If, like many, you find the experience of supermarket shopping with a toddler to be slightly less pleasant than poking hot forks in your eyes whilst listening to One Direction on loop, then this is the guide you have been waiting for! Read on to learn how you can minimise the utter misery of the supermarket shop and help make the whole experience partially tolerable.
Step 1 – A warning
Abandon all hope. One of the key mistakes made by people embarking upon a supermarket shop with a toddler is hoping that the experience will be better than last time. It won’t. Accept it.
Step 2 – Arrive at the supermarket car park
On entering the supermarket car park, head towards the Parent and Child spaces. Drive past these spaces slowly, taking time to observe the burly men getting out of their white van to buy a sandwich (without a child), the pensioners hobbling from their car to the supermarket entrance to buy Battenburg (without a child), and the empty, child car seat-less BMW (without a child). While making a pointless mental note of all the unauthorised parkers, mutter obscenities to yourself. This will help to put you in the right frame of mind for your imminent supermarket shop with a toddler.
Step 3 – Proceed to the trolley park
Accept that you will inevitably choose the trolley with the wonky wheel which will be entirely un-steerable by the time you reach the milk aisle.
It is worth noting that a further common mistake made by many at this stage is inserting the toddler into the trolley seat immediately, without giving full consideration as to just how many dribbling, vomiting, pooing, spitting, rancid, crumb-scattering toddlers have sat in that seat previously. Never given it much thought before? You will now. Take out your anti-bacterial wipes and WIPE WIPE WIPE! Then, (and only then), insert the toddler.
Step 4 – Enter the supermarket
Remember: hope is your nemesis, particularly once you have entered the supermarket. Avoid all positive thoughts during this critical stage, and never underestimate the potential for things to go seriously wrong. Take note of the following:
- Ensure you have an adequate supply of snacks for bribery purposes. This is not the time to ‘prove a point’ about your amazing parenting skills. The satisfaction that you are shopping ‘bribe-free’ with a toddler will be of no comfort to you when you’re dragging your screaming child by their shoes down Aisle 17 because they’ve just realised that the little finger on their right hand is not detachable. Bribery can reduce the possibility of a toddler-led Defcon 1 meltdown by a huge margin. Use it.
- Avoid the magazine aisle entirely. No good will come of venturing down this aisle of tantrums-in-waiting. The lure of the fluorescent covers and attached ‘free’ gifts will be too much for any toddler to bear, and you will be required to make a choice. You can give in to your toddler and spend the next 2 days covered in Twirlywoo stickers, while adding yet more unwanted clutter to your living room floor in the form of a Waybuloo back-scratcher, or a Sarah and Duck miniature etch-a-sketch. Alternatively, you can refuse your toddler’s demands, and await the inevitable consequences. Rest assured that whatever decision you make, YOU CANNOT POSSIBLY WIN.
- Buy only pre-packaged fruit and vegetables. It may be slightly more expensive and less environmentally friendly, but for reasons unbeknownst to us adults, pulling a plastic bag off a roll and filling it with apples or potatoes is a pretty exciting thing to a toddler. They will want to participate. You will be convinced that this is a good way of distracting them, and that it will buy you some time to make considered purchasing choices. And yes, it will buy you this time. In fact, the toddler may want to carry their single onion in a bag all the way around the shop and you may find it quite cute. But it will not be cute when you arrive at the checkout and have to wrestle the onion off them, because in the last half hour, to the toddler, that onion has become so much more than an onion. It has become tantamount to a limb and they are not going to let you amputate it without a fight. I bet that extra 50p and extra waste for landfill doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?
- As touched on above, do not permit the toddler to carry any item you intend to purchase. They will drop it, eat it, crush it, open it, or, if it’s an item in a plastic bag with toddler finger-sized air holes, they will get their fingers stuck in it. This will distract you and increase the amount of time you have to spend in the waking nightmare that is the supermarket experience. And even worse than this, they will NEVER (EVER!) GIVE THE ITEM BACK. Pity the fools who put themselves in this situation.
Step 5 – The checkout and exit
Well done for reaching this point. You may feel you are now home and dry. However, you are yet to face the biggest challenge of any supermarket shop with a toddler. This is a trial like no other: The Coin-Operated Ride.
The toddler is pulled towards the coin-operated ride in the same way that a crack addict is pulled towards their next fix. What’s worse is that the toddler almost always detects the hideous mechanism before their accompanying adult. Once detection has occurred, you will have only the following two options:
- You can refuse the toddler access to the coin-operated ride. Note that this will almost certainly provoke a screaming tantrum of epic proportions and may give the impression that you are attempting to abduct your own child, as you run at speed towards the supermarket exit and launch yourself in a frazzled mess through the automatic doors.
- Alternatively you can succumb to the demands of the toddler and ‘allow’ them to go on the coin-operated ride numerous times because they refuse to come off and you’ve run out of bribes. As you sit slumped on the supermarket floor, watching your freshly bought frozen food starting to thaw and wondering if you will leave this godforsaken place alive, you will at least have the time to consider whether the whole nightmare is actually worth it, or whether, in fact, you should go ahead and register your family for online shopping after all.
Best of luck!