5 steps to grocery greatness with a tot

While it’s nice to have a fully stocked pantry, the idea of taking your toddler along to the supermarket may have you convincing yourself you can handle ramen noodles for just one more meal.

The supermarket can be a pretty stressful place for toddlers, too. They have to sit still, and then they’re taunted by aisles of cookies they’re not allowed to eat. Still, your grocery shopping experience doesn’t have to a disaster. Here’s a guide to fetching food without the fuss.

  1. Have a plan: Grocery shopping with a list is always a good idea, but add a toddler to the mix, and it almost becomes a necessity. Keep your trip short and sweet by making a list ahead of time, from the comfort of home. It’s also a good idea to organize your list based on where the items are located in the store – that way, you won’t have to be running from one end to the other for the item you forgot.
  2. Contain your tot: Toddlers like to explore, but the supermarket is not a great place for Baby to unleash her adventurous side. Nothing will slow you down in the grocery store like little hands pulling cans off shelves, so have a plan to keep your toddler restrained while you shop. Luckily, many stores now have fun grocery carts especially for toddlers, and even stores with ordinary child seats can be kind of fun – they’re high up, for one thing – so she may just sit back and enjoy the ride. If that’s not a good fit, you can also try a carrier or sling.
  3. Pick the right time: Everyone always says not to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, but this is especially true with a toddler – in fact, it’s often best not to really go anywhere when she’s hungry. Make sure she is well-rested, whether it’s first thing in the morning or just after her nap, and that she has had enough to eat before venturing out.  
  4. Be armed with distractions: A bored toddler is an unhappy toddler. If you bring something along for her to play with, or make a game out of your shopping trip itself, you may be able to drive away any boredom before it has the chance to set in. She might get a kick out of “helping” you carry something (warning: not the eggs), or identifying objects on the shelves. If that fails, a free sample or two never hurt anybody.
  5. Ignore the judgmental strangers: You did everything right, but your toddler is still having a meltdown in aisle four. Guess what? Every parent has been there – even the one giving you “that look.” Someday, you’ll forget you were once there, too. Brush it off, ignore them, and finish your trip.
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