11 Tips for Grocery Shopping with a Toddler

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Raise your hand if you have a...um...spirited toddler. My hand is raised. Like super high. William is quite the energetic child, to put it nicely. He's a sweet, sweet boy but also hyperactive. Grocery shopping with him can be stressful and I can't fathom how I am going to handle him and a baby at the same time. If it were up to William, he would prefer to run free through the store (like legit run, not just walk around) while I shopped. He wouldn't even miss me. It's a challenge to keep him in the cart and sometimes I give in and attempt to let him walk with me, he likes to help push the cart (for like a minute and then he sees something shiny...). Even though grocery shopping is still a bit stressful with him, I don't think it will ever go absolutely smoothly, I have a few tricks that help us get our errands done without too much drama. 

11 Tips for Grocery Shopping with a Toddler

1. Go in with a grocery list

I make a grocery list mostly because if I didn't, we wouldn't have anything we'd need. I can't even remember one thing if I forget to write it down. Having a list will also help you stay organized and on track when your little one starts freaking out for no reason.

2. Go in with a strategy

No matter where we go for groceries, we typically use the same path each time so I know where everything is and when we are going to come upon it. This makes for a quicker, more efficient trip. Once you know your way around the store you can organize your list by the order of the aisles. It sounds OCD but it's totally worth it.

3. Go around nap times

Whatever you do, do not go to the store within an hour before nap time or directly after nap time. Before nap time. they will be tired and directly after they will still be waking up.

4. Avoid mealtimes too

And whatever you do don't go just before mealtimes. If it's snack time, that's easy to remedy but avoid those times when they are about to be "hangry."

5. Avoid the busiest times at the store

According to thestreet.com, the best time of the day to grocery shop is first thing in the morning and that is my personal favorite time as well. Most grocery stores stock their perishable foods overnight or bright and early so you'll be getting the best items available. The Street also recommends skipping Saturday for shopping, if possible, as that is the busiest day at the grocery store. They also say that Friday is the second busiest but I find that as long as you go soon after breakfast, it's not bad since it's still a weekday. Plus, having your errands all done before lunch feels pretty satisfying. 

6. Park beside the cart return

Parking beside the cart return, even if it means you have a far walk to the front of the store, will make your life easier after the hectic shopping trip. You can place your kiddo in the car and return the cart without them, without worrying since you'll be just a few feet away. 

7. Let them help

Once your toddler is old enough, you can let them help put things on the conveyor belt (although probably not the eggs) and if they listen to directions well, you can let them push the cart, at least for a little while. If they feel like they've helped and done something good, they will give you a few minutes of peace (hopefully!) and it helps to teach them some essential life skills.

8. Bring a pacifier and/or distraction

William currently still takes a pacifier when he's sleeping or when he's throwing a giant tantrum. I always have one on hand in purse or pocket just in case he decides that he does not want to sit in the cart and that I'm the worst mom ever for making him sit still. I recommend [affiliate link] these pacifiers from Target.

One of the big problems we have is if the checkout line is super long. If the cart is not moving then William feels that he has to be moving instead. My remedy for this is to stick Thomas on the Netflix app on my phone and he is soon in his train trance long enough for me to get through the checkout without incident. 

9. Don't give in to whining

I'm guilty of this one. If William fusses enough, I will let him out of the cart but I always regret it because after a few minutes he'll run off and pretend that he can't hear me when I tell him to come back. If you give in each time they whine then they will keep on whining each and every time. 

10. Avoid the toy aisle

Don't tempt your kid if you don't have to. If you absolutely have to go near the toy aisle because you need a birthday gift or whatever, just know that they will probably beg and whine a bit. Just remember to not give in.

11. Stay positive

Children are smart. They sense fear and impatience. And they will act out more if you are not staying positive. They look to you for direction so keep on smiling and using positive words but also feel free to speak sternly to them when necessary because you are the boss. Keep a smile on your face and at least you'll feel like all hope is not lost.


Good luck! How do you stay sane when grocery shopping with your toddler?