 8) in the evening. We also use the self check out so they are learning to sort and bag the groceries responsibly .

  • Amanda says:

    My mom used to allow my brother and I to pick out one item that was just for us when we went grocery shopping. It could be anything from a pack of gum to a box of our favorite cereal. Doing this kept us from whining and begging for things at the store, and gave us incentive to be good while we were at the store.
    I have started using this with my 2 yr old daughter when we hit multiple stores in one trip. I let her pick out one thing at the first store (usually a little toy or pack of sticks from the dollar spot) and then she brings it with her into the other stores. She gets a boost of confidence from picking out her own “prize” and she handles the trips much better with since it keeps her occupied.

  • My husband takes the children to the magazine/books area if we are all at the store together. They all find something to read and sit down together and wait for me. This works well since every grocery and drugstore has a book section.

    I can shop lightning speed in peace, they spend time with Daddy, and he doesn’t have to follow me around! He even takes them to bathroom breaks and to get free cookies or popcorn (whatever incentive the store has for little ones).

  • Susan J says:

    I always knew you were “just” a normal mom, and this confirms it! 🙂 I’m enjoying this series!

    Many stores now have those shopping carts where two can sit strapped in. Of course, then there are issues with siblings being so close together, but at least they aren’t able to run amuck in the entire store! And, as you mentioned, wearing a baby or toddler on your front or back can be a life saver.

    Funny story…one time when my son was my only and he was about 14 months old, I had him on my back in the Ergo while I shopped. As I reached to get an item off the shelf, there was a man on a stool stocking shelves next to me. And my son patted his bottom! I was pretty embarrassed that the man would think I had been the one to pat him, and was quick to point out what had happened. 🙂 Needless to say, I was more careful in the future what I let my son have access to from my back!

  • Twila says:

    I just started couponing a year ago, and have 4 children, but my youngest is 15. I get scattered enough as it is when I’m trying to figure out all the deals and making sure I have my coupons, I’m not sure how I would manage if my kids were little! I admire you all! I’m thinking though, I would have to go in the evening after my husband’s home.

  • I just wanted to thank you for mentioning your struggle with PPD. I’m going through this now and was even hospitalized for it at 12 days postpartum. It was the scariest experience in my life. Part of getting back to “normal” for me includes doing simple things like grocery shopping. My 3.5 yo loves to go with me, and sometimes I take my baby boy too, in the Moby wrap. Doing something as routine as the grocery shopping is helping me get back in the saddle again!

  • Betsy says:

    Thanks for this! I have struggled as well since adding my 3rd child in June. We like a big international market that is like a party on the weekends (people everywhere! samples! fish to watch!), and that has turned into a beloved family outing, so that really helps as well. We get entertainment and grocery shopping done all at once.

  • Julie says:

    Great series! I’ve enjoyed reading so far and look forward to the next post. I have 5 kids under the age of 8 and they all go shopping with me every week. We live 20 minutes from any grocery store so we hit 3-4 stores in one trip. I know that sounds crazy!

    One thing you said that struck me was the first-time, cheerful obedience. We, too, are working on this, and the grocery store is the place where I see my child-training flaws. I also see my own perfectionist flaws!!! Workers and shoppers alike always compliment my kids on how well-behaved they are. Meanwhile, I’m thinking in my head, “If you had only been here 5 seconds ago when my 6 yo was harassing my 8 yo!”

    However, at the end of the day they are actually well-behaved. I just need to loosen up a bit! 🙂 I could stand to have a more cheerful heart while shopping, too!

    BTW–My husband is great, and there are times when we go as a family in the evening…especially when I’m pregnant and need the break! 🙂

  • I am a mom to 4 and I don’t have family in the area and my husband works ridiculous hours so I have to shop with kids in tow.

    I wrote an article with some of my tips. A couple of them the kids came up with by themselves:

  • elizabeth says:

    Buying in bulk has been the saving thing for me. My oldest is physically impaired, so shopping has always been a hard thing for me. Whether it means going to Sam’s or Costco, or just buying 20 toothpastes at CVS, buying in bulk means I am in the store a lot less.

  • Lois says:

    ah yes. Not easy. This grandma decided over the summer when babysitting both that stores were absolutely taboo. Now that one is back in school full-time, if I have the energy, I’ll do one store with my 4-year-old granddaughter or two max–and that had better be it, or it’s the end of both of us. 🙂 Occasionally we’ll stop at the coffee shop (bistro) for a muffin to split and a coffee for me and it becomes a brighter day very quickly. 🙂

  • Meghan says:

    It is good to hear you mention that you have hired help and that you don’t do everything, all the time, on your own. I appreciate the upbeat nature of your blog, but with the shear amount of stuff you talk about in the first person, it sometimes seems like you must be “super woman” and able to do it all while maintaining a positive attitude. It’s good to hear that you do, in fact, have help from others!

    • Crystal says:

      As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, the only reason I’m able to do what I do is because I have a wonderful team of people helping behind-the-scenes with this blog, because I have a wonderful support system in our church and community, family nearby, a wonderful husband and our mother’s helper. I’m not superwoman by any means! And I’ve learned I’m a much more calm and cheerful wife and mom when I accept help and delegate business tasks.

      I think it’s highly important that moms realize there’s no such thing as superwoman!

  • Helene says:

    Having gotten custody of my grandson 3 1/2 years ago when he was a traumatized 19 mo old, I avoided taking him to the store with me. Like you, child training for me is not going to happen at a store while shopping. I have arthritis so in previous years getting him in and out of the cart child seat was nearly impossible on my own. My oldest son is his “nanny” so going without him is easy. I get my coupons, list and stores mapped out and go early.
    While waiting for Santa last year, I noticed one mom who was entertaining her daughter by watching Youtube videos on her Iphone. It made the 45 min wait in line tolerable as her young daughter sang along quietly. Not exactly a grocery shpping tactic not to mention, expensive 🙂 but it was something I never thought of.
    The hardest thing I ever do is go to Walmart during the day and night when there are screaming, crying kids who should be home for a meal or in bed asleep and their parents are yelling at them. Its why I go myself at 7 am.

