A Survival Guide To Grocery Shopping With Toddlers

by Jenna Stewart
Jenna lives in Vermont and is behind the blog

Grocery shopping with toddlers ought to be like going to the gynecologist: You should only be required to do it once a year, unless it is an absolute emergency. And when I say emergency, I mean a ‘you are out of toilet paper, diapers, and wine’ kind of emergency.

This simple task, which used to take only 20 minutes, will now last at least an hour. You will leave tired, emotionally beaten down, and most likely lacking the one thing that you went to the store for. The good news is that you will survive (your produce and eggs, on the other hand, may not).

My children love to go shopping with me and it is very difficult to say no to them, especially when they excitedly grab my leg and ask if they can be my “special helpers.” I mean, who doesn’t want special helpers, right? Wrong.

No matter how irresistibly cute your kids may seem at the time, the answer should always be: “No.”

This is always my plan, and then 10 minutes later, I leave the house with both children, praying that we all make it back alive and with our dignity in tact.

So, if you are going to bring your kids to the store, you should prepare yourself for the following:



With two children, the fighting will begin before you even make it through the sliding doors.

Who will sit in the front of the cart? Who will get the sample of turkey from the nice deli woman first? Who will get to pick out the crackers? And most importantly, who will get to push the green button on the credit card machine?

These may seem like simple tasks, but if your children are like mine, they will fight to the death at the chance to savor thinly sliced deli meat.

I mean can you blame them?

Damaged Goods

Damaged Goods

Yep, that’s right. My kids, the little gems, love to help get things for me at the store. I bet yours do, too!

The problem is, they like to get the things that can break, or spill, or crack. Do you know what happens when a 2-year-old grabs for apples? They drop them. More likely than not, you will go home with bruised fruit, open cracker boxes, and slimy egg cartons due to breakage. It’s not fun.

Don’t worry though, after the first few items, the cashier will stop asking you if you knew the package was open.

Dude, do you not see the cracker crumbs on my kid’s shirt? Of course I know they are open, I opened them.

Feeding my children a new snack for every aisle is the only way to make it through the store without a complete meltdown and the loss of my sanity.



My 4-year-old is the queen of flat-belly tantrums.

With every denied request for candy, fruit roll-ups, and cookies with the tree on them, she will launch herself onto the floor and scream, “It’s not fair!”

Dear child, it is very fair. You do not need the popcorn that is $2 more just because the box features the character from Frozen. I can’t.

I just can’t.

OK? So deal.


Now that you are prepared, here are some helpful tips to make shopping with your children a little more bearable.

Bring snacks. No one likes to go to the grocery store hungry. It will not end well for you if your toddlers are starving and are unable to snack on what is right in front of them. If you don’t want to fight for 45 minutes about why they can’t have the banana that is sitting right next to them, bring a sleeve of Ritz or a cheese stick. You’ll thank me later — and you’re welcome.

Find the “fun” cart. I know, I know, I hate it too. You may feel like your wheeling a semi-truck through an obstacle course made of glass, but they will love every second of it. And, if they are having fun, you will most likely make it through the store without wanting to slam your head into the dairy cooler. It is a win-win situation.


Visit the store’s “aquarium.” You know what I mean, the disgusting tank where lobsters go to wait for their inevitable death. It is basically like death row for shellfish. May the odds be ever in your favor, little guys.

Low expectations are best. If you go into the experience knowing that you might not come out the same person who went in, it will be easier to adjust, as you are contemplating putting your children in the clearance bin of canned goods and calling it a day.

Alcohol. Make sure you stock up on your favorite beverage during your shopping excursion. You will definitely want to crack open a beer or pour a glass of wine after getting home. Especially if your toddler insists on helping you unload the car and drops the bag containing the jar of pickles, which will most definitely shatter and spill all over the garage.


For more from Jenna Stewart, visit Motherhood with a Twist of OCD and her Facebook page.