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Tips for Successful Grocery Shopping Trips with Kids

Laura Kuehn, LCSW
Written by Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Here are seven things you can do to make your next family grocery shopping trip a success!

Do you grocery shop alone? If so, you are one of the fortunate few. If you shop with one or more children in tow, read on. Hopefully you will find some ideas to keep you sane from the time you pick up the carriage to when you close your trunk.

First of all, like all successful parenting events, you will need to plan ahead. Before you leave the house, decide what you will do to keep them entertained and what you will do in the event there is an “incident.” If you have that mindset rather than simply hoping that “this time will be different,” you will feel more confident as you pass through those sliding doors. Secondly, give yourself lots of time. Don’t plan a trip to the store when you are already rushed for time. As much as possible, schedule your shopping trip when you can feel relaxed and at ease. Some ideas for the distraction and discipline of your children while you are in the store are listed below.

1) Before your trip, have your children help you make the grocery list. Look at the flyer together, comparison shop, make a menu for the week, and write down the items you need to purchase. Have your children “take inventory” of the most used items in the house (milk, bread, etc.) and have them report to you which items are running low.

2) Give everyone a job to do in the store. Create a job jar and have each child pick a slip out of the jar before you leave the house. Whatever they pick will be their responsibility during that trip. Some ideas include: carrying the grocery list and pencil to check off items as you go, pushing the grocery cart, ripping off the plastic bags in the produce department, etc.

3) Create a scavenger hunt list. Have your children think of things that they can look for while at the store (like a man in a yellow shirt, a green letter A, etc.). Let your children take ownership of this, maintaining their own checklist so you can shop.

4) Tell your children what you expect from them. Park the car, turn around and tell them how good shopping companions behave. Anticipate what will be challenging for your children and tell them how you expect them to behave under those circumstances (ie, “You might see something today that you really, really want to have. When you ask for it, I am going to say ‘no’ because we are only buying things that are on the list. This may be hard for you to hear but I know you can handle it”).

5) Bring special time-consuming snacks for little ones who ride in the cart. A Cheerio necklace is fun to wear and can take a while to eat as well.

6) Be prepared to discipline in the store. If a time out is necessary, stop what you are doing and walk your child to a neighboring part of the store. The purpose of this is to grab his attention. A sudden change in his surroundings sends a message that you mean business. Read labels or continue with the scavenger hunt with your other children while he completes his time out. Because you have planned your trip for when you are not in a hurry, this delay does not bother you one bit (at least that is what you non-verbally communicate to your child). Time outs are effective in public if they are used successfully at home.

7) At the end, verbally recognize your children for making the shopping trip enjoyable. Everyone who helped can have a snack on the way home (some families wait until they get home to eat while the groceries are being put away). Don’t feel that you need to buy something special for each child – just open a box of recently bought Teddy Grahams or Goldfish crackers and pass it around. Avoid using it as a bribe during the trip, however. For those children who struggled during the shopping trip, simply say, “Not this time; we’ll try again next week.”

Trips to the grocery store need not leave you feeling frazzled and frustrated. The two main ingredients you need are: planning ahead and involving your children. Give it a try – you may just find that these ingredients are all you need for a recipe for success!

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker with a specialization in children and families. CfP is the place she combines some of her very favorite things: writing, parenting and God's word. She loves encouraging parents to build their families upon Jesus, the one true Cornerstone. She is happily married to a wonderfully supportive husband and is the mother of two delightfully inspiring children.


  • On one trip I wrote down the order of the aisles and make my list by that order. I have an 8 year old, 6 year old, and 3.5 year old. If I have to take them with me, we go early (8:30) and each boy gets one of the smaller shopping carts. (Our Krogers has two sizes of carts). They get to take turns putting stuff in their cart. I’ve told them they have to stay in the same aisle as me and if they get to far away from me then the food goes in my cart. They love unloading the carts when we are ready to check out.

    • What great ideas! The ordered shopping list may take a little extra time up-front, but the pay-off comes during your shopping trip with less backtracking and an overall shorter time in the store. And kids love to help – you are so wise to use that desire to make your trip go smoothly. Thank you for sharing!


  • Thanks for the great tips – I needed some this last trip i had – I was quite frazzled! Keeping the kids involved is great – I need to do it more. Right now I make them the coupon “hunters”.

  • Great tips! You express the voice of experience and success! You have addressed the visual impulsivity of every child. Letting an older writing-savvy child keep his own list for things you know are at his visual level, will engage him/her even further. Often time is of the essence, but how great to give math lessons on unit prices and health lessons on sugar, fats, and salt. tI could be quite an educational experience rather than a dreaded one. I will pass these on to my special someones!

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