  • Jennifer says:

    I don’t have children, but it appears that at Giant Eagle they have a (free?) child care service. Children between the ages of 3 and 9 may be left for as long as 2hrs. I can’t attest to the program’s quality, but it might be an option for some.

  • Elizabeth says:

    To add on to what I mentioned on the first installment of this story another helpful hint with small children is routine. Just like it’s easier with small kids if they know when nap time is expected I’ve also found that shopping on the same day near the same time each trip each week has made things easier as my children know what to expect and now even come up to me and say “Tomorrow’s Monday! It’s grocery day…” and the other thing I do now that my children are older is get them involved with the shopping by asking them if there is a meal they’d like this week. Always easier when they get older though thank my lucky stars I survived them up to this point 🙂

  • Charli says:

    When I first had my 3rd son, my husband was working crazy amounts of overtime so we could pay off debt and I could stay home. I actually went to the store with my newborn across my chest in a sling, my 1 year old in a backpack on my back and my 3 year old in the buggy seat. Needless to say, it was a nightmare! My mom goes with me now for the big grocery shopping trips. There is nothing wrong with accepting help, we are not all superwomen and that’s ok.

    • Rachael says:

      My mom actually thanks me when I ask her to come along. She loves getting to spend time with the kids and we enjoy getting to visit with each other. We make it a fun day, and usually do lunch and the library, too. Since we live in a small town, it is fun to get out for us!

  • Kelly says:

    I have three little ones: 4, 2, and 7 weeks. I have been to the store with all three for a couple of weeks now. One of my biggest criteria for shopping (I have options) is not who has the best deals. It is who has the best carts. Kroger had two seater “car carts” and other stores only have standard carts. To Kroger I go! I put my boys in one of these, and I put my newborn in a sling.

    I try to remember my limits and know my children’s limits. I don’t attempt a huge trip with multiple stores and a million coupons. I go once, with an organized list. I go mid-morning when I know my kids will be at their best. I accept help from the cashiers and other employees who offer to help me load up the groceries onto the conveyer belt or who help carry them to the car. I also let my boys know their expectations while we are in the car, and I reward them for listening and being helpful (a box of raisins goes a long way).

    • Jessica says:

      I too shop at Kroger because of the carts. I have a 2year old three month old who stays in the carseat in the seat of the cart. Our Kroger has the smaller carts with a little car in front, which my 2 year old loves! Otherwise, with the carseat up front and her in the basket, there’s no room for groceries. Once my younger is able to go into the double seat carts, then we can shop at stores like HEB.

      Plus, the Kroger is within walking distance from our house. I’m hoping to get a double stroller soon and be able to take my girls to the store as an outing, as well as pick up a few things.

  • Heather says:

    Our local Martin’s (connected to Giant) also had a free sitter service from ages 3 -9, and it was wonderful! The first time I left 2 kids there, and only had 1 with me, I was practically giddy with excitement as I walked off to do my shopping! Very secure set-up and an amazing play kitchen area, as well as other toys. Kids loved it.
    Sadly, they discontinued it at our store.

  • I have a 2 1/2 year old son and twin 4 month old daughters, and I have yet to go to the store by myself with them!! It’s hard enough when my husband is with me! Looking forward to tomorrow’s post! We have no family in the area, and all my mom friends work outside the home. I just can’t figure out how I would manage all three should I even attempt to go grocery shopping! I have a double sit n stand, so for regular shopping I can put my toddler in the back and carry one of the girls in a sling, BUT with still nursing every 3 hours, it is just so not worth the trouble of loading and unloading everyone, driving 15 minutes to the nearest store, only to have about an hour to shop before needing to either nurse or just head home…**sigh** So for now I have one night every week or two that I go by myself while my husband watches the kids. I get everything I need at one store for the next one – two weeks, depending on the sales. If there happens to be a good sale on the week I’m not getting out, my husband will stop on his way home from work. I’d just much rather spend my “getting out” time taking the kids to the library or the park that are only 5 minutes from my house! Most days we just stay home for our fun!! 🙂 And I LOVE getting the mail to see if any of my recent online purchases have arrived! How did we ever make it without the internet??? 🙂

  • A fun way to “pay” babysitters is to trade goods/services with them. As a hobby-ist photographer I have approached several girls at church about exchanging photoshoots (which take about 1 hour of my time, grow my portfolio and give me experience!) in exchange for 10 hours of babysitting.
    The girls love having their pictures taken and getting a slew of Facebook profile pictures 😉 and I enjoy the financial break. We’re all happy!

    Love your tips and the ease of meals for this time of life – my husband has his first Iron-man in a few weeks and so I am working on a simple diet in preparation for that.

  • Elle says:

    Some other moms in my neighborhood and I try to e-mail one another before going out shopping. If one of us just needs one or two things from the store, the shopping mom picks it up for the rest of us. We don’t have any set schedule or trade off, but it all seems to work out.

  • Another question I need help with is how in the world to manage taking my 2 year old to the potty (AS SOON AS he tells me he needs to go) while managing the twins and the “train” stroller. Any advice from other moms of twins and a toddler would be greatly appreciated!! 🙂

    • Rebecca R. says:

      @Karla Curington,
      Well, I am a mom of 9 children, 12 years down to 4 1/2 month old boy/girl twins . . . our 2nd set of twins. . . which means our youngest 5 children are 4 years and under. When I had my first set of twins, they were children numbers 5 and 6 for me, and my oldest was 7 1/2 yrs. old, so not the exact situation as yours. This is what I think I would probably do in a situation like yours . . . take the 2 1/2 yr. old to the bathroom just before leaving for shopping and give a couple minutes to “try” to do business. Then do the same thing when you first get to the store . . . straight to the bathroom for a try to go. Now I am not saying this is exactly convenient either, but at least if the bathroom visit is successful one of those times, you will not have to worry about the last second :before it is too late” run to the bathroom with all 3 in tow! Now, if you go to more stores, it might get a bit too much to do that in each store, or then again, maybe it would “train” your little one to try going when presented the opportunity. You are in a tougher stage at the moment, but you WILL get through to easier stages . . . been there, done that! 🙂

  • Jodi says:

    I’m a big fan of the last example. When I was in college. I often found myself on grocery shopping trips with young moms. I didn’t have a car in college. It was a great blessing for me to be able to get to a grocery store, and it was a great time to just see life of someone in a different season of life than me, but a season that I hope to experience soon. I think it’s a great way to get some help at the grocery store, and also a great way to fulfill the Titus 2 mandate for older women to teach the younger women. I’ve learned a lot from women older than me at the grocery store. It’s not like a mom of three can sit down once a week at a coffee shop and read a christian book with you. You have to be a little more creative.

