Tips for Shopping with Toddlers in Tow

There’s no milk in the fridge and Kleenex is being substituted for toilet paper. A sigh escapes with the realization that a trip to the grocery store is imminent.

Getting groceries is work no matter what season of life we’re in, it takes time and energy. But there’s no season more difficult than when the chore must be done with toddlers in tow.

The “adventure” is captured in the hilarious post How to take a Toddler Shopping in 100 Easy Steps from Here’s an excerpt:

  • Step 70 – Look up to see toddler eating an apple.
  • Step 71 – Quickly remove apple from toddler and toss into produce bag.
  • Step 73 – Fail at calming tantrum.
  • Step 74 – Feel eyes beating down upon you from every direction.
  • Step 75 – Become aware of how much a scream can echo off a commercial grade ceiling. 
  • Step 76 – Abandon ideals of firm parenting, open, and thrust unpurchased box of crackers into your toddlers lap.

It would be easy to throw good parenting aside in the interest of immediate toddler-tantrum-relief. But there’s a better way!

I had three littles in three years and I learned about the importance of doing ahead. It wasn’t about being super organized, it was about survival.

There are three ways to DoAhead in order to prepare oneself for a toddler-in-tow trip to the store.

#1. DoAhead for YOU.

The first DoAhead is about making it easier for ourselves. It’s painfully simple. Make a list. Write it out and group items according to where they are located. Precious steps running from produce to dairy and back again won’t be necessary.

Kevin Lehman states in his book Home Court Advantage, “What a single mom or dad doesn’t have is help and time.” It would be tempting (and understandable) to decide there isn’t time to make a list.

But there’s an important truth to DoAheads. They cost something. The things that benefit us usually do. Developing a list, even if it’s late at night and done through bleary eyes is always worth it!

 And now we’re ready for our next DoAhead.

#2. DoAhead for THEM.

The art of distraction can go a long ways with a toddler. DoAhead by preparing a bag full of items which will keep them busy. A few examples would be: picture books or books to read, activity books, to silly putty, travel-size Etch-a-Sketch, music or an audio series (we loved Odyssey from Focus on the Family).

And now for the last and most important DoAhead.

#3. DoAhead for you BOTH.

This last DoAhead is the hardest but possibly the most important. If your toddler(s) have a tantrum that cannot be redirected you have a choice.

You can win or you can lose.

The DoAhead is the mindset you adopt before you even set foot in the store.

Losing is the scenario whereby the child whines, cries, or yells while you scurry for items. Winning looks like the one warning the child receives when they are told that if they don’t stop whining Mommy will remove them from the cart and take them home where there will be a consequence (time out, loss of a privilege, early bed time).

This may sound impossible. I guarantee it will feel impossible at the time. But one more night without toilet paper is worth raising kids who are secure in the knowledge that Mom means what she says. It is a DoAhead of premium worth. Not only will it help with future trips to the store it will lay the foundation for a loving relationship with a toddler who in the blink of an eye will be a teen!

About Kim Heinecke  

Kim Heinecke wants to live in a world where children listen to the advice of their mothers without question. As a former single mom she’s been encouraging women using her life experiences in parenting, growing in the Word of God and everything in between. When she’s not negotiating with a teenager or wrestling a pre-schooler, you can find her camping in the family RV or pretending to understand sports with her husband and four sons. Read more from Kim at