How to Grocery Shop With Kids

Grocery shopping with kids is torture.  At least it was until today, when I had a breakthrough that needs to be shared.  Prior to this afternoon, if given the choice between taking my kids grocery shopping or hemorrhoid surgery, I would have chosen the surgery without hesitation.  If I didn’t currently have a hemorrhoid, and developing one that felt like a raging fireball in my buttocks was required to take the deal, I would still make the same decision.  No fiber here, please!

grocery shopping with kids

A typical scene from a family grocery trip. You’ve so been there.


Our trip didn’t start out well.  The first stop was Target, where we picked up Mother’s Day cards, car cleaning supplies and caffeine.  My three year old kept asking me for stuff.  Relentlessly.  I kept saying “no”, but at some point she had enough of my denials and found a seat in a wicker patio recliner.  She was done moving forward until she got something.  The other two kids and I chuckled and kept on walking.  Ten seconds later my demon child shrieked at the top of her lungs, sprinting to catch up with us as other shoppers looked on in horror.  We laughed more.  I suppose you only understand why a parent would laugh at this scenario if you’ve “been there”.  Oh well, Target is a relatively safe place for our kind.

I suppose you only understand why a parent would laugh at this scenario if you’ve “been there”.

She eventually settled down, deciding that getting mom a card from her was equivalent to “getting something”.  Whatever.  It was shortly following the selection of the cards, after checkout and on the way to the car that the first component of my breakthrough occurred.  My son asked me a question that may have changed my life, and perhaps it will change yours.  “Dad”, he said, “Which of us was the best behaved in Target?”  Interesting!  The savages are competitive!  Telling my three year old that she was the worst was easy, but I assured her that she would have a chance to redeem herself at our next stop (the grocery).  She whimpered.  Because I wasn’t keeping score, I let the other two know that I couldn’t judge them fairly, but that we could all play a game at the grocery to see who was the best behaved.  They were buzzing with excitement.


We’ve all played the “Let’s see who can be the best” game, so that alone is no guarantee of success.  When we arrived at the grocery, I told my kids that it was now “on” and that I was going to decide who was best at the end of our excursion, BUT ALSO that they each would have jobs.  Where the jobs idea came from I have no idea.  I must have been touched by the parenting gods.  My oldest would be responsible for fetching items off of the list, which included weighing produce and printing labels (consequently she ended up working the fish counter and the deli).  My middle child was responsible for managing the list, crossing out the items as we collected them and keeping us moving towards the right sections of the store.  My youngest?  She would sit in the cart and guard the groceries.  A VERY important job given the epidemic of petty grocery cart theft sweeping the nation.  I kept the engine oiled by whispering to her every few minutes, “You are being sooo good!”  She ate it up.

The grocery was jam packed, but a little friendly competition in addition to minting the kids with specific tasks had us humming along.  I encouraged them as we went, and they kept working to execute at an even higher level.  We were suddenly the Golden State Warriors of family grocery shopping teams.  At some point I realized that we were having fun.  In the grocery.  Shopping as a family.  WTF?

When we finished, they were rewarded with Lindt chocolate balls from the checkout aisle.  At $.49 a piece, it was a small price to pay for stellar behavior.  “Which of us was the best?”, they asked.  “Well”, I told them, “One of you was the best at fetching groceries, one of you was the best at managing the list, and one of you was the best at guarding the groceries.”  They all smiled at their success.  Suckers.


Hopefully I haven’t created a monster.  My son just asked, “Dad, who was the best child of the day?”  I awarded him the prize.  The three year old finished third.  My oldest daughter, not pictured, came up with the idea for prizes and rapidly crafted the ribbons you see below.  And yes, she finished second.

grocery shopping

Winner of “Best Child of the Day”…on this day.

grocery shopping

Happy to get a ribbon, our third place winner, aka “last place”.

I suppose the next step is to try the above approach without making it a competition.  Perhaps another angle is further expanding job roles.  Regardless of where I go next, today was a moment of tangible progress as a parent.  We all know these are rare, and should be examined and maybe even celebrated.

Give the team shopping competition a whirl, and let us know how it works for your brood.  Maybe we change the world together, one family shopping trip at a time.