Grocery shopping with a handful of Littles

Anonymous asked about grocery shopping with a big family. Others have asked in the past, so I’ll try to remember and share what I have learned.
I posted a long time ago on Grocery Shopping to the Glory of God, and again a little later about how we started shopping monthly. I’ll be reusing a lot of the ideas from the first article here.
Since I had the latest baby 8 weeks ago (yes, it’s been that long already!) we haven’t gone back to monthly shopping yet. It’s fun but it is also a lot of work and our Saturdays have been booked lately. I’m not sure I want to tackle it w/o Hubby – it’s so much easier with his help and he enjoys it. We are spending more on groceries, but will bide our time just a little longer before we go back to that routine.
But I think Anonymous was asking about the mechanics of wrangling little ones while shopping, so here are some ways I learned to manage when shopping with Hubby wasn’t an option. The kids and I were just out yesterday, ad this is still how we do it with 8.

Before you get into the store:

  • Don’t overschedule: If all the children are with me, I do not expect to accomplish 8 other errands on the day that we get groceries.
  • Don’t shop hungry. This applies to anyone who is along for the trip, not just the one with the checkbook. Hungry kids are distracted, whiny, wheedling, and generally unpleasant. This can rapidly make Mom unpleasant.
  • Contrariwise, don’t load them up on sugary treats while you are out and then wonder why they aren’t behaving. Excessive sugar doesn’t excuse sin, but you can bet you’ll see more of it.
  • Don’t leave the house if you or the children are crabby. There are several things you ought to do when you’re having a crabby day (repent and pray, for starters) but going out in public with several young children is definitely on the “don’t” list.
  • Before disembarking from the vehicle, give a pep talk and run through Mom’s Rules of Order.
  • Rather than looking for the closest parking space, try parking near a cart. You can put the youngest and/or the infant seat right into the cart. The toddler can ride on the front of the cart. The 4 and 5 year old can hold the sides as you cross the parking lot. And when you’re done, you can ditch the cart in the lot w/o guilt because you already brought a cart into the store. 🙂
  • Don’t be afraid to use positive rewards now and then. God does this with His people, and parents should do so as well. Just don’t let it turn into bribery (there is a difference) and be consistent. Don’t reward poor behavior, and if you say No, mean it.

Inside the store:

  • Have them help, and vary the routine: I stop the cart at the ends of some aisles and send a pair of children for what we need. Sometimes I will go after items myself, taking along 1 or 2 small helpers to carry items back to the cart. Other times I will bark out orders as we pass through the aisles: “Lydia, grab 3 cans of spaghetti sauce.” “Natalie, get the animal crackers.” ” Deanna and Kaitlyn, choose 3 lbs. of nice tomatoes.” This works more and more as the children get older, but even the little ones recognize many of the items we buy and they love to help.
  • Move quickly when possible. Make them pay attention and work (just a little) to keep up with you. Bored children are trouble waiting to happen.
  • Rules for children’s conduct: No touching, and No asking. This does not mean that they shouldn’t remind me that we’re low on diapers or make a menu suggestion, but they all know that if they ask for popsicles or a box of donuts, the answer is going to be “No.” If, on the other hand, they all stand quietly and stare longingly at popsicles or a box of donuts (especially Little Chocolate Donuts), I am easily persuaded.
  • Don’t be afraid to use 2 carts. I often did this when they were all little. I would put two or three small children in the front cart and steer with one hand – it’s relatively easy to steer if the children are light and no one rides on the front end of the front cart. Then I pull the grocery cart behind me.
  • Have them help you unload the groceries onto the conveyor belt. Like having them help at home, this may not save you time in the beginning. But it keeps them busy and out of trouble, and it is training for when they are big enough to actually be helpful.
  • Do your best to keep the children strictly in order. It is so much easier to keep order than to restore order! Find what works, and consistently train toward that set of rules.

I can’t stress enough: training is everything! It will get easier as you and the children practice. I still find that we have to freshen up on training and manners if we don’t go out often enough, so don’t get discouraged if the first few times are stressful. It does get easier, and you will figure out what works for you and your children.

And I’ll wrap it up with another bit borrowed from the old post:

I am pleased when my children garner lavish compliments from strangers, but
not because my ego has been stroked. We want them to see and believe that
children are truly a blessing! We don’t want to become the poster family for
birth control; we don’t want people to see us and think, “That’s why I only had
1 child.”
As a large family our public appearance reflects upon Christ.
Strangers see a large family and automatically assume that we are Christians and
homeschoolers. Really, they do! That puts a burden on us to be sure our conduct
is joyful, orderly, well-mannered, and all-things-Christ-like (Ph 1:26-7, I Cor


  1. Mommaofmany says:

    I love your descriptions! Sounds like the way we do it, too! Momma

  2. Laurel,
    Thank you for stopping by and introducing yourself. Glad I could help.
    BTW, I love Amy’s blog too!

  3. I just now “found” you (through Amy’s Humble Musings link) and I think I’m going to enjoy your blog. 🙂

    We have 6 Blessings, ages 3-10, and I really appreciated your ideas. Some were great affirmations, some were “wow! what a terrific idea!” Thanks so much. I look forward to reading more of you. God Bless!

  4. I always try to make a positive comment when I see kids behaving well, especially when they are in a big group. I startled the heck out of a mom of 5 in a Subway once. She was so self-conscious about them that she didn’t realize how good they were in comparison to many other’s I’d seen that day.

  5. kelly,
    It’s not me, but funny!

  6. I often tell the kids that we are a testimony for Christ. I took all 6 to the eye doctor today. The baby was the only one who was kind of wacky. Kind of an off question here, but do you have an account on ebay 7girls1boy? Just curious. If so I was looking at those Junie B. Jones books, too.

  7. WOW–amazing!

Don't just think it: say it!

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