    • Becky in KY says:

      @Jodi, I absolutely LOVE this! I have worked with a college campus ministry for several years, and shopping time, laundry-folding time, etc. can be great opportunities for some great conversation with a college girl while also having a second set of eyes on the child(ren).

      • Jodi says:

        @Becky in KY, and being involved in the church community larger than just the college group makes the transition to the “real” world so much easier because you have relationships that aren’t based solely on a common season of life.

  • janet says:

    Aha! you have hired help- I don’t think you mentioned that before. Some grocery stores have a supervised kid play area- my daughter would never go in there though.

  • Brook says:

    I had a friend with two children who shopped pretty much exclusively at Fred Meyer . Not because they were cheaper necessarily, but because they offer the childcare while you shop.
    I only have one so it’s usually not too bad. I read a parenting book once that said to strike a deal at the beginning of the trip. If you behave and we don’t have problems then you can have ______. (for us it was either the free cookie or the free balloon that our store gives away to kids) That helped us get ourselves sorted better.

    My worst experience at the grocery store happened one time when we were already in line AND had already unloaded the cart -so I was stuck. I don’t remember what started it, but I know it had to do with my not giving him something he wanted. He started wigging out. It went into a full-on screaming tantrum. In the line. I felt like crawling under a rock, but I felt that I couldn’t just give him whatever it was as a reward for throwing a fit.
    You know those looks that you get when your child is acting up in the store? Either you must have been beating your child or you’d better start. Somehow we got done and made it out to the parking lot. I was thinking how awful this was and why wasn’t my child better trained by now and how can I get this screaming, torquing muscle of a child to the car without killing one of us. This woman (whom I had seen in another line inside) came running over to me. I thought she was going to give me a hard time about my kid in the store. She ran up and said, “You are a great mother.” I almost fainted with relief.

  • Shelli W says:

    No woman should ever feel guilty for having help (hired or volunteer!) at all!!! Remember the Proverbs 31 wife?? She had help. I never paid attention to one little portion before it was pointed out to me…verse 15 “She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household AND PORTIONS FOR HER MAIDENS.” (emphasis mine)

    We as women need to quit thinking we CAN do it all and know that it is ok to ask for help!! THANK YOU for being real and honest and I so appreciate your words of wisdom in your posts. LOVE your sense of humor and sarcasm. 🙂

  • Ann B says:

    My children are older than yours , a nine year old and two 7 year old. And it is still hard to take them to the store. They just have stronger opinions of what they think we should be buying now. It’s usually okay if I just have one child, buy I really prefer to shope while they are in school or my husband is at home.

    I recently took my 9 year old son to the store, thinking it would go well. Well, he wanted a chocolate bar, so throughout the rest of the shopping trip I had to listen to a dissertation of how I never get him what he wants, I never give him chocolate, and he said ” you know, you really need to be a better mom and I have been thinking of running away since you won’t buy me chocolate ever.”. I had to prevent myself from laughing hysterically and responded: “I will love you wherever you live”.
    FYI- he does get more than enough chocolate in his diet and has never attempted to run away:)

    • Joy says:

      @Ann B, My three boys are 8 and 11 and over the summer it was a nightmare to take them to the store so I feel your pain. Most the time I would end up forgetting about half of what was on my list that was right in my hand. I would let them bring their DSi to store but that helped only some of the time. Snacks didn’t work either. Getting them to help pick out items was a total disaster. They wanted to buy everything that wasn’t on sale or didn’t have a coupon. I tried to use matching coupons up with sales as a math teaching lesson but it went in one ear and out the other.

      It doesn’t help that one of my boys has sensory issues and gets overwhelmed anyway. Or, that even though my twins are 8, people (esp. seniors) still stop us to ask if they are indeed twins and remark how cute they are even though they are squabbling.

      Forget back-to-school shopping. I ended up just picking out everything myself when dh got home or on the weekend. I just think boys hate shopping in general. LOL.

      Now that school is here, I am breathing a big sigh of relief. I try to do most of my shopping on Fridays when I have off. I work part-time Mon-Thurs and sometimes I’ll run some quick errands before school lets out.

      • Ann B says:

        @Joy, yes, I agree. I try to do as much of the shopping before school lets out. I’m working part time now, so those opportunities are less than they used to be. But I take it when I can get it.

  • When I had three littlies under five I usually shopped and ran errands when my husband was home. If I took anyone, it was the baby, so I could feed him while I was out. I only ever shopped once a week or fortnight, although I did vary which store I went to.

    When I had my fourth baby the old ones were at kindy or school, so I would just take the baby everywhere with me.


  • Carolynn says:

    Great post! I usually wait until my husband is home and go shopping all by myself, it’s part of my “me” time! The kids also go to a free Mom’s Day Out program (I have to work once a month for it to be free), so I do shopping during that time as well! I don’t like to take all four children, because there simply just is not room for the groceries! However, if I do have to take them, then some things I do to help with behavior is have each child hold an item and take turns asking a child to get something off of the shelf. Depending on the age of the children we will sometimes decide on a color before going into the store and seeing how many different things we can find that are the specified color (the kids keep track of the number, not me)! We talk about what number we are under, how many rows we’ve been down, etc. The kids love to help put things on the conveyor belt and we count the items as we put them on there. I know it makes the shopping trip longer, but no one ever said that being a parent was a fast experience! Plus, you teach your children so much with these experiences!

