The Control Freak’s Guide to grocery shopping with a baby

I am an Industrial Engineer by training. If you think that makes me a laid-back parent, you are wrong. I often obsess about the exact right solution to any given parenting challenge (many of which you would not even recognize as problems, I’m told). Whitney asked me to share my overly specific recommendations for grocery shopping with you.

Before you even enter the store, you need to deal with the list and the parking lot. Once you’re inside, you’ve got to think on your feet and be prepared to solve problems as they arise. Are you ready?

Make the perfect list
The key to being an efficient shopper is to have a list that is organized by section of the store and then work it quickly. If your list is stream-of-consciousness, c’mon! Think about your staples, do a little meal-planning, and write it all down.

Choose the right time to go
I’ll say it: shopping is way easier on your own, but you knew that. If you’re bringing a child, you must optimize for attitude, sleepiness, and hunger. After morning nap is perfect. Before afternoon nap is stupid.

Pack well
Basically, you’ll want to think through your various scenarios so you can have one hand free to push the cart and shop while the other hand feeds or entertains the bambino. Bring snacks or be prepared to pick more up along the way. Breastfeeding in the front carrier is a skill that will serve you well. Light snacks and leak-proof sippy cups are your friend. For nibblers, I like long breadsticks or a snack holder that can be clipped to the cart.

Parking lot tips
Scope out your surroundings like a ninja. Be mindful of opportunities to park right next to the cart returns (good!) and dangerous loading/unloading conditions like hills or busy driveways (bad!). Keep one hand on your cart at all times.

Now we’re in the store
I forgot to ask: Do you have an adult buddy? If yes, you have two choices: stick together and call it quality time (a la Meet your friends out for errands) or divide and conquer to streamline your time spent. Stick to your list and always grab your frozen stuff last.

Many stores, like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, pass out food or stickers to kids. Do some reconnaissance to know what your entertainment options are and where to get the goods (cashiers, customer service? You need to know this!).

Organize your shopping trip around the store and other tips for rookie momsGood shopping companions

  • A sleeping baby in a baby carrier
  • A cheerful toddler with snacks

Bad shopping companions and their remedies

  • Baby with a diaper “issue” — ask clerks to push your cart into the cooler and come back later!
  • Hangry toddler (luckily, treats abound in a store)

Products that win my approval:

I hope I haven’t been too hard on you. If you’re upset after reading this, just CTFD and go by yourself.

Related post for my fellow germaphobes: How to make a shopping cart cover without sewing