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5 Grocery Store Hacks for Busy Parents

Once upon a time, I didn't hate grocery shopping. I enjoyed picking out the perfect produce, price-matching and checking out new products and brands.

Then I went and had three children.

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Now, I would basically rather starve to death than go to the grocery store (and some weeks, my family is pretty sure I'm not kidding, as the contents of our fridge and pantry diminish to alarmingly low levels and I show no signs of planning to visit our local supermarket). ( walk so slowly you could have grown your own oats by the time you get through the cereal aisle.

(The kids) walk so slowly you could have grown your own oats by the time you get through the cereal aisle.

If you have kids, you know exactly what I mean. Invariably someone has left that cursed car cart right at the entrance, so your kids beg to use it instead of a regular cart, which means your cart has the turning radius of a semi-truck and weighs approximately the same amount.

Then they want a free cookie from the bakery, which is great until it's smeared all over them, and they don't want to ride in the cart (or they ALL want to ride in the cart). They walk so slowly you could have grown your own oats by the time you get through the cereal aisle.

Of course, someone is falling apart and ready for a nap before you're done and you ALWAYS choose the slowest check-out lane. And by the time you get home, the last thing you want to do is put these groceries away and make an actual meal.

Repeat, every week, until you die.

It's not all doom and gloom though (for one, I live near a well-stocked grocery store and can afford to buy those groceries, so I recognize these are all major first world problems). Here are some of the hacks that have made this chore just a little easier for me:

1. You only need one (master) grocery list.

Like most people, the majority of our groceries don't change that much from week to week. We always buy milk, eggs, yogurt, bread, bananas, milk, spinach and cereal. Make a digital shopping list that you can print off every week that has all the staples on it, then cross out any you don't need, and add anything you need for that week's meals or special items, and boom. Now you are ready to actually do the grocery shopping. (Part of my issues with grocery shopping is that there's so much work involved before you even GO to the grocery store—making a menu, making the grocery list, gathering my reusable bags and packing up the children. So I'm grateful for even one thing that makes the whole process a little simpler.)

2. Shop at one store.

I get it, some items may be cheaper in some stores than others. But is it really worth your time and sanity? In the past, I've tried shopping at multiple stores depending on what is on sale, but having a single grocery store I go to streamlines my shopping so much because I know exactly where everything is, and I'm not wasting time visiting multiple stores or trying to learn the sale patterns and store layout of two or three different stores.

3. Go at night.

I hate to waste my limited kid-free time doing something as mundane as grocery shopping, but when I go at night, the store is way less busy and I'm in and out in a fraction of the time because I'm not herding cats, er ... children, the entire time. If your children are notorious for putting extra things in the cart or begging for things you weren't planning on buying, it might even be worth hiring a babysitter for an hour. The cost of extra items versus babysitting is probably about the same and you won't come home wanting to rip your hair out. Plus, some stores reduce their prices later in the evening. Score!

4. Buy non-grocery items online.

Amazon was basically invented to deliver toilet paper and shampoo directly to your front door. If you only have to worry about produce, dairy and meat, your time in the grocery store will drop dramatically. A whole section you can whiz right by? Sign me up.

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5. Try a grocery delivery or pick-up service.

After months and months of avoiding trips as long as possible, I finally tried out Walmart Grocery Pickup and I swear, it has changed my dang life. I add everything to my online cart (which is better than any of the other ones I've tried), schedule a pickup window and drive through when I'm already out. They load up my car, and I bring my groceries home without buckling or unbuckling a single seatbelt. There are other services that deliver right to your door, which basically sounds like my idea of heaven on earth.

Photograph by: Janssen Bradshaw

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