5 Ways to Save Money (and Your Sanity) While Grocery Shopping with a Toddler - Live Like a Mensch
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5 Ways to Save Money (and Your Sanity) While Grocery Shopping with a Toddler


Photo courtesy of Onderwijsgek

Now that I have two kids, time is a precious commodity that I have far too little of. For some time after BB was born, I still tried to arrange my time so that I didn't have to go grocery shopping with both kids. However, several weeks ago, I discovered that grocery shopping at midnight is a great way for me to come home with packages of Pop Tarts that I had no intention of purchasing.

However, I have found that (so far), buying groceries with both LO and BB in tow has been a relatively low stress endeavor--and some of my biggest fears about overspending just to get the heck out of there were overblown. Here are five things I've done to keep grocery shopping (basically) stress-free and money-saving even with a three-year-old and a baby along for the ride:

1.  Plan for hunger

You know how bad it is when you go shopping while hungry? Multiply that by about eleventy-seven when it's your toddler who's surrounded by food and starving. That's what brings on the meltdowns and the incessant whining requests for Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs cereal.

Lately, I've been going shopping on Monday afternoons after BB and I pick LO up from school. If I'm super organized, I'll have a juice box and a snack ready in the car for LO. If I'm not, we'll stop for refreshments at the cafe in our local Target (yes, I get that this is the opposite of saving money). But I've budgeted for the additional $2 expense of a juice and a package of crackers or cookies, and having LO occupied with food and drink through the first 15 minutes of our excursion is worth the extra expense.

2. Let them think it's their idea

LO likes to make suggestions for foods that we can bring home. For instance, yesterday he asked if we could get mini muffins, soda, and candy. He also asked for strawberries and applesauce--which happened to actually be on our list.

Since I had to say no to the junk food suggestions, I made a big deal of saying yes to his requests for applesauce and strawberries. "What a great idea!" I told him, while surreptitiously crossing strawberries off our list. "I would never have thought to buy strawberries!"

3. Institute the Bye-bye game

I remembering reading somewhere how important it is to validate a child's emotions. Which is why we have a game we play whenever we come across something LO may not have: I make him say "Bye-bye!" to whatever it is. For instance, as we wheeled past the huge display of Easter candy yesterday, LO pointed over and over again to different candies on the display. "I want that," he said. "And I want that. And that."

I told him that it did, indeed, all look bright and pretty and delicious--but that it wasn't coming home with us. I suggested that we say "Bye-bye" to it, which LO did, waving and smiling.

This is one of those parenting tips that I never thought would actually work. I started it when LO didn't want to leave a toy behind on another excursion to the store. Imagine my surprise when he started independently waving bye-bye to things I had told him he couldn't have. So it's now a regular part of our repertoire. So far, he's perfectly content knowing that I see what it is he wants and that we're just going admire it and then pass by it like a ship in the night.

4. Work from the outside in

You probably already know that the perimeter of the store is where the healthiest (and least expensive) food can be found. So you might already be focusing on those areas of the store while you're shopping. But shopping from the outside of the store inward is also a good idea for grocery toddler-wrangling, as well. If you ever need to make a fast escape from the store (meltdown, potty training emergency, etc), then you're more likely to have gotten the essentials taken care of by shopping the perimeter of the store first. You can take care of your toddler issue, come back to your cart, and immediately check out.

This is also helpful for reducing the dreaded Iwantititis if the Bye-bye game isn't working for you.

5. Pay with cash

This is already something that you should be doing in order to make sure you stay within budget. But this is also really important for helping your child to understand the finite nature of money and the fact that buying an apple juice and some crackers at the cafe (see #1) means you can't buy something else. LO is still a little young for this lesson, but he is very interested in money. (He kept asking "What's that?" yesterday as I handed our cash over to the cashier. For him, money is usually coins.)

As he gets older, I'll give him more instruction about our money when we go shopping and let him man the calculator once he's old enough.

What tips and tricks do you use to make sure grocery shopping with a toddler does not result in shell shock and/or bags full of Hostess snack cakes?



bobi said:

If you're  not using Cartwheel at Target, try it. Saves money with one swipe.

March 14, 2014 4:22 PM

Live Like a Mensch said:

"Mom, I don't think this is going to end well..." Yesterday, for the first time in years

April 24, 2014 11:20 AM

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