Pandemic Grocery Shopping with Children, in 26 Easy Steps


I have always avoided taking my children to the grocery store if at all possible. Going shopping by myself gives me some ‘alone’ time and my shopping is done faster and more efficiently. In addition, I tend to leave with fewer items and, therefore, spend less money. 

pile of produce

It is impossible, however, for me to avoid bringing them all of the time, and, as wonderful as it is to have the ability to order your groceries online to pick up or have them delivered, I actually like picking out my own produce. I also don’t like paying the extra fees that these services require. Basically, I am cheap, but I just don’t care. Saving even a quarter here or a quarter there is satisfying for me, and those $5.00-$10.00 fees companies charge for someone to shop for me add up.

Covid has not made me feel differently about this, so I have taken it upon myself to go pandemic grocery shopping.

Generally, I have been really good about not bringing my kids into grocery stores since March 17th when the world shut down due to Covid.

My husband was working from home for a long time which helped my ability to get in and out of the grocery store by myself on any occasion he felt he could supervise them before, during, or after work. For most of the summer, my kids had camps that also kept them busy. 

Earlier this week was the first time I actually had no choice but to take both of my children, ages 8 and 5, pandemic grocery shopping. Obviously, I lived to tell the tale, so I figured why not share my procedure?

Here are my 26 ‘easy’ steps for taking your kids grocery shopping during a pandemic.

Step 1: Tell your children you need to go grocery shopping. Wait for them to groan. This should only take about 0.3 seconds. Tell them “Ok, we won’t go then. You’ll just have to go without your favorite yogurt until next week. And we are all out of cheese sticks.” Watch children change their tune really quickly.

Step 2: Tell them to go to the bathroom and then find their masks. (You should split this into two different steps if you have children under the age of 4). Theoretically, sending them to the bathroom at this point should help prevent you from needing to use public restrooms. 

Step 3: After they come out of the bathroom, ask if they flushed, and used soap to wash their hands. Send one of them back into the bathroom when you find they haven’t. 

Step 4: Ask your children to put their shoes on whilst realizing that one or both are missing masks. Ask where their masks are.

Step 5: Once your child or children confirm(s) that they have no idea where any of their masks are despite the fact that you have multiple for each child and made a designated place for masks, take everyone’s shoes back off and go on a mask hunt.

Step 6: Find said mask(s) in an obscure place, hurry past your very confused dog, and go back to put everyone’s shoes back on. Leave the dog a treat on your way out as you herd children to the car.

Step 7: Drive to the store. Remind your kids no fewer than sixteen times about all of the rules in the grocery store, especially during a pandemic. This includes, but is not limited to: keeping your masks on, not touching the cart, letting Mom sanitize the cart, not taking things off shelves, following the one-way aisle signs, and watching where you are going so that you can maintain an appropriate distance between you and other people.

Step 8: Find a parking spot. Have the kids exit the car while reminding them to put on their masks (which thankfully are around their necks on breakaway mask savers so they were not left in the car). Walk twenty steps.

Step 9: Remember that you live in Vermont and you have to pay for paper bags and plastic bags are banned so you need to get your reusable grocery bags out of your car.

Step 10: Go back to the car, get the reusable grocery bags out of the trunk, and make your children carry them. Break up an argument about which bag each kid gets to carry because, well, apparently what color bag each child is holding matters.

Step 11: Go in and find a grocery cart. Sanitize the cart while reminding your children that no, they cannot drive the cart, when they ask. 

Step 12: Field all kinds of questions about if you can buy different products as you follow the one-way aisle signs.

Step 13: Tell kids (with barely contained rage) to stop playing games where they pretend certain color tiles on the floor are lava, as they are not watching where they are going and need to not run into other people, especially when we are supposed to be physically distancing.

Step 14: Realize you forgot something in aisle 4, and head back only to find that you are at the one-way exit to that aisle. 

Step 15: Go down the aisle next to it so you will not violate the one-way aisle rule and finally turn into your targeted aisle on the correct side.

Step 16: Tell your kids to go single file down that aisle right between two people with carts who are looking at items directly across from each other in the aisle. 

Step 17: Remind the children again that skipping, hopping, and playing the floor lava game are actually illegal. 

Step 18: Resist buying any wine as you go past that aisle because a) you have sworn off drinking after gaining weight during the first part of the pandemic. (This is the hard part, but I promise, it can be done) and b) the price of everything has gone up and you’re trying to stay on budget.

Step 19: Go stand in the checkout line and explain the purpose of all the spacing dots on the floor to the kids. Explain extra loudly for the benefit of the person who seems to not understand the definition of six feet, and who is breathing on your neck. 

social distancing floor reminder

Step 20: Check out. If you’re in self-checkout, deal with arguments about which child is scanning the next item. If you’re in a traditional checkout lane, remind your kids to stop grabbing onto the sides of the lane and putting their fingers next to the conveyor belt. Wish you hadn’t left the hand sanitizer in the car.

Step 21: Leave the store with too many items bagged in your reusable grocery bags so you could save the $0.60 to $1.00 on paper bags. Your bags weight one million pounds each. 

Step 22: Make your way back to the car, stop next to it and tell the kids not to move. Open the car, remove your hand sanitizer, give your children each some to apply on their hands before they open their car doors.

Step 23: Sanitize your own hands. Then, wipe some sanitizer on your door handle because you ran out of disinfecting wipes long ago and can’t seem to find any in the store to replenish your supply.

Step 24: Load the groceries into the car. Return the cart. Re-sanitize your hands, get in your car, and drive home.

Step 25: At home, remind the kids to wash their hands, let the dog out, and have them go shower and change because you’re not quite sure what germs they have on them, or what the chances are of getting Covid if it happens to be on your clothes. 

Last, but not least, here’s a bonus step:

Step 26: Make sure you shower after the groceries are wiped down and put away. Besides having possible Covid germs, you’ve earned 15 minutes of ‘alone time’ in the shower.

Pandemic grocery shopping with kids isn’t enjoyable, but it is doable. Happy shopping, fellow parents, and godspeed!

Pandemic Grocery Shopping with Children, in 26 Easy Steps


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