Before kids, supermarket shopping used to be such a miserable chore. Oh, how I laugh at pre-kid me, moaning about doing the weekly grocery shop. If only she knew how easy it was back then compared to doing it with three kids in tow. I try to do online delivery as much as I can – it’s a real life-changer when you have small children. But sometimes that’s not possible, and, actually, I want my children to know food doesn’t just magically appear in the cupboards and the fridge. You have to go and choose it, keep to your budget, look at best before dates, pay for it, bag it all up and put it away when you get home. Life skills and all that.
But it’s often not the easiest of experiences. Today, Toddler, my nearly three year old, wanted to push the trolley around the store himself. You can imagine what fun that was. It got me thinking of all the hectic trips I’ve had to the supermarket with my kids over the last seven years, and so I wrote this. Maybe you can relate.
1. Finding a good time to go is the first hurdle. If you have a baby, you don’t want to clash with feeding time. If you have a toddler, you need to factor in nap and meal times so your kids aren’t hangry. If you have school aged children, going after school is a nightmare as they may have the after school grumps. If you have a combination of age ranges, then there really is no perfect time.
2. Then you need to park. More often than not, the parent and child spaces are full, and you’re pretty sure the people don’t even have children. But that’s a whole other blog post. You try to find a space at the end of a row so you can get the kids out. And if there are no spaces at the end of the row, you choose a space with no one next to it, carefully aligning your car right in the middle of the space so you can get them back in. Sometimes that’s not possible and you have to park in a space with cars either side and then carefully navigate your kids – possibly while still sat in a baby car seat too – out of the car. You hold on to the car door for dear life so that you don’t dent the car next to you. And guaranteed once you’re all parked up and everyone’s out the car, you’ll see a space become free. Sigh.
3. You also have to contend with getting a trolley. Do you leave your kids unattended in the car and dash to get a trolley? Or do you take your kids across the car park to the trolley, struggling to carry a baby in a car seat, plastic bags, change bag and snacks, while also making sure your toddler doesn’t run into the path of traffic? Then, pick and mix from the following scenarios: Why are the trolley seats wet? Why are there no double-seated trolleys. Some supermarkets have doubles as standard. Why don’t they all?. Why do some stores have no seatbelts in their trolleys? It’s an accident waiting to happen! Why can’t I find a trolley with a baby seat and a toddler one? Should I put my baby in a car seat on the top of one of those special trolleys, making it difficult for me to see anything in front of me? Or should I put my baby in the trolley basket, along with the change bag and carrier bags, meaning next to no room for the shopping? Why are my kids fighting over who sits on which side of the trolley?
4. That’s if they will sit in the trolley at all! My toddler now doesn’t want to sit in the trolley. He wants to walk (by which I mean, excitedly running off down the aisles because supermarkets are that awesome in his little world). Or he wants to push the trolley. Now I have enough trouble with these, with their dodgy steering, broken brakes and sheer heaviness when loaded up with food. So what chance does a two year old have of not ploughing into a row of tins or an old lady?
5. If you are organised enough to write a shopping list beforehand, you can be sure your child will want to hold it, crumple it up, eat it, use it as a teething toy, or fight over it with their sibling. Good luck remembering everything you need.
6. Then there’s the danger your kids will see foodie items you don’t want them to know about… usually in the chocolate and biscuit aisle, and have huge meltdowns when you won’t buy them.
7. Along with “Can I have a magazine? Can I have a toy? Can I have a treat?” No! No! No! Luckily you bought three emergency snacks to get you through the shop.
8. Except your child will want to eat everything you are putting into the trolley NOW and get upset that you have to pay for it first.
9. And before you know it you have become the kind of parent you used to judge for opening something you’ve not yet paid for to keep your child quiet as you continue your shop. Oh, the embarrassment when you hand over an empty packet to the cashier.
10. Having to abandon your trolley mid-shop because your child needs feeding/a nappy change/the toilet and hoping the staff don’t start putting all your stuff back on the shelves.
11. The ‘joy’ of having to entertain a toddler in a big queue at the check-out; even worse if there are sweets and toys around the till. You were never going to be the parent who gave into pester power, but sometimes it feels like the only option.
12. When you’re finally done, trying to pack up all the bags with one hand while trying to stop your toddler running off/climbing out of the trolley/kids from fighting with each other/baby from crying because he or she needs feeding again.
13. Having to bite your tongue at the judgmental stares and tuts from people who either a/ don’t have kids or b/ had them so long along they forget that this is regular kid behaviour.
14. Getting back to the car and realising someone has parked so close to your door you can’t get the baby car seat back in and wondering what on earth you are supposed to do. I’ve had to put my trolley safely to the side and move my car in order to get my baby back in the car before now. Really scary but I couldn’t see what else I could do.
15. Then debating whether to put the child back in the car first, unload the bags, then take the trolley back or unload with one hand, while stopping the child clambering out of the trolley, so that you don’t have to leave them unattended in the car to take back the trolley.
16. Realising that you forgot something important because your child ate your shopping list and making a mad dash back to the store for a diluted version of all of the above.
17. All of the above is why you’re really not joking when you say a child-free supermarket shop is ‘me time’, a luxury, a treat. Browsing, not having to sing nursery rhymes all around the store, no feeding small people snacks to stave off tantrums. Maybe even time to try on some clothes. You hate yourself for being the kind of person to call solo food shopping me time, but it really is bliss!
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