Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Grocery shopping with a baby or young toddler

After Darby was born, I ordered my groceries online for the first few months because this child had some "minor colic" issues (to quote her doctor.)

I mean, her crying was disruptive in places I thought it would be totally fine, like my husband's softball games. Go figure; I didn't think it would matter in a loud and raucous environment, but here's a fact for you: continuous, high pitched screaming will eventually draw everyone's attention, and at softball games, players will leave the field to determine if everything is ok.

If you imagine me fleeing the ballpark and finding a forlorn bench where she could suck to her heart's content (the only thing that would calm her) while I tried to shield myself from random teenage boys and creepy old men, you would imagine correctly.

The idea of starting out on a two hour, multiple store grocery quest with her in tow would have made me burst into laughter. Yeah. Right.

But now she's a year old. She doesn't cry for hours for no discernible reason; she cries for minutes for mildly discernible reasons, so it's totally different. Now grocery quests are a weekly thing for us and I've developed quite an arsenal of tricks and tips to get us through it, for anyone interested.

Before leaving:

1. Let her pig out
Have you ever heard the phrase "fat and happy?" 

fat and happy: content, as if from being well fed (

Need I say more?

2. It's best if she just woke up

I try to go as soon as I can in the morning, or right after her nap. Dragging a tired baby on a grocery quest, thinking, "Oh, I'll have her back by naptime," or, worse, skipping her nap entirely to take her out is not a good idea, unless you want a literal fire-breathing dragon in the front of your grocery cart.

What to bring:

1. More food
Yep. Bring little cups of pureed fruit, yogurt, cheerios, or any other quick, non messy snack to give him in the car between stores. It might add a few extra minutes to your trip, but will save you time in the long run. Do not forget this.

One time I forgot this on an extra long grocery quest, and had to locate the baby food section and squeeze one of those fruit pouches down her throat in the middle of the aisle. It's just not advisable.

2. Whatever she always tries to get her hands on in the store
For Darby, this is my grocery list, which I obviously cannot give her. But since Darby is really into "helping," and imitating me, she tries to grab it from my hand when I'm distracted, and then becomes the most broken hearted person who's ever lived, when I take it away.

This was an easy fix which dawned on me after several meltdowns. I bring a blank "grocery list" for her and give it to her when I pull out my own. She gives me a very smug, self-satisfied look and then "helps" me by chewing it, tearing it into pieces and dropping them on the floor for the remainder of the trip. But hey, it's better than a temper tantrum.

Does your baby always reach for your car keys? Hook some old or unused ones onto the front of the cart with some links and let him go to town. Desperate times call for a little bit of giving in.

3. A sweater or jacket
Because grocery stores are always freezing, even in the summer. Darby can get grouchy when she's too cold or hot, but so do I, so I can't really blame her.

4. Water, or a preferred beverage
A dehydrated kid is not fun.

5. Toys that can hook onto the front of the cart with links

What to do

1. Explain what's happening
Tell your child where you are and what you're doing, like every moment. She can't understand every single thing you're saying, but she will catch enough of it to get that you are involving her in the process and will enjoy it.

2. Get down on his level
One time, I was only half way through shopping, and Darby started getting stir crazy in the cart. Sometimes no amount food, toys or shiny things will stop this from happening because to a baby, a non-descript grocery store is basically a Six Flags them park, and they just want to get down and have at it.

So, I bent down until we were face to face and talked about what I was looking for, and how much it was, and just goofed off with her, and worked! She totally calmed down and even started smiling and laughing. I just needed a back rub later.

3. Don't give a crap what anyone else thinks

If you are walking around, bent over the cart, butt sticking out and face to face with a baby, while talking animatedly about deodorant, you're going to draw attention. Many will just smile, and try to interact with your kid, which is good, but some (read: childless people) will give you weird looks. I try to encourage Darby to wave hi and bye to people in the aisle, which also keeps her happy and entertained, and then I don't give a second thought to them because...

4. Multi-tasking is key
I don't have time to worry about what people are thinking because I'm trying to simultaneously:
-get everything I need for our family for a week without forgetting anything
-stick to an exact budget
-keep Darby from falling out of the cart
-involve her in what I'm doing
-not take five years (on that note: just don't try to do a two hour trip in one hour. Give yourself enough time.)

5. Make sure you have enough sleep, food and water
We're basically just grown up babies, and can get easily frustrated, overwhelmed and headachy with lack of the above things, so you also need to take care of yourself so you won't have a "parent temper tantrum" while trying to stop your child's temper tantrum. I've seen it.

Have any other tips or ideas that work for you?


  1. I usually carry my babies in a sling or my toddlers in a backpack at the grocery store so that I don't have to worry about what they might do if I step away from the cart.

  2. Great list...To do: #5 is key!