Here’s the thing, supermarket shopping with kids is a form of torture for me. I love my children, but loathe shopping with them. Always have, and still do. When they were tiny and could be take in a pushchair or plopped into the trolley seat and couldn’t talk to ask for things, it was a joy. Ever since they could walk and talk, I have hated supermarket shopping, and most other kinds of shopping with them. I try to avoid it at all costs. I don’t think they are any more badly behaved or difficult than other children, and I do generally intensely dislike supermarket shopping and shopping in general anyway, unless we are in France, which doesn’t help. Shopping is a chore and one I prefer to suffer without my children if I can.
Taking your kids to the supermarket can either be a victory or a nightmare. If we have to go shopping as a family, I have some rules and tricks around how we make it work and these generally keep me sane and make it a mostly non-traumatic experience.
Making Shopping A Game
Start by making shopping a game. Give each child a list and see if they can help you to find what you’re looking for. You could give them different items or make it a direct competition. You could also make it a rule that they aren’t allowed to remove their hands from your trolley or basket.
Keep The Kids Engaged
Make sure you keep your kids engaged in the supermarket. It’s easy to forget to do this when you’re reading a product label, but they can easily get bored. Instead, make sure you keep on speaking to them and encouraging them to find the items you’ve given them. I also find this is great for homeschool because we can lean as we shop. We talk about where foods come from, what foods and produce we see, why we buy certain things, how certain things are made or grown. It helps to keep us going and amused.
Only Go In The Aisles You Need To Go In
Don’t go up and down every aisle if you don’t have to. Stick to your list and only go exactly where you need to go. The husband particularly likes this one and tries to enforce it because he thinks I spend too much money if I divert from our shopping list. He is probably totally right, ahem.
Don’t Fall For supermarket marketing and don’t shop when your kids are hungry.
Who am I kidding, my kids are ALWAYS hungry, but I try to avoid going shopping when it’s obviously meal time time because the kids will whine and moan and ask for food and I end up buying them crappy snacks to pacify them then I wind up annoyed at myself. I also try and avoid spaces I know in the supermarket will induce purchase demands. We don’t go down the sweet aisle, I avoid the biscuit and crisp aisle and we don’t go where the toys are, or the ridiculously expensive comics that cost a fortune and are basically full of plastic crap. (it was music to my ears to hear that Waitrose has decided to stop selling comics that come with plastic toys, a little common sense, at last!)
Stick to rules
I have rules. I remind the children before we go shopping. I remind them when we are shopping. Mostly they remember them. If they try and break the rules, I have, on occasion, abandoned my shopping and walked out of a shop (not the children, I take them with me, I promise)
We don’t touch things we can’t afford to buy (ie DO NOT touch that expensive-looking TV when we are in the department store looking for replacement vacuum cleaner parts, or go near the china that mum would love but hasn’t got the money buy if you break it in the store) and no, you cannot fondle all the bread in the bakery aisle, don’t even think about it.
We do not ask for things. If they have their own money, they are welcome to spend it how they choose but if we are simply popping in to get milk and bread, I will not be capitulating to pleas for donuts, toys, comics (see above) snacks, sweets or sundry items I didn’t plan on buying.
If you run away, or mess about, and cause issues for other shoppers, you will be told once to behave. Try it again and we will leave the shop. I have done this too, on several occasions.
These rules are simple but they work.
Last but not least? Avoid the check out with sweets and treats at kid level. These are the worst and it’s hard to deal with your kids whining for the chocolate they can see when you are trying to pack shopping backs and pay. You look mean for not agreeing, and your kids kids grumpy. I use the self service check outs when I can, even if I hate them and they make me angry too.
The easiest way to avoid shopping trip horror with children is to not take them with you, or shop online. But if you do, make the rules, stick to the rules, try and make them stay engaged and helpful, and if in doubt and there is free wine tasting on offer, don’t say no…