Have Hungry Kid, Will Shop

Nothing threatens a grocery budget (and a parent’s sanity more) than a hungry child in a grocery store. Sure, we all know it’s best to shop while you and your kiddo aren’t hungry. Heck, it’s best to shop without kiddos in tow at all. But what’s “best”, “ideal” and “easiest” isn’t always possible. So the next time you have to venture into the grocery store to grab a few things with a hungry kid in tow, don’t lose heart—or your budget! Here a few ways to stave off, “Oh, but I’m hungry…” just long enough to get you through the store and out, all without spending too much extra cash.

Skip the free cookie at the bakery. Instead, head over to the deli counter and purchase a slice or two of deli meat or cheese. You’ll be trading the empty calories of sugar and fat for added protein. Not to mention it has the added the benefit of not creating a sticky and crumbly mess. If free samples are available, all the better! Many produce departments are catching on as well. Do a quick run-through to look for any fresh, sliced fruit samples or consider asking a produce worker if it’s possible to get a sample of a new variety of apple, for example. It can be a win-win-win. Your child gets a healthful snack, you get to pacify their tummy for free, and the store gets to possibly make a sale on a (future) purchase.


If you’re not planning a long outing, try to pacify your child’s stomach with a beverage. Again, swing by the deli counter and request a cup for water or visit the in-store espresso bar and purchase a child-sized hot chocolate or chocolate milk made from skim milk.

Another quick and economical option is to reach for a piece of gum. Studies have shown that sugar free gum with xylitol can help decrease tooth decay. Provided your child is capable of not swallowing it, chewing gum is also a great way to teach children how to chew with their mouth closed.

If you’ve got crackers or dry cereal on your list anyway, consider grabbing those items first and purchasing them early so that you can break into them early for your child’s sake. Sure, it make take an extra few minutes, but you’ll buy yourself peace and quiet from the cart and you’ll spare yourself from possibly spending way more money on impulse purchases. (Just remember to save your receipt so you don’t end up paying for the item twice!)

When all else fails, distract your child in an effort to distract him or her from the hunger pains. Can they hold your grocery list? Can they count the items in the cart? You knew you forgot something! What was our favorite kind of cereal again? Getting your child busy and involved not only helps focus their thoughts and energy elsewhere, it’s a great way to authentically involve them in the process rather than just dragging them along. When a child feels useful and important, they’re far less likely to complain and dawdle. And THAT’S good—no, GREAT!—news for you, your child and your budget!

Photo credit: kittykattttt

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Author Info

This post was written by Shannon M. Medisky. Shannon is an educator turned parent turned writer and focuses on sharing new and innovative ways to not just survive, but thrive on empty. Visit ThrivingOnEmpty.com to learn more. Her newest book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Stretching Your Dollar is available in bookstores now.

5 Responses to “Have Hungry Kid, Will Shop”

  1. Amanda |  Jun 11, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    I like the idea of having your child act as a little helper for you such as crossing items off your list. I always feel SO bad for parents with little ones at the store, grabbing at every colorful box they can reach. I’m glad I can go in myself, though I might throw in a few extra boxes of cookies as well :)

  2. Marie Lewis |  Jun 20, 2012 at 10:26 am

    This is somehow really interesting. My kid is just 1 year old and most of the times me and my husband think of not dragging her into the shopping mall due to the naughtiness she comes up with. But now i think your idea would really be useful to implicate. I would somehow manage to convert her addition to something effective in the mall. Thanks a lot for the tips.

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