Supermarket shopping with a toddler – a guide

Notice this serene lady is shopping without a toddler

If, like many, you find the experience of supermarket shopping with a toddler to be slightly less pleasant than poking hot forks in your eyes whilst listening to One Direction on loop, then this is the guide you have been waiting for!   Read on to learn how you can minimise the utter misery of the supermarket shop and help make the whole experience partially tolerable.

Step 1: A warning

Abandon all hope.  One of the key mistakes made by people embarking upon a supermarket shop with a toddler is hoping that the experience will be better than last time. It won’t. Accept it.

Step 2: Arrive at the supermarket car park 

On entering the supermarket car park, head towards the Parent and Child spaces.  Drive past these spaces slowly, taking time to observe the burly men getting out of their white van to buy a sandwich (without a child), the pensioners hobbling from their car to the supermarket entrance to buy Battenburg (without a child), and the empty, child car seat-less BMW (without a child).  While making a pointless mental note of all the unauthorised parkers, mutter obscenities to yourself.  This will help to put you in the right frame of mind for your imminent supermarket shop with a toddler.

Step 3: Proceed to the trolley park 

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Accept that you will inevitably choose the trolley with the wonky wheel which will be entirely un-steerable by the time you reach the milk aisle.

It is worth noting that a further common mistake made by many at this stage is inserting the toddler into the trolley seat immediately, without giving full consideration as to just how many dribbling, vomiting, pooing, spitting, rancid, crumb-scattering toddlers have sat in that seat previously.  Never given it much thought before? You will now. Take out your anti-bacterial wipes and WIPE WIPE WIPE!  Then, (and only then), insert the toddler.

Step 4: Enter the supermarket

Remember: hope is your nemesis, particularly once you have entered the supermarket. Avoid all positive thoughts during this critical stage, and never underestimate the potential for things to go seriously wrong.  Take note of the following:

  • Ensure you have an adequate supply of snacks for bribery purposes. This is not the time to ‘prove a point’ about your amazing parenting skills.  The satisfaction that you are shopping ‘bribe-free’ with a toddler will be of no comfort to you when you’re dragging your screaming child by their shoes down Aisle 17 because they’ve just realised that the little finger on their right hand is not detachable. Bribery can reduce the possibility of a toddler-led Defcon 1 meltdown by a huge margin. Use it.
  • Avoid the magazine aisle entirely. No good will come of venturing down this aisle of tantrums-in-waiting. The lure of the fluorescent covers and attached ‘free’ gifts will be too much for any toddler to bear, and you will be required to make a choice. You can give in to your toddler and spend the next 2 days covered in Twirlywoo stickers, while adding yet more unwanted clutter to your living room floor in the form of a Waybuloo back-scratcher, or a Sarah and Duck miniature etch-a-sketch. Alternatively, you can refuse your toddler’s demands, and await the inevitable consequences.  Rest assured that whatever decision you make, YOU CANNOT POSSIBLY WIN.
  • Buy only pre-packaged fruit and vegetables. It may be slightly more expensive and less environmentally friendly, but for reasons unbeknownst to us adults, pulling a plastic bag off a roll and filling it with apples or potatoes is a pretty exciting thing to a toddler. They will want to participate. You will be convinced that this is a good way of distracting them, and that it will buy you some time to make considered purchasing choices. And yes, it will buy you this time.  In fact, the toddler may want to carry their single onion in a bag all the way around the shop and you may find it quite cute. But it will not be cute when you arrive at the checkout and have to wrestle the onion off them, because in the last half hour, to the toddler, that onion has become so much more than an onion.  It has become tantamount to a limb and they are not going to let you amputate it without a fight.  I bet that extra 50p and extra waste for landfill doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?
  • As touched on above, do not permit the toddler to carry any item you intend to purchase.  They will drop it, eat it, crush it, open it, or, if it’s an item in a plastic bag with toddler finger-sized air holes, they will get their fingers stuck in it. This will distract you and increase the amount of time you have to spend in the waking nightmare that is the supermarket experience. And even worse than this, they will NEVER (EVER!) GIVE THE ITEM BACK.  Pity the fools who put themselves in this situation.

Step 5: The checkout and exit

Well done for reaching this point. You may feel you are now home and dry. However, you are yet to face the biggest challenge of any supermarket shop with a toddler. This is a trial like no other: The Coin-Operated Ride.

