If You Send a Mom to the Grocery Store {A Story & A Tip For You}

Do not assume this nice, neat row of grocery carts mean your trip will be too--unless you have the right tools!

In honor of this busy holiday week and crazy crowds at the store, I’ve written a little story for you that will help you remember that it pays to be organized when you head to the store.

If you send a mom to the grocery store,
She will head to the car with the kids but forgets the handwritten list on the counter.
There are only about 17 things on the list…should be a quick trip.

She troops everyone back out of the car and when she gets to the counter she will see she has left her cell phone there charging.
When she sees her phone she will remember she needs to call someone.
She’ll talk to that someone then head back to the car.
Everyone is back in the car, buckled and ready to go to the grocery store.

When she’s finally on the road, she will have five stop signs and four traffic lights to go through. She will get stuck on red at half of the lights.
Takes almost twenty minutes to get to the store.

When she gets to the store, everyone hops out and they’re on their way.
Halfway to the door, they realize they’ve forgotten the reusable bags.
Everyone heads back to the car to get the bags.

Now they’re on their way! Then the fighting begins. Who gets to push the cart? Who will sit in the cart? Compromises are made and into the store they go.

First stop, choosing produce. Four things on list…lettuce, cucumbers, bananas and apples, should be quick.

Child #1 is touching the produce.
“Stop touching all the produce,” say Mom.
Child says he is helping to choose the produce.
Mom frantically grabs the pile of apples before child pulls the one at the bottom and they all come rolling down.

Whew! Crisis averted.
New rule: All hands in pockets or helping to put produce in bags.
Mom decides to take some extra time explaining how to choose produce and what to look for.
Good, a new lesson for today!

Rolling on. Sidetracked by sushi sample guy.
Sure, sushi sounds good, I’ll try some.
Grab California rolls to purchase for lunch. Yum! (and extra $$ not planned on)

Next is the cheese counter.
Wow! I didn’t know they had so many gourmet cheeses.
There are three to sample. Yep, I’ll try them.
Not to my liking and too expensive. We move on.

Mom decides to employ kids in shopping task. She divvies up the list, giving each child an even amount of items to hunt for. It’s almost like a treasure hunt she says.
Aisle by aisle they look for the items on their list together.
Success! Kids with a to-do task are focused on their job and cooperate better.
(But don’t forget to add in the extra time going from aisle to aisle because you’re not super sure what aisle everything can be found).

Almost done.
Next on the list: milk. Head to the opposite side of store to dairy area.
Along the way, Child #2 begs for packaged brownies.
“Please, please, please? My friend has them at her house and I’ve tried them. They are really good!”
Mom caves into the begging and adds brownies to the cart.
It will be quicker that way she thinks but also ka-ching for the extra dollars and ugh for the junk food makes her stomach turn.

Arrive in dairy section. Bummer! They are out of the brand of milk we like to buy.
Have to settle on different type but will only buy one gallon to save the money.
Makes note to check store later that week for more milk.

Head to medicine section to get eye drops for dry eyes.
Not sure what to get so need to compare prices and ingredients.
Purchase decision process adds extra five minutes.
Decision is made—on our way again!

The new grocery store has added a games and toy section.
They are having a big sale—by one, get one free!
Time to stock up on birthday presents for friends and cousins.
Everyone has their own opinion about what we should buy and tries to finagle their way into getting things for themselves.
Talk of allowance and birthday money they have saved up begins but Mom decides it’s not worth it and will come back another day.

NOW, we’re almost done!
On to the checkout lane. There are only two regular lanes open and the people already in line have, like, two carts full of groceries.
We have too many things for the express lane but only barely so we head to the self-check lanes.
We’ve got this system down!
One child is in charge of getting items out of cart. Another is the scanner and another is the bagger.
Mom pays, collects bags and we’re headed out the door. Another victory!
And we were done in less than an hour and a half!

Whew! Back in the car, everyone settles in and buckles up. Woohoo! (and Mom does silent victory dance to finally be out of there!)

Then it happens: mom remembers she forgot the bread for school lunch sandwiches because it was not written on her list.
Ugh! Everyone will have to buy their lunch at school tomorrow until she can stop at the store again.
(But that’s ok, right? Mom’s going back for the milk and birthday presents anyway!)

We love the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie book (and the other related spin offs) by author Laura Numeroff & illustrator Felicia Bond. So in the spirit of that book, I thought it only apropos that I chronicle a trip we made over the summer in similar style. Yep, while a few details have been changed to protect the innocent, the story is the same. And I bet you can relate (and if you can’t then don’t tell me!)

True, I normally have my customized grocery store list that I bring with me but occasionally I think that because I just have a few things I don’t need that list. Yeah right, add kids and my mommy brain forgetfulness and no doubt my quick trip becomes anything but.

Sample grocery store list--shop by aisle and save time and headache! Scroll down below for a link to the PDF version of this list to download and print yourself

Now, I know there are tons of apps out there for the smart phones to help with grocery shopping, I’m still searching for the one that will allow my family to mark what we run out of on the list AND combine it with what we really need for that week’s grocery store trip.

Plus (and don’t call me old!) but I kinda hate scrolling through the screen to find what I need and then checking it off. And then there’s that satisfaction of physically marking through the items on your list to know that you’re almost done!

I’ve got a sample list here for you download and get started: grocery list-sample-2011. Not everything may be in the same spot for your store but at least it’s something and generally it’s grouped by section. What I like about this list is that I have copies hanging on the spice rack of my pantry door (see the picture–it’s nothing fancy using a binder clip to “hold” it on) so that my family can add things easily to the list when we run out of something (well, it DOES happen sometimes!) I’ve thought about laminating the list so I can just use a dry erase marker each week and reuse the list but I haven’t tried it yet. And I especially like it because sometimes when I’m making my weekly shopping list I can scan the categories and remember to add something (say peanut butter) that maybe we used up the last of but got sidetracked before it could get marked on the list. I’m thinking I’m not the only one that gets sidetracked, right? With my standardized grocery list I usually only have to go to the store once a week. Occasionally I’ll go back mid-week for perishables or other items but always for a quick trip.

Be on the lookout for a giveaway where I’m offering to make YOU a customized list for your favorite grocery store!


  1. says

    I have been using InTheBagShoppingList.com… it’s not an app, it’s a website that also has a mobile version, so you can access it on any computer or from any smart phone. It makes going to the grocery store so much faster!!

  2. says

    You can use a glossy page protector to “laminate” any paper at all- works great with Expo markers.

    I have an app on my phone that I use to note things we’re out of while I’m thinking of them- but I do things backwards. I transfer things from the app to my handwritten list! But I often don’t plan my menu all the way until I’m actually at the store, so I need to be able to write down my meal plan and any extra ingredients. Plus- I’m like you. I like crossing things off!


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