Friday, May 31, 2013

How To Go Shopping with Three Small Children Without Losing Your Mind

"How do you even go grocery shopping with three babies??"
I get this question all the time.  From friends, family, and random strangers alike.  As if there has never been another mother with three small children that ever left her house. 
During the school year, while Brantley was in preschool, Grayson, Bennett and I would run all our weekly errands, which wasn't bad at all.  Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings we'd hit Kroger, Wal Mart, Target, the fabric store, etc, and easily get everything taken care of.  But since school's out for the summer, if we have to leave the house, it's me and the three littles.  Running errands with two isn't bad.  But three might as well be 12. 
But now that I've done it plenty, I have a couple of tricks that I use that make it easier on myself, that I thought I would share if you're a mama, or about to be a mama of three or more!  These tricks will also work for moms of 1 or 2, but moms of three or more need all the help they can get.  Trust me, because I am certainly one of them!  Now, I am certainly no expert, but these 10 things have worked for me, with kids ages 4, 2 and 8 months.  These 10 tips may not work for everyone, and some may disagree or have other ideas, but again, these are tips that work pretty well for us.  If you have any additional ideas that work for you, feel free to leave a comment!  Any suggestions are welcome!! :)
1. Get a special treat.  First thing.
There is a McDonalds in our local Wal Mart, and as soon as we come in the store, we hit it up for French fries and smoothies.  If we're at Target, we head to the snack bar and get popcorn and apple juice.  We don't regularly eat French fries or popcorn, so these are special treats for the kids, and keep them occupied during the rest of the shopping trip.  One time (early on) I promised that if they were good while we were shopping, we could get French fries on our way out.  BIG mistake.  Go ahead and get the treat first thing, then you can pretty much guarantee they'll be too caught up eating to cause (too much) mischief.  Some call it bribery.  I call it survival.
2. Keep them contained
Three kids can be hard to contain while shopping.  Most grocery carts only have one seat, and when you put two more wriggly children in the cart, there's no room for groceries!  If we're not grocery shopping, I have Grayson and Bennett strapped into the sit and stand double stroller, and Bennett in the Baby Bjorn.  The times that I have pushed Bennett and Grayson in the stroller and let Brantley walk free have been the times that she has pulled 10 boxes of shoes off the display in Target and 40 cans of soup off the wall in Kroger.  And speaking of Kroger, it is the only place I'll grocery shop with all three, because they have double grocery carts!  So Brantley and Grayson can sit in the front of the cart, I can carry Ben in the bjorn, and the entire cart is empty for groceries.
3. Bring a List
You will have plenty to be juggling, and the last thing you need is to be trying to remember off the top of your head all the ingredients for dinner, or which toiletry items you need to replace.  I never shop anywhere without a list.  I forget enough with my list, I don't think I would come home with anything I needed if I didn't bring one!  Plus, the list will keep you on task and get you in and out quicker.
4. Quick Trips, Not Many Stops
I save the big, long, weekly shopping trips for the weekend, when I can leave one or more of the kids with Scott.  When I have all three kids with me, we make quick trips to the grocery store for a few items, or a few items in Wal Mart.  Also, I don't stop at more than two stores (and sometimes even two is pushing it) with all three kids.  Logistically moving three kids in and out of the car can be so tiring for everyone, and patience can start to run thin for everyone too!  And surely by the time you've run two errands, it's bound to be someone's naptime, or a diaper needs changing, or someone needs a bottle, or something.
5. If at all possible, avoid errand running during naptime and/or mealtime.
You know that when your kids are hungry, they are more irritable.  When your kids are tired, they are more cranky.  So why attempt to run errands during these times?  You are setting yourself up for disaster.  If I am on top of my game and plan out my day right, I run errands with all three kids right after breakfast.  Everyone is awake, well-fed, and ready to start their day.  Next best time for us is after an early lunch.  But if errand running gets a little long, you can run into early afternoon naptimes, which can lead to cranky kiddos.  But I have definitely been "that mom" in the grocery store with screaming kids in the grocery cart because my errand running has overlapped their naptime.  And the kids always win.  So plan to run errands after naps on full tummies.
6. Don't Forget the Lovey, Paci, Blankey, Etc.
There is nothing worse than running errands with a pacifier-dependent kid and leaving the pacifier in the car.  Good time to get rid of that paci, you say?  Yeah, while running errands, out with three kids is no the ideal time to take that paci away for the first time.  I always carry an emergency paci in my diaper bag just in case we forget it or leave it at home on accident.  And I know some mommies buy multiple lovies for this same reason!  Keep those comforting items close by.
7. If possible, give kids a job or task
This is an especially good idea at the grocery store.  I found the above printable on Pinterest and thought it was the cutest idea!  And a great idea for getting the kids (especially the older ones) involved in looking for the items you need at the grocery store.  Also, I usually let Brantley be the one to put each item in the cart.  I grab them off the shelves, hand it to her (and sometimes have to alternate if Grayson wants t be involved) to place in the cart however she likes.  It gives them something to do other than misbehave!
8. Keep a potty seat in the car
Kind of gross, but totally lifesaving if you are potty training!  There is nothing worse than being halfway through your shopping trip and having to cut through the entire store at break neck speed to hit up the bathroom!  You still may have to do it anyway (like we do, all. the. time), but having a potty in the car makes it easier in between stops to go, or if you're on your way home, you can just pull over at a gas station or fast food restaurant to let your child use the potty instead of having to drag all three kids into a public restroom for your little one to tee-tee.  I keep one in the back of our Tahoe all the time, and it has saved us on countless occasions (also great if you're at the park!).
9. Don't Try on Clothes
TRUST ME on this one.  All bets are off when kids get into fitting rooms.  Happy babies start arching their backs and throwing screaming tantrums, 4 year olds unbuckle themselves from the stroller and crawl under the door when you're completely naked, and 2 year olds go through your purse and squeeze all your hand sanitizer all over themselves.  And that was just today in Target.  There is a reason I do most of my clothes shopping online now.  If you are clothes shopping, save yourself the grief and just buy everything, hang onto the receipt, try everything on at home after bedtime, and return what doesn't work!   A little inconvenient?  Perhaps.  But at least you're not running through Target, naked, chasing after your 4 year old. 
10. Don't be afraid to just LEAVE!
Sometimes you have just done everything right, and it's a full moon, or someone falls and skins their knee and loses it, or something.  They are small children, and small children are still learning how to behave, especially in public on mom's time.  Sometimes if things are going wrong, it's best to just cut your losses and go home.  No shame lost in that!  And when your husband gets home from work, you can just hand the kids over to him and grab the keys and go back out and finish your shopping alone (that is a fantasy of mine, ha!).  Sometimes it's just not worth it, and it's best to leave the cart and all, and just go.  Buckle the kids into their carseats, turn on Tangled, and call your mom.  Not that that has ever happened to me before... :)
I hope these ideas will help with more successful shopping trips with your kiddos!  You certainly can leave the house and run errands with your kids, but it just takes a little planning, loads of patience, and a chilled bottle of wine when you get home. :)  Hope these ideas helped!
I will have new posts all next week, but will be at the beach for our annual Luton Edisto Trip (all my posts are already written!)!  Make sure to follow me on Instagram @amanda_goatandlulu and the hashtag #LutonEdisto2013 for tons of beach photos!!
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