The toddler is pulled towards the coin-operated ride in the same way that a crack addict is pulled towards their next fix.  What’s worse is that the toddler almost always detects the hideous mechanism before their accompanying adult.  Once detection has occurred, you will have only the following two options:

  1. You can refuse the toddler access to the coin-operated ride. Note that this will almost certainly provoke a screaming tantrum of epic proportions and may give the impression that you are attempting to abduct your own child, as you run at speed towards the supermarket exit and launch yourself in a frazzled mess through the automatic doors.
  2. You can succumb to the demands of the toddler and ‘allow’ them to go on the coin-operated ride numerous times because they refuse to come off and you’ve run out of bribes. As you sit slumped on the supermarket floor, watching your freshly bought frozen food starting to thaw and wondering if you will leave this godforsaken place alive, you will at least have the time to consider whether the whole nightmare is actually worth it, or whether, in fact, you should go ahead and register your family for online shopping after all.

Best of luck!

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36 thoughts on “Supermarket shopping with a toddler – a guide”

  1. those well positioned coin operated rides are a complete PITA ! supermarket trips have actually been okish with my son. we usually open a bag of apples or something and he snacks on those all the way around #KCACOLS

  2. Haha! This is BRILLIANT! LOVE IT! Thank you!
    Oh my goodness, we had a bus at the end of our check-out which I had to try and avoid my toddler seeing, but he of course remembers it even if we go the other end of the supermarket checkouts. Last time I had already accepted we would go on the bus and used it as a bribe all the way round the shop. When we got to the checkout it wasn’t there! It had broken down and been removed! OH MY GOODNESS! I wanted the world to swallow me up. I felt so bad and we had melt down of epic proportions!!! #KCACOLS

    1. Aw, thank you! I just hate those machines. It’s like that bus knew you’d promised your toddler a ride on it, and so it deliberately broke down. Our supermarket has a little Sooty van, and every time I’m unloading my shopping at the check out, I can see Sooty’s smug little face, as if he’s laughing to himself, thinking ‘I’m really going to ruin your morning’. They really are the worst part of any supermarket shop.

  3. OMG this brought back such fond memories of shopping. I love online shopping now! Pick up is so much easier or delivery if hubby will pay the delivery charge! ? you were spot on with the family parking spots too. Always filled with white van men or pensioners. Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime ?

    1. I know it’s going to be the same every time, but I just keep going back – I don’t know what’s wrong with me!! Must make a point of doing online shopping instead. 🙂

  4. My little man is only 6 months but you’ve just given me the ‘fear’ – shopping will never be the same again! Great post, what a terrifying weekly experience to endure, think it will definitely be online grocery shopping in this house. Loved the onion in the bag bit – it’s very sweet although not so much for the parent! #KCACOLS

    1. Oops, sorry about that! Most of these incidents can be overcome if you use bribes so that should ease your fear a little bit. (Of course, the exception to this is the coin operated ride. No amount of bribery will help you here 😉 ). Good luck!

  5. For the most part, my 14 month old loves riding in the shopping cart. She doesn’t like when we stop, however. And she has been known to smash loaves of bread and try to eat food through the plastic wrappers. Really, I try to avoid grocery shopping with her whenever possible! #momsterslink

    1. I’ll admit, stickers are my go to thing on long car journeys. It’s remembering to remove them all from my clothes before I get out of the car that’s the real problem…

  6. So much love for this!! I am guilty of the ‘thinking its cute if they hold something like veg the entire way round the shop’ thing… Haha!! Oops!! Love the way you write too <3

    1. Thanks for this lovely comment! I still give my little girl an onion in a bag to carry, despite knowing how it will end. It’s all going to go to pot at the checkout anyway because of those bloody rides, so why not? In for a penny, in for a pound 😉

  7. I can only wish that my small little town offered online shopping. I really try my best NOT to shop with kids in tow which means shopping while hubby is here and can supervise them or no that they are in school I have a few free hours in the morning. Nothing like going to the gym and then heading to the store sweaty and stinky and looking like you have been up for days on drugs lol. But there are times I do have to take them and I try to get in and out as quickly as possible and without making eye contact with anyone. Thanks so much for linking with #momsterslink and I hope to see you again this week!

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