My post on tips for running errands with kids was so popular, I wanted to follow it up with a “day in the life.” Here is how it really looks grocery shopping with 4 kids.
It’s usually something urgent that prompts me to take all the kids grocery shopping. Like being out of Diet Coke or diapers. Yes. That’s pretty much it, really.
Spend 30 minutes putting on socks, shoes, and packing bags
My oldest two (4 and 3) can get dressed alone, but I try to pick out their clothes if we’re going out in public. However, on this day I let my daughter dress herself and left my 9-month-old in a fleece onesie. Yes, I know those are technically pajamas, but see if I care. I’m about to take 4 kids to the grocery store, so things like clothes are no longer a worry.
I have to pack food for the baby or plan on buying him something easy to eat there. This is the hardest thing for me because the baby is pretty much always eating if he’s awake. I don’t want a hungry baby 5 minutes into a shopping trip.
Spend another 20 minutes buckling the kids in the van
The kids get so excited to open the doors to the van. They run in, climb all over the place, and generally do not want to get strapped in. The oldest two can buckle their top chest buckles, but I must physically strap in all four children. That is, after I’ve convinced them to go to their seats in the first place. Usually, there is at least one light on somewhere and the change I keep for car washes is stolen so they can count it on the way to town.
Drive 15 minutes to the nearest big grocery store
By now, I’m nearly an hour at increased heart rate. And I haven’t set foot in a store. Once we arrive, I unbuckle each child and ask them to stand by the van with their hands on the tire. They only sometimes put their hands on the actual tire, but are good about staying close and waiting. This is a nerve-wracking part for me, and I look like I’m driving a clown car to passersby. This is my life.
We try to find an appropriate buggy
Everyone cannot walk beside me or we’ll all have meltdowns. Everyone cannot ride in a buggy or no food will fit in it. On this day, we were blessed to find a buggy that holds 3. Of course, this meant one was disappointed and attempted to meltdown right at the front of the store. But, since my 4-year-old can walk on her own and is rather helpful, I gave her another job.
We try to use the list
My daughter can’t read yet, but I put her in charge of the list. She mostly doodled but did learn to cross things off. She enjoyed this job for the first 30 minutes. I start in the back of the store with the cold items first.
No reason except I like to end at the front by the register because at this point we are all On The Verge. By the milk, in melodramatic fashion, they all started crying, “It’s cold back here, it’s soooo colddddd, mommmyyyy!” I agreed. One can dress for 100 degrees in the summer and need a parka in the cheese section.
We made our way around the store
As we made our way around the store I noticed something very nice. Nearly everyone stared at us… and smiled. I got some “whew, your hands are full” and “you must be busy” along with a whole lot of “you are so blessed” and “what a beautiful family.”
Halfway through my daughter just could not walk any longer. Her legs were soooo sore. So she took my son’s seat and he began to walk beside me. By walk I mean drag himself in protest. He was not very vocal about it, so I just ignored this. There are many things I ignore on outings with the kids, and this works in my favor. After all, our kids don’t always need us to make them feel better.
While I was distracted my 2-year-old ate a few strawberries, and put the tops back in the punnet. He also tried to crush everything I put in the cart and kept elbowing his siblings. He laughed, they yelled, and we carried on.
We checked out
When the store isn’t full, I will let my oldest two go to the arcade area directly across from the checkout counters. I don’t give them any money, but they climb into the cars or buses and pretend to ride. If the store is full I don’t allow this for safety reasons, but of a weekday morning it’s fine.
As I was loading groceries, my 2-year-old – who has the wingspan of an albatross – grabbed the Children’s Miracle Network donation can and tried to dump the money out. I stopped him. So he redirected his efforts and pressed every single button on the credit card swipe thing. The 19-year-old clerk did not think he was as cute as I do.
Back to the car
I let the bigger kids climb into the van in their seats. I park the buggy by the trunk, unload all the groceries, then put the babies in the car. This day, bless her, a woman offered to return my cart for me so I didn’t have to leave the kids. See… people DO like when you have your hands full.
Home, unload, pass out
By this time, it’s nearing lunch. I bought tortilla pinwheels and some fruit so all I had to do was plate up lunch. If I don’t bring home an easy lunch we all suffer upon arriving. I fix their plates quickly, get something for the baby to snack on, then put away the cold and frozen groceries. We eat ravenously. They, because they’re hungry. Me, because I want to put them all down to nap at the same time in ten minutes.
I take the kids, one at a time, to their rooms for naptime. I don’t have the time nor inclination to read them individual stories since we’re running late, so it’s time to use the potty/diaper change, turn on white noise, and into bed we go.
I tell them they need to go to sleep because I need a minute.
I lay down and think… “Why on earth did I leave the house with them all again?” Then I remember… I’d rather spend 20 minutes preparing, 30 minutes roundtrip in the van, and 25 minutes in the store with 4 kids 4 years old and under than not have Diet coke for 24 hours.
I think I have a problem….
I try to fit my errands into our routine as much as possible. I’ve written on routine quite a bit (click on routine at the top menu), but if you need a lot of inspiration, here’s a book we wrote with over 25+ routines ages newborn to 5!