  • Courtney says:

    Shopping with little ones is exhausting! I could handle taking one or sometimes two of them – but all three? That was just too much multitasking for me! Fortunately, it gets much easier as they get older. Mine are 8, 10 and 11 now and it is actually enjoyable to go shopping together. They help me keep track of coupons and are much better at doing the math to figure out the best price than I am – luckily, they inherited their dad’s math ability 🙂 Plus, if we’re doing a major stock-up and need two carts, one of the kids can push the second one.

  • Andrea says:

    Up untill recently I would hit several stores in one trip. Recently though my 18 month old daughter has a fit after the second store we go to. I try to get up early on Saturday mornings and load my little one into the car and hit my main gocery store. I try to hit the drug stores durning the week and any other store that is running a really good sale. I work full time and I am the one that drops off and picks up my little one at daycare so I usually hit the drugs stores after she is in bed. I have recently started telling her if she is good she can get a treat. Usually I can just get her several M&M’s and she is delighted.

  • I always make sure to go shopping when my kids are full, and after their nap time. And as mentioned in the post, I give them a treat at the end of the shopping trip (of course they need to select some candy or chocolate they like that are on sale), if they behave well. Works most of the time : )

  • Karen says:

    Oh first time obedience can be so hard to teach. We are working on it with my two year old. Any suggestions? It is easier when my husband can watch her. Here lately we are making grocery shopping educational!

  • This is a tip not only for grocery shopping, but for going anywhere with little kids: Don’t be in a hurry. Easier said than done, I know. But if I think an errand should take an hour to complete, it’s nice to give myself two. Someone has a potty emergency just before we leave (or while we’re out); another kid insists on putting on his own shoes; the toddler wants to walk instead of sitting in the cart, etc. Then I’m not stressing so much and everybody stays happier.

  • vickie says:

    I had almost forgot how hard it was to go to the store with children then my grandchild came along. Oh my goodness he almost ate my coupons. Last week I left him with Grandpa!

  • Shelly says:

    I still haven’t figured out how to do low-stress shopping with just my one toddler. Last time we were at the store, she pulled the milk off the conveyor at checkout and we had a huge mess and an unhappy cashier. I’ve just taken to shopping with her as little as possible…

  • Julie says:

    Currently I do most of my shopping with my two kids. I try to keep it simple, but there are weeks when I brave four stores in a marathon. I have a daycare, so on (very) rare occasions, I’ve taken 4 to 6 kids with me. Let me tell you, organization is the key there. Know exactly what you need, where it is in the store, and get out of there fast!

  • Kelly says:

    This is a great series and very timely for me! I started Grocery Gaming in late 2008. It was totally manageable then with one kid in school part-time and one at home with me. Now, in 2010, I have a 7 y.o., 4 y.o. and 5 m.o. and grocery shopping is a NIGHTMARE. I truly loathe being there with all 4 of them and this summer was rough. And, surprisingly, the baby is the easiest and the 7 y.o. is the most difficult!

    Hiring help is not an option for us right now, but I am trying to make use of school hours, or shop while the kids are at activities or when my husband is home from work and after the kids are in bed. It isn’t ideal, but I know this time is short-lived.

    Also, I don’t fret about hitting both grocery stores these days. I pick the one that has the most good deals and go to that one. If I can squeeze in another trip later in the week while the sales are still running, I do. I try to keep my list with my coupon organizer and keep it in the car w/my grocery bags so I’m ready if I get a chance to pop in.

  • Cassie says:

    I love it that you have a mothers helper! I also think it’s great that you talk about it on a frugal blog. Hiring a mothers helper is still much cheaper than 3 kids in therapy from a stressed out mama! =) what a blessing!!

  • I’m so relieved to hear that you too have pared down your couponing and grocery shopping after the birth of a child. I’ve been feeling guilty that I just can’t get it all together…but perhaps we all need to give ourselves a little slack when trying to raise our children.

    • Crystal says:

      Yes, I’m all about cutting yourself some slack and letting go of the guilt! None of us can do it all and there are only a few things which really matter in life — I want to wrap the majority of my time around those things!

  • Lauren says:

    Sooooo… I “discovered” couponing right after my first son was born. Go into the store grab the stuff sort the qs all while newborn was sleeping peacefully. Easy Peasy. Then he became an infant, then a toddler and baby number 2 was born. Right before baby 2 I discovered a local grocery store where I could order online and pickup in store… it’s not as expensive as delivery and you can subscribe for a month. I decided I’d try it for three months after the new baby and we’ve never looked back. I order qs from coupon clippers for things we use regularly. I order online, pickup, turn in my coupons which are applied to my next order. I do sam’s once a month when i have a babysitter and pickup my groceries once a week or once every 2 weeks. It’s magical.

  • Shopping with 1 kid was easy once I figured out how to nurse standing up. 2 wasn’t hard. 3 was crazy. 4 was insane.

    But after #5 everything just seemed to smooth out. Now days I can and do take all my 7 (almost 8!) kids shopping with me often. It’s not as difficult as it used to be when I had just 3 or 4. It’s weird how that works.

    Just sayin’ that there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

    But potty training…
    It has never gotten easier to take a potty training child shopping. Oh the stories I could tell…

    • Crystal says:

      Thank you for the encouragement! Most moms of many I know say that 3 and 4 are the hard numbers. After you make it through those, it gets easier. I’m beginning to believe them as I’m slowly seeing my oldest become more independent and take a lot of initiative!

  • Dana says:

    I have 3 children about the same ages and I have also been cutting WAY back on the deal shopping. Like you, I used to run to 4+ stores per week. This month I am experimenting with one bargin shopping day/month. I had it yesterday! I hit many stores and get all the good deals that I can. That way I am adding to my stockpile but letting the some of the good deals go that are in the rest of the month. For all the other weeks of the month, I will just be shopping for fresh produce and milk. We will see how this works.

