A sentence that evokes a deep sense of dread in to the pit of every parents stomach.
If you're like me you may have taken the chicken shit way out and took up online grocery shopping. There's some things even the ballsiest of parents can't face. There will come a time however when you need that "top up shop," or your online supermarket has inconveniently failed to deliver a specific item, or provided a crappy substitute (Yes Tesco I'm talking to you). When that time comes you need to have a plan in place. A mental instruction manual if you will.
With my four years experience of grocery shopping hell, I've come up with a few strategies and rules that I follow religiously in order to save my sanity.
1) Forget the Supernanny shiz. That kind of perfectionism belongs to the organised Pinterest mums who can make personal visual shopping lists for each of their little cherubs. The fact that you've clicked on to this post immediately tells me you're as hopeless as I am and no amount of Jo Frost is going to do the trick. By all means, try it if you like, but try it with the knowledge that there is a 90% chance the technique will fail miserably and you will leave the supermarket with tears in your eyes, or in a straight jacket.
Now we've erased any delusions of a perfect parenting/shopping combination, we can get down to the nitty gritty.
2) Keep your cool if you forgot snacks (of course you forgot the snacks). There's no need to worry. There's an entire shop full to choose from. Let your child take their pick and then hand the empty wrapper in to the cashier when you pay. Hell, grab one for yourself too! (I'm partial to the odd Jaffa Cake to get me through the aisles). You may get a few 'how trashy!' looks, but like we care if it's a toss up between a 'look' and a tantrum.
3) Practice the 'park and dump' technique. This is where you find a place to leave your overflowing trolley to make unnecessary, multiple toilet stops with your child. No matter where you leave the trolley it's going to piss someone off, so don't waste your time frantically looking around for the perfect dumping place. You'll never find one. The art of park and dump is one that needs to be perfected so no one sees you dump it and no one sees you retrieve it. You remain a mystery at all times.
4) Sharpen up on those distraction techniques. You'll need this when you pass an aisle that's likely to make your child whinge and whine for something on the shelves. In my case it's the toy aisle. I'm not sure WHY supermarkets feel the need to sell toys but alas it's something we must accept. (Although I must admit it's pretty handy when you're on your way to your child's friends birthday party and realise you haven't bought them a present.)
You can use pretty much anything as a distraction,
"oh look!! A zombie!"
Spin the trolley round a few times so everything they see for the next five seconds is a blur
"Let's see who can close their eyes for the longest!"
More or less anything will do so long as the focus is shifted from ones chosen aisle.
It may be worth visiting a supermarket your child isn't familiar with for this technique to work. If it's one they know they'll be on to you immediately and you're pretty much screwed as soon as you walk in the shop.
5) Buy alcohol. It's an incentive to get to the end of this nightmare.
6) Of all the guidelines THIS is the most important. If you choose to take note of only one of the points I have raised, choose THIS ONE.
NEVER, I repeat NEVER use the self service checkout when accompanied by children.
In fact, there should be a sign strictly prohibiting this.
Let me put forward this little scenario to emphasise my point.
First of all, there will be an item that according to your child you simply "must put through first!" (Cakes, sweets chocolate - to name a few examples).
As you scan the item your child will snatch it from you immediately, only for you to be greeted with
"PLEASE PLACE THE ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA."
The lights will flash red and a stroppy cashier will march over as you waffle on about how your child has taken the item before you had chance to place it in the designated area. They'll sigh, you'll blush and you'll pick up the next item. As you scan it your child will decide they no longer want to hold the previous item and will now decide to place it in the bagging area after all.
"UNIDENTIFIED ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA
PLEASE WAIT FOR ASSISTANCE"
There will be another unpleasant interaction with the cashier.
Said cashier is probably wondering why incapable parents bring their children grocery shopping, before she huffs away for the second time.
You then reach for the next item. It's your empty Jaffa cake box. Knowing the weight isn't going to be accurate you scrunch up your face and close your eyes as you scan it through and place it in the bagging area
"UNIDENTIFIED ITEM IN THE BAGGING AREA....."
And so it continues....
Play it safe and go to a real checkout with a real human being. It may be embarrassing when you hand over those empty wrappers, but it beats the aforementioned hell by a longshot!
There's always another option of course, and you won't be thought any less of for taking it. In fact you'll be envied. You can decide that there is no way in hell any grocery item is worth the tirade that is food shopping with a child. So what if you have to skip a few meals this week due to insufficient ingredients? The kids can survive on just beans! Hell, it's practically all they eat anyway!
Sometimes option "F*** it" is the only strategy you need.