Grocery Shopping with Children

Since we have decided to home school, this means I have all four children with me all the time. It can be very chaotic some days, but in order to be efficient I have to grocery shop during the day…with all the kids.

I often envy those who can grocery shop in the evening, when their spouse can watch the children. BUT, we made the choice to home school, and my husband has an unpredictable schedule some weeks. We do our best to get it all done with as little crying (mostly on my part!) as possible.

I have a few tips that have been helpful for me, when shopping with 4 little ones. Being used to shopping a few different stores each week with fewer kids, I went at it with 4 kids just the same…only to find out it will not work. I adapted and found a better way for us. We don’t get to as many stores as I would like, but we still get deals and still save a decent amount of money, while building our stockpile.

Hopefully this will help out another mom who was in the same boat – struggling to find an efficient way to get done what needed to get done…and maintaining sanity while doing so. 🙂

1. Do not shop on an empty stomach. We have all heard this one before, when it comes to OUR stomachs; empty stomachs tend to mean more purchases. Well, I have found that I should not have empty tummies for the kids either. Being hungry just makes them irritable, tired, and less likely to listen when I need them to. Shopping right after breakfast or taking a snack for them in the car on the way to the store has been our best bet. They aren’t whining for unnecessary snacks, picking on each other (as much), or ignoring my instructions.

2. Plan our your trip well in advance. I generally do my grocery list and coupon matching/cutting out on Mondays, so I can shop on Tuesdays. I have tried to make my list and find my coupons on the morning of my shopping day and failed miserably! Between all our normal morning activity and my frustration with rushing to get a list and coupons together, I missed a lot of opportunity to save money and felt defeated before I even got to the store. Giving myself a day to just make the list (which includes taking inventory of what we have on hand, so that I don’t miss buying something we desperately need, like toilet paper…yep, that’s happened just recently) and find the matching coupons puts me more at ease come grocery day. I don’t have to rush in the morning and we can get to the stores earlier, which means everyone is less likely to become too crabby in the stores (or have to use the potty 20 times!).

3. Be confident in going to more than one store. When I started couponing, I had three kids. My youngest was very little, though, and easy to tote around in my wearable infant carrier. That left me with only 2 kids to coral at the stores, which was remedied by the kid carts or strapping one in the baby seat on the cart and putting the other in the back of the cart. I didn’t have to worry about anyone wandering away. This made is super easy to go to a few stores each week, typically 2 grocery stores, 2 drug stores, and Target. I was able to score all the really great deals for very cheap or FREE foods and toiletries. I was saving HUGE amounts each week on groceries. Once I had our fourth child this Spring, I became afraid to go to more than one store because of all the hassle of loading and unloading, wandering children, and all the energy I would need to get through the errands. I FINALLY branched out to going to 2 stores about 6 weeks ago, and to my surprise it was totally fine! The kids (with full stomachs) did great and I was surprised at how relaxed I was. I ended up going to Meijer and CVS in the same day! Success!

It hasn’t been successful every week, but I know I can do it and I know I save more if I can score the deals at both a grocery and a drug store each week. This week, we are doing 3 stores; I added in our local market for really cheap produce. If I hadn’t just sucked it up and went to those 2 stores on that day, I would probably still be afraid to conquer more than one store in a day. AND I would be missing out on great deals and saved money, which are things we really need now with four kids.

4.Accept a failed trip and learn from it. I remember going to Meijer a few weeks back, with my list all ready and full of deals and a heaping pile of coupons to use. I got to Meijer and they hadn’t restocked the shelves! It was the final day for the sale week, but they had not restocked all the sale items. I was so upset that I would not be able to save on all those products – some we needed at the time, some were just going into the stockpile since they were rock-bottom prices. I honestly wanted to cry. Then I wanted to complain to management. I felt my patience wearing just a few minutes after walking around the store. The kids sensed my irritability, and just like kids do…they started acting up. I almost walked right out of the store, but instead I just decided to grab the few items we absolutely needed for the week and just deal with not being able to get the rock-bottom priced items.

Even though the trip was pretty pointless, save the few items we had to have for the week, it was a lesson learned. I am not going to be able to get EVERY deal EVERY time. There will be weeks where I don’t make it in time to get the sales. The one plus side to this is that the money I had set aside for those sales could then be saved and put toward something else. There is a silver lining to missing sales, you just have to look really hard to find it some times.

5. Don’t give up! If I had given up each time I had a bad trip, we would be wasting so much money. Couponing is hard work. I’m not going to lie. But, it is very worth it. When I take the time to make my list, find my coupons, and then stick to my list while shopping, I can save us at least $50 each week. With 2 kids in diapers, that $50 amazes me. That’s a dinner out for us. Or a doctor visit co-pay. Or a trip to Chuck E. Cheese. Or a tank of gas for the van. Every bit of savings adds up here, so sticking to the plan is key. Any little deviation and I could end up costing us instead of saving us money.

If you have to shop with kids, as I do, hopefully you find these points helpful. If you get to shop alone, I’M SO JEALOUS! 🙂 But, hopefully you found something in here useful as well. Regardless of how and when you shop, make a plan and stick to it. Your family will only benefit is you commit to efficiency in your shopping. I know, it probably sounds a little dorky – commit to efficiency – but I promise it works. And you’ll be left with more options for your family, if you are saving every bit you can.


2 thoughts on “Grocery Shopping with Children

  1. Hello Angie! I shop alone (sorry) but I found your list very helpful, specially points 1 and 2!!
    I can’t imagine home schooling my children. I have 4 too and three of them are at school from 8:45 until 5:00, but they come home for lunch every day (then back to school). The little one is at home with me because he’s only 2 and I don’t have a job outside home (I have plenty inside!). Thanks for sharing. Have a nice weekend!

    1. No need to apologize for shopping alone. 🙂 I’m glad you found the post helpful – thanks for sharing that with me! And I completely agree – there is plenty of work inside the home! 🙂 Thanks again!!

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