    I am just stick of dragging my kids to the store all the time. That is not why I stay at home! I stay at home to teach, love and be with them. So one store a week is enough!!!

  • Jamie says:

    It’s so nice to know, that you are normal!! I often wondered HOW you did it, but now i see that you too, are just like the rest of us. This is why I love your posts so much! It’s like a breath of fresh air! Thank you, for being you!

  • Dawn says:

    My husband travels often, so have a set night of the week to go while he is home doesn’t work. And for my sanity, I try to keep it the same day each week. My oldest is in 1st grade and my 3 year old just started preschool. So I have two hours to go shopping with just my 18 month old. I live in a small town that only has two stores, so that simplifies that for me. This is the first week of trying it out. I planned my trip the first hour and had one hour left to shop. It was a little rushed, I didn’t use all of the coupons I wanted to, because I didn’t have time at the second store to compare prices. But I can always use them next week and I got all of the items I needed. Also, it was the first time ever I went to the store with just cash. I brought my $50 cash for my weekly budget and only had a couple dollars left. So had I had more time, I didn’t have more money to spend! I also found that shopping in the morning the stores are much less busy, making it easier to navigate the store.

    When I do have to shop with all 3 kids, I get the bare minimum and bring a drink and snack for the kids. Occasionally I will buy popcorn chicken from the deli for $1.75. They love it and I buy myself a few more minutes to browse.

  • Arianna says:

    you are an amazing example to me. I’m expecting my 2nd girl in January. My couponing has dropped dramatically as I prepare by slowing down a little. Husband and I shop at costco twice a month with our 2 year old and run next door to walmart. It’s great.
    I also struggled with ppd after my 1st for 5-6 weeks. It was awful and I was in denial too. I felt saddest because it should have been such a happy time and I just wanted to run away from it all. Luckily it is long gone now. I am telling all my drs this time around and going to force myself to listen my body and not deny any feelings that it might happen again. Thanks for sharing! A.

  • Gina Galeana says:

    Our Fry’s (Kroger) offers a Kids Korner for littles 2 and up. It’s free and my kids absolutely love it. I pretty much shop only at Fry’s because of this. I’ll run into another store for one or two things, but Fry’s has my heart with that kids korner.

  • Jennifer says:

    I have two girls under two, and generally I don’t grocery shop with both of them unless my hubby is there. When possible I try to leave my almost 2 year old out of any shopping experience. I am a working mom, and there are three grocery stores on my way home. So luckily I am finding that I can make quick trips to those.

  • Jen says:

    I am LOL reading all these stories! I TRULY believe things are as hard as you make them… I have 5 children under 7 (7,5,5,27 mo and 8 mo) and I take them to the store all the time… now saying that, just take it as it come. If you have to open a bag of cookies, open a bag of cookies, if at times the 2 year old throws a fit because he wants pretzels, I will give in and get them for him. My husband works very late most days and I have no choice in taking them. I can’t say I ENJOY it, but I make it work… even if that means giving them a REWARD for good behavior at the end with some M&M’s! But I also believe you need to start things early for them to know what is expected of them and how they have to act. I have MANY friends with 1 and 2 children that say they would NEVER take their kids out to eat…are you kidding me? We go out and they KNOW the kind of behavior they need to give!
    My favorite is when other mothers look at you like you are a horrible mom because your child is screaming! I want to ask them “so your 2 children, they have never done this before?” I think moms are most judgmental of each other! I love when we see other little ones acting well like little ones… I use it as a teaching opportunity for my kids… “UH Oh, looks like they are having a bad day like you had last week, hopefully he/she will have a happy day tomorrow” then I look at the mom, who is of course thinking “why did I bring my kids to the store” and say “we have ALL been there!”
    Anyhow, no tips, it isn’t easy, but every mom has been there… I just keep thinking what my life will be like when I have 5 teenagers!

    • Crystal says:

      I’m having more “olders” than “youngers” also makes a big difference — especially if you train them well. My five-year-old is a huge help and I’m hopeful that by the time my children are more the ages of yours, grocery shopping will be easier… because we’re training them now to know what is expected so they can be an example for the younger ones. But I’m guessing when yours were 2 and zero and zero, it may not have been as easy. 😉

      • Jen says:

        When they were little, no it wasn’t easy even now I have to have 2 carts with my 7 yr old pushing the 2 year old and me the baby! LOL, I don’t really remember when they were so tiny! I know I have always brought them, but back then lots of things I can’t recall… it was just survival mode! It will get easier and people tell me now that even with what I deal with, it will get easier! I am blessed so it is o.k. if my days are crazy, including shopping! :o)

  • Starr says:

    I don’t mind shopping with two kiddos (eldest is almost 3 years and the baby is 11 months) but we will have a third in December and I’m kind of scared! Anyway, for now, I go to stores with kid-friendly carts. One local place won’t allow the big carts in the parking lot, so uh, well, we don’t go there. Hyvee has the car shopping carts, and Costco has double seats in the front, so we stick to those places. Costco is a great place for kids because of all the samples. I just moved to this new city (Kansas City) and don’t know enough people to help me out, both my husband and I are taking classes in the evenings, and on top of that, he has a second job on the weekends. So if I don’t shop with the kids, it doesn’t get done!

  • Amanda says:

    With only one car, I don’t feel like wasting my car days on grocery shopping! We want to do fun things on those days, so I always grocery shop on weekends. I leave the house while the kids are napping and I’m usually back within a couple of hours. I do the week’s shopping and the kids get time with dad when they wake up. My husband needs his man cave time anyway, and I save money, time, and a lot of heartache by avoiding the grocery store with the kids as much as possible. When they do go with me, I feel like a super hero though! Grocery shopping is like my sport, and I’m not a team player! It is totally an individual sport for me!

