Grocery Game Plan

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Grocery shopping is always a crapshoot over here. The babies know they have me captive because when we go to the grocery store, we have things we need to get before we leave. They know I won't leave until I go through the checkout. They have me at their disposal as we walk through aisles and aisles of fun and yummy things that they can't open or play with. It could easily become a nightmare, and it has been pretty ugly in there at times, but usually, we pull it off flawlessly, thanks to having a game plan in place before we even leave the house.

1) Park close and pick out your cart before you leave the car. This is probably more important for me than most as I have to find a twin cart, but even if you have a singleton, decide whether or not you are going to use your own infant seat, the infant seat on a specialized cart, or if your child is old enough to simply sit in the basket area, or walk alongside you as you shop. When my babies were younger we used the five-point shopping carts, but a few weeks ago we moved to the lap-strapped racing carts. There is only one of these that suit our needs. The others are two small. If that one cart is unavailable, step 2 goes into action.

2) Do not enter the store with a crying baby or a fussing toddler. If your infant is small, stand outside rocking her and comforting her until you can make the transition into the cart. If you have toddlers like I do, be prepared to garner stares in the parking lot as you stand resolutely to the side, waiting for your children to calm down. Tell them firmly every once in a while that no one is going anywhere until they stop fussing. If they're truly upset, cuddle them in the cart, tell them about what you are going to buy, distract them by naming the colors of the cars in the parking lot, etc., until they calm down. If they're just doing it for show, make sure you've got all day, and just sit tight.

Children unpacking groceries

3) In my childless days, if I had to do a full-on shopping run, I'd start from one end of the store and make my way methodically to the other side. These days, I do a modified version. I start in the baby aisle, and immediately grab them something to munch on: Gerber puffs, yogurt bursts, Nutri Grain bars, whichever items catches my fancy at the time. Once the babies are crunching away, I start my real route.

4) Move quickly. Know where everything is, and what you'll need. Shopping with babies is no time for browsing. Don't shop when you're hungry. You'll not have time to investigate each possible item for purchase. If you're looking for bargains, browse the store's catalogue before you leave so that you don't have to waste precious moments comparing prices and products, or finding this week's specials.

5) Set break points at even intervals. Use the fruit section, the bakery, the deli, and the section where they hand out the balloons (don't know what I'm talking about? Click here.) as set points to break up your trip into small intervals, like pit stops. At each stop, give the babies a treat. In the fruit section, the babies get a few grapes. When we move to the deli, they get a slice of cheese. The coveted bakery stop provides them with a small cookie. If we are incredibly hard up that day, I'll end the trip with a balloon. Usually we can skip this step.

6) When the babies inevitably reach out for or ask about one of the untouchable goodies hanging from every section of every aisle, hurry on by. Tell them you'll come back to look at it later. If there is an item you need near one of these toys, park the cart a few feet ahead and go back for it without them.

7) If you are having trouble getting from pit stop to pit stop, make a game of it. Have the babies "help you look" for the grapes, the cookies, or whatever they want next. If they're repeating with increased urgency, "Cheese! Cheese! Cheese!" get yourself on their side by saying, "Yeah! Cheese! We have to find the cheese. Do you see it? I don't see it. Cheese! Oh, cheese! Hello? Where are you, cheese?" The babies will most likely join you in your quest, and you can "look for" an item for up to five minutes before the trick begins to wear off.

8) We usually don't have trouble at the checkout, but if your child becomes restless, have them help you put the groceries on the belt. It gives them something to do, and they're usually amazed that the items move.

If nothing works, and you've got a disgruntled toddler or screaming baby on your hands for the hour in which you shop, take heart. Remember, when you get home, it's nap time!

This post is part of BlogHer's The Smart Mom's Guide to Being Busy editorial series, made possible by Rice Krispies.

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