  • Lenka says:

    I have only two kids ages 2 and 4. It is definitelly dificult to try to shop, use coupons, count sale items, read a label or two for ingredients. We do have several grocery stores in our area but I mostly shop at Fry’s…the reason? Good prices, but more so CHILDCARE! They offer free childcare while you shop for kids 2 and up. My kids love to go in and make crafts, play “with somebody else’s” toys and really enjoy the time there. SO if your Kroger affiliate does not have one it might be a good idea to talk to the store manager and see if something like that would be possible in your area. It helps them out too as screaming kids or moms dont make for the best shopping experience 🙂

    • Laura says:

      Yes, I LOVED that too! I shopped exclusively at our local Kroger for a long while because of the free childcare. They made a loyal customer out of me!

  • Laura says:

    Like one of the readers above, I too, used the online shopping & delivery while my children were infants. One store had free delivery if your order was over $60. It took a while to get accustomed to the online system (I started when I was pregnant) but it was worth it. I was so tired sometimes from the shopping trip I would leave the groceries in the car to come in and take a nap! And nurse, and change diapers. Oh, and I learned the heavenly trick of asking the checker to put all the cold items in 1 sack so I could take in that one thing.

    Later I did my shopping in the wee hours of the morning before my husband left for work. My Safeway is next to a Starbucks, so I would have my coffee, read my Bible and do my shopping. It was great! One time I got there so early and wondered why no one else was there. No customers, no cashiers! I went to checkout and asked the lone employee why there was no one there. He said, “Ma’am, we don’t open until 5am.” Haha! I was there before 5am! (You know those long days where you sleep whenever you can–or don’t–and just roll with it!) Funny to think about now that my children are in school.

  • Laura says:

    I remember one trip where I came home with 8 lighters. The expensive kind. We don’t smoke! I think what happened was as I was unloading the groceries onto the belt, my son occupied himself by “helping” me load up on some lighters at the checkout counter. LOL!!

  • Haila says:

    My husband and I both work full time. We used to shop together, and then brought along our first when he was little. But when the second came along, it just didn’t work anymore.

    Now I do almost all my shopping in the evenings after the kids are in bed (i.e. after 9 PM) on our local double coupon day (Wed). My husband (who does most of the cooking) generally does his menu planning and list making the day before.

    It gets late, but thankfully we live in the world of 24 grocery stores. And it’s worth it, b/c I do like to take my time!

  • sarah says:

    If i have 2 or 3 items i need or are a great deal i line it up the night before and my hubby gets it on the way home from work. he goes right by most of the stores anyway.

  • Karen S. says:

    While I don’t relish shopping solo with three kids… bringing my husband along to “help” is a total budget buster. I am very sad to say that he is banned from the grocery store! I would rather spend an extra $2 on Goldfish crackers I hadn’t planned on buying than an extra $25 on hot sauces, frozen junk, or whatever else catches his eye (and it’s always stuff that ONLY he will eat of course!). I can say NO! to the kids but I struggle to say so to him, since he is the one bringing the money into the household. I know that’s not a good way to look at it… but there it is.

    I do a menu plan at the beginning of every month, and do a giant Walmart shop. Then I go to Giant Eagle to buy things that Walmart doesn’t have (last time it was exotic items such as tofu… and apples… and carrots!), and our Giant Eagle has the most wonderful place, called The Eagle’s Nest. It is a supervised play place for kids aged 3-9. I just love it and so do the kids. So I toddle around Giant Eagle with the baby, score free samples, read ingredients, scope out sales, and buy the few things we need. It’s heaven.

    If you’d have told me 5 years ago, when I had just an 11-month-old, that grocery shopping with one child would feel luxurious, I’d have laughed in your face!!! But it’s true — the times when I can drop the big kids off is like a vacation… for all of us!

  • melissa rouswell says:

    our Kroger has a Huggieland play area for children over 2 and my 3 kids LOVE it. They get a cookie when they leave so they actually beg to go there! I love it because I can shop with my coupons and have some alone time without having to pay for it (well except for my groceries!!). However our store also has a Starbucks so you can go there too and have a little down time. It has been an awesome break for me.

  • A says:

    I have the grocery shopping with four mastered (having ages 10,7,4, and 1) because my older daughters are such a help to me! However, we tried clothes shopping at the mall while the baby was tired. OH, MERCY ME. Three older children trying to show me lovely things off the rack while the baby alternately cried/bucked in the stroller, threw fish crackers, or ran away went released. It was not one of my finer moments. 🙂

    We’ve now decided that clothing shopping is an “older girls only” activity, and that is giving us some sweet time together PLUS saving mom’s sanity. 🙂 Dad and the younger set are happier at home in the sandbox, anyhow. 🙂

    I’m going to use your wisdom and start seeking out help (or using it, when offered!) instead of believing that I need to do it all, and do it well. I’ve known this for some time, but this was the encouraging kick-start I needed to put plans into action. Reading about your mother’s helper…well, that just sounds wonderful! I’m going to seek something like that!

  • kelly says:

    one of the greatest gifts that my husband gives me is my night out to grocery shop. not super special, but it really beats having kids in tow! I usually leave right after dinner and am home by 10. it’s not always my first choice to be out late doing this, but I know it sure beats the alternative! with kids along, I can’t compare the deals fully and it takes me longer to shop. So I’m really thankful my husband is willing to partner in this!

  • rob says:

    In our house, I take all ten children shopping with me. Everyone has a buddy and they all get to take turns getting the items. Yes it may take a little longer BUT we are working together.
    They are learning to check prices, compare items and coupons.
    The boys get to bag, and they love this job. When we come home everyone unpacks and helps to put things away.

    We do not do snacks, here is way… my biggest pet peeve is this…. Moms bring snacks into the store with them, child has snacks, drops them all over, moms just leave them there OR they leave the snacks and drink boxes in the carts for someone else to clean up.
    All so I see moms opening up bags of cookies or chips and let the child eat them. I item is not yet paid for! NOW I am not saying all moms do this, just saying I have seen alot of them do this.

    If you must do snacks why not do them in the car before you enter the store and again after you leave the store, just saying ;-)….. now stepping of the soap box

  • cheryl says:

    “first-time cheerful obedience”- Crystal have you done a post on this somewhere I missed? those four words are everything I’m missing with my three year old son right now- his solution to everything seems to be screaming and running away- we’ve gone through time-outs, talking, etc etc but I would LOVE to read this technique.

    • Crystal says:

      I have a policy that I’ll share parenting advice whenever my children have reached adulthood and, Lord-willing, are responsible, mature adults. Until then, I leave the parenting advice to those who are more experienced. 🙂

    • Gina says:

      @cheryl, A great book I’ve read and re-read that uses similar wording (“Obey all the way, right away, with a happy heart”): “Don’t Make Me Count to Three” by Ginger Plowman.

  • Charissa says:

    I’m a proud momma of 15 month old twin boys, which has presented some unique challenges. I try to do most of my shopping when Dad is home, but some weeks our schedule just won’t allow it. If the boys come with me, I play the twin-card big time! I dress them in cute identical outfits, they ride in the double stroller and I pull the cart behind me. Yes, I look and feel like a travelling circus, but people tend to go out of their way to be helpful and I’ve never gotten dirty looks when one of my darlings has a meltdown.

  • Brittany says:

    Thanks for your authenticity! It’s very encouraging!

    I have three little boys, 4, 2 , & 5 months and shopping with them is quite an experience…to say the least. 🙂 When I had one, and even for a while with 2, I was very into the Drugstore game and shopping at multiple stores each week. That just isn’t possible any more. Now I just try to be as frugal as I can while keeping it as simple as I can. Maybe someday I’ll be the deal shopper I once was, but for now, I’m accepting that this is just a different season of life.

  • Emily says:

    I have 3 children ages 3 and under. I have always loved grocery shopping but it definately feels like more of a workout nowadays! I have shopped with all three of my children by myself and while I know that I can make it work I try to go when my husband is home. He works second shift so I take the baby and go early in the morning while he stays home with the other two. We live a good 45min from a grocery store so I try to do one big shopping trip a month and my hubby picks up the perishables on his way or his way home from work.

    My mom still has young kids at home and we sometimes trade babysitting or my teenage sister will sometimes babysit for both of us and we will tag team the grocery store.

    If you have a baby I highly recommend a sling or baby carrier. It is what has always worked well for me. I can get my groceries, make sure I have my coupons and make it through the entire store with no baby meltdowns!

  • We live within walking distance to our two favorite grocery stores, so sometimes during the week, I will take our 3 and 1 year old boys, load them up in the stroller, and get a good workout while I go to pick up a few things. But for the most part, I save major grocery shopping for Saturday mornings (8 am) when I can get more things in the cart and my husband can watch the kids. We have #3 on the way, due in March, and there is no way that I will even be able to get out of the house with all three (neither of our cars won’t fit 3 carseats in the back), let alone try to grocery shop with them, so I will continue to either go in the evenings with the newborn after the older two are asleep or go by myself if possible.

  • Alea says:

    First off – I’ve never seen a mom with 7 kids under age four at the store that didn’t look absolutely frazzled!
    Second – I so look forward to when 2 of my 4 kids are back in school because then I only have half the kids to take shopping, and that helps a ton!

  • Jen says:

    Thank you for talking about how you have shifted from marathon shopping days for this season in your life. The past two shopping days (once every two weeks) we have done all of our shopping at Costco, getting everything we need for two weeks in one big shopping trip. It’s been so nice and convenient and we stayed in budget, but as a big couponer who would go to six different stores, I can’t help feeling guilty, like I’m lacking for not being more of a hard-core couponer right now. However, my husband is totally fine with the Costco trip and the amount of money that we are spending, my kids are thrilled with the healthy-packaged foods we are getting (oxymoron, anyone?), and I’m free to take care of my family the way that they need for this season. My husband keeps telling me “let go of the guilt; I think you’re doing great!”, but it’s hard when the person that I taught how to coupon is out “good-dealing” me!

    I just need to remember, to every time there is a season, and my family is my first priority.

  • Rachel says:

    Crystal, I think this is one of your best posts ever. These days, I love nothing better than to read about other overwhelmed Moms.

    I know I’m going to survive, but some days I really wonder.

    Thanks again for your refreshing honesty.

  • I generally try and shop when my husband is home so he can keep the kids with him. But when I can’t…my Kroger has shopping carts now that are the typical car carts…BUT they have TV’s in them!
    Unfortunately the TV is on one side so they each fight for that side (ages 19 months and 3 1/2), but it does help when I have no choice but to run to the store with both of them.
    When I think back to how my husband and I used to make a date night out of grocery shopping, it makes me chuckle a bit.

  • oh and I totally respect your take on sharing parenting advice but I am also intrigued by this first time cheerful obedience! LOL

  • Sarah says:

    I have five kids ages 9, 8, 6, 5 (tomorrow) and 3. During the day the oldest three are at school, so I try to go shopping while I just have the youngest two. We are doing preschool at home this year and we turn shopping trips into field trips! When we get to the produce section, I’ll tell my girls that we need something that is red and starts with an A (apple) and they have to figure out what it is that we need. Its a game for them and they always have the best time. We do something similar in each section. I’m also teaching them to read labels. For example, if we are buying ground beef, I will tell them to try to find the package that is closed to 5 lbs (or whatever weight). It keeps them engaged and they are much more cooperative! 🙂

  • Suzanne says:

    An alternative that I have found is to hire a “mommy’s helper.” I had a friend’s child who is 13 and wants to be a babysitter. I pay her $5 to either come over and play with the kids while I do some clean up (or have some time for myself – in the early days to nap) or to come with me and help entertain my little ones while I run errands. She makes a little money, gets some training on how I want her to deal with my little ones while I am right there (when she got older, I had a well-trained sitter who knew how I wanted things done) and I get some help at a good price!

  • Olivia says:

    First of all, I only have one child and find it difficult to shop with her so don’t feel bad. For a while, I just could not take her shopping. She would not sit in the cart and would bolt away from me suddenly if allowed to walk alongside so I honestly felt it wasn’t safe. Now she is much better. She is learning to listen to mommy. Anyway, I gave up and shopped only at the 24 hour grocery after my daughter was in bed, with hubbie at home. I could not only concentrate on what I needed to get, I could actually browse and compare prices! Hubbie didn’t mind because she was already in bed so he got some alone time too. My options of stores to shop at were very limited but that was an ok compromise for me, and the 24-hour store by my house matches coupons so it worked out for that too.

  • Katie says:

    THANKYOU!!!I got home from Target today in tears and in prayers asking God for forgiveness for getting so angry at my kids today as i grocery shopped. I said, never again will i take them with me!! Yet i find it really was not fair for me to expect my 3 kids to go threw my coupon shopping ordeal with me. So i am down sizing my trips and sticking with a new plan. Thankyou for sharing, i now know i am not alone. I wish i had a supportive husband though to help me a bit!!!
    Thanks again, God Bless!

  • Amber L. says:

    A few of our stores let you order online and then they bring it to your car when you arrive. I don’t use it but I am sure it is VERY helpful. My 15 month old gets a “rental” book that she can read in the store but MUST return before we leave. Otherwise how would we rent a new book next time?? So far this has worked. When my step-daughter was younger and into touching EVERYTHING I used to give her a quarter. For everything she touched she owed me a penny of that quarter. For a trip which she was being Extra grabby she would have to hold the quarter in her hands with her fingers crossed as to not drop the quarter. Before the quarter tricks I bought a LOT of broken items!

  • Laura says:

    As a mom and full-time teacher, time to shop at many stores is hard to find. When I first discovered the drugstore deals, I did this for about 2 years. Now, though, with your help, I’ve realized I don’t need any more body wash, toothpaste, shampoo, etc. I have a stockpile and now don’t spend hours searching for deals, making lists, and shopping at lots of stores. While I still look at one site for my weekly Meijer grocery trip, I’m now buying only one newspaper with inserts and finding that’s fine since I don’t usually need several of each item or can print Internet coupons. I am now purchasing some store brands too like the Meijer organic peanut butter and don’t have to wait or search for sales. I do love saving money and still look a bit for deals (especially online deals where I can save larger amounts of money) but am no longer worrying about missing out on saving a dollar here or there. Thanks for “freeing” me of that thought process and giving me more time with my family. Your philosophy is great!

  • Christel says:

    My boys are 11, 5 and 2. I usually wait until hubby gets home so I can go alone or just take 1 child. I will occasionally take them all with me but only under the assumption (in my mind) I will not get much “shopping” done (I am ready to leave at a whim if one of them is misbehaving). I just try to get in and out if I need something quick. I will take them all shopping/browsing if I feel they are being good and are willing to cooperate. If we get somewhere and they are not behaving I will just go back home. I am trying to teach them to use manners in public. We went to the grocery store yesterday and no one broke anything and no temper tantrums/major fighting. I was pleased. It takes time and so much energy. I am grateful I have an 11 yr old to help.

  • Robyn says:

    I used to hit the stores in the very early morning, around 6 am. The kids and hubby were usually still sleeping. I’d return by 7:45 to send my husband off to work and get the children up and ready for the day.

  • Courtney says:

    Hi Crystal,

    I’ve been reading your blog for years and have to echo a lot of other commenters in thanking you for being open and honest about the struggles you’ve had lately and the help you’ve welcomed to live the life you want. I tend to get down on myself when I read “upbeat” blogs that imply the blogger (and many others) achieve what appear to be superhuman feats with minimal effort. I always feel much better, more motivated and encouraged by reading honest posts (that are still upbeat) admitting that everything’s not always easy but it’s never a reason to give up. Thank you!!!


    • Crystal says:

      Thank you for your kind encouragement, Courtney. And please know that I’m as normal as they come sometimes wondering why *I* can’t get my act together and achieve what others seem to do effortlessly!

      I’m grateful for God’s all-sufficient grace, though, and am learning I need to give myself more grace, too. 🙂

  • What a blessing to have a helper come in once a week and what an insightful husband. Thank you for sharing honestly about your experiences.

    Because my husband worked long hours, I had no choice but to shop with all the kids. When they were really little, I started working with them on “if you ask, it’s an automatic NO”. This saved me a lot of grief not only in going through the store, but in the check-out line. The “don’t pick it up if you’re not going to pay for it” also helped. By the time we had our third child, our oldest two were training him on not asking. Occasionally, I would treat them (maybe once a month) to something I knew they might want that wasn’t over a $1. Now if they ask why something wasn’t purchased, I tell them it wasn’t on The List. They know if they use the last of something, they had better write it down This is not to say that we didn’t have awful shopping trips, but most of the time it was good. When they were younger, we used to count the cans, boxes of cereal, play seek the food (can you find what we’re looking for) from the cart. I have used the “Not on The List” for many years and now my older teens give it right back to me if I pick something up that isn’t written down. It has been a life saver when they were little and even now.

    Another thing we did was teach our kids to hold open the door, whether at home or at the store, to help them focus on helping others. There have been times that they’ve done this without prompting and we’ve had someone chase us down in the parking lot wanting to thank them or give them a quarter for having such good manners.

    Oh, one more thing. When my kids were too big to sit in the cart, they had to hold onto the cart with one hand during our trip through the store, only letting go to retrieve something on the list. It took some training to do this, but it saved a lot of grief. Navigation isn’t always easy, but eventually they get it. Even now, my 12 yr. old still holds onto the cart from time to time!

  • Ashley P says:

    Sam’s Club (At least in my area) has the option to select the items you need, and get them pulled off the shelf. Then they process your order over night and you go pick it up the next day.

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