WRAL SmartShopper

WRAL SmartShopper

Thursday thoughts: The real cost of grocery shopping with the kids!

Posted July 7, 2011

If you ever grocery shop with your kids, you have to read this article about the real cost of bringing your children with you and how you can prevent overspending when the little ones are in tow.

My thanks to our guest contributor this week, Josh Elledge, of!

Once you finish the article, please share any other ideas you have for saving money while shopping with the kids.

Bringing Kids to the Grocery Store?

There is a known fact among grocery store retailers that shoppers who bring kids with them spend more. There are several reasons for this.

1. Yes... Shoppers who bring kids generally have more mouths to feed.
2. Kids have the uncanny effect of causing more time to be spent in the store. Time equals money in retailing. The Food Marketing Institute estimates that shoppers spend $2.17 for each minute they spend in the store.
3. Kids (especially younger ones) are impulsive. The grocery store is completely designed to create impulse purchases. Add to this the fact that kids are so heavily marketed to and you’ve got a perfect storm brewing.
4. Kids add stress to the primary shopper whose meticulous shopping plans may get harder to follow by the end of the excursion. As a result, mom or dad may just end up throwing products in the cart to get the trip finished sooner. This means higher profit items are added to the shopper’s purchases.

How much does it cost you to bring your kids with you to the grocery store? Estimates are hard to pin down because every shopper is different. However, for a shopper who was already shopping based on need and “what looks good,” a grocery bill can go up by as much as 50%!

So what is a mom or dad on a budget to do? I polled our members on our facebook page. They tend to be some of the most savvy shoppers around. Here are just a few things they shared (along with some advice of my own).

1. Make sure you are not shopping only on need and impulse. This is the most expensive way to shop. Instead, you should buy only the best sales matched with high value coupons. As you stock up on these items when you can get them for pennies on the dollar, you’ll find that you won’t need as much in the weeks ahead. You’ll focus on purchasing only the best deals along with perhaps some fresh dairy and produce. This shift starts to make shopping easier much each week as you go in with a plan and stick to it.

2. Shop at a time when your kids can stay at home with another parent and you can shop uninterrupted. Believe it or not, there are many moms and dads who go out after bedtime. While you may not be able to hit all your favorite stores, with no kids and lower crowds, you’ll likely be able to get your shopping done in record time. Feel free to own this shopping trip as “me” time - and enjoy some time off from parenting while you un-impulsively shop the aisles (coupons in hand). You’ll be doing better quality shopping for your family and you’ll more easily stay on budget.

3. If you shop during the day, exchange babysitting with another enlightened shopper. Find a friend who is as committed to SavingsAngel shopping and compare schedules. You might be able to exchange some coupons while you trade off kids. Ultimately, this should be both a time saver and a money-saver.

4. Involve your kids in the budget aspect of shopping. Sarah Boogerd posted on our facebook wall, “I show them how much cash I have, how long my list is, I let them help me with the calculator, and when they ask for something, I ask them things like, "Do you think we will have enough money for that? Should we skip getting milk this week so we can buy that? Etc." they now ask, "Do we have a coupon for that?" for just about everything we buy or do!!”

5. Involve your kids in the time aspect of shopping. You might be able to keep them entertained enough by giving them specific items to find from your shopping list - that they will not come up with their own suggestions for purchases as often. If they can help you complete the shopping trip (including putting groceries away) by a certain time, they can have enough time to play at the park, or receive their one selected treat.

6. Involve your kids in the nutrition aspect of shopping. Explain why it’s important to stick with what’s on your shopping list from a health standpoint. You’ll have the opportunity to explain why one product from your list may be healthier than another. Pull the two products together and look at the food labels. If you have a smartphone, pull up nutritional information on the products - which also explains the vitamins and particular nutrients of the food item. You can explain that if they want to get taller, run faster, have more energy, and think more clearly, that it’s important that they give their body the best stuff. The same goes for the rest of the family. The food choices we make in the grocery store have a huge impact on what we eat every day.

Here is some information about provided by the company:

Josh Elledge is the Chief Executive “Angel” of SavingsAngel, Inc. – launched from his Holland, Michigan home in January 2007. A husband and father of three, he now appears each week on television, many radio stations and newspapers, teaching families how to cut their grocery bill in half using the Internet. Elledge created the technology found on through the need to save his own family’s money. Successfully able to cut his own grocery bill from $600 a month to less than $300 a month, his message has reached hundreds of thousands of families. is now growing rapidly throughout the country. You can watch a short video at that will explain more information about how to cut your own grocery bill in half with the help of

The easiest way to cut your grocery bill in half is through using manufacturer coupons combined with the best sales at local stores. Normally, this takes a lot of work to create a winning shopping list for your family. Each week, combines over 2,000 products on sale at local grocery and drug stores with their enormous database of manufacturer coupons – which are found in Sunday newspapers and throughout the Internet. This combination results in access to over 300 products each week for 50% off or better.  (There is a fee to use this service)


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  • brassy Jul 9, 2011

    I only really stick to sales with meat and produce.

  • lilypony Jul 7, 2011

    If you don't usually have the option of leaving the kids behind, like me, take advantage of the Lowes Foods to Go. If you sign up for a month, you get unlimited shopping trips for under $20. Or just pay around $5 for them to shop for you. Order everything online, tell them when you'll be there, pull up to the intercom to tell them your name, and they'll come out and load your groceries for you.

    I don't give in to demands, so my kids know better than to ask, so it's not a cash-cost but rather a sanity-cost. And then two toddlers yanking hair and tormenting each other just adds to the stress. I come home a grumpy mommy, which then leads to a more expensive dinner (overpriced frozen meals or eating out).

    Lowes foods to go takes coupons and gives you your credit off next trip. So if you only do it once it won't work but if you make a habit out of it you get what you need easily. My grocery shopping now takes 15 minutes not 90!

  • thewayitis Jul 7, 2011

    I don't have a choice about taking my boys with me. They do add time to my trip, because they distract me, but they don't cause me to buy anything that I wouldn't have otherwise, except perhaps on a rare occasion. I think if you set an example from when your kids are young, of simply not buying extras that they request, they just get out of the habit of asking. My kids never ask to buy candy at the checkout, for example, because we have never done it. What I do let them choose sometimes is the flavor of a product I was going to buy anyhow. That way they feel like they are participating, too. My kids have learned to be price conscious, as well. They can often tell if something is too expensive for the price posted. Now that they are older, my boys are great baggers and loaders. Sometimes I actually miss them when I shop alone, because I have to carry everything myself!

  • kpeele Jul 7, 2011

    With 2 children under 2 I try to go shopping at night once my husband gets home and the kids are in bed. They don't ask for things very often (except balloons) but shopping with them does take longer and is more stressful because we have to time the trips between naps/meals, I'm constantly interacting with them, there isn't much room in the cart for groceries, people stop to talk to us (or my toddler initiates a conversation), etc.. I try to have a list and get all my coupons out and ready to go but sometimes when the kids are getting fussy I just have to grab what I can and get home.

  • Nancy Jul 7, 2011

    oops "but" should be "buy"

  • Nancy Jul 7, 2011

    thekeslings - that's so cute! To this day, my kids, now in their 20's will say "This is really good Mom, if you find it again, but it!" and that's the short version of "when you have a coupon and it's on sale..." LOL

    Life lessons they will never forget and will help them all their lives :)

  • kcampbell113 Jul 7, 2011

    I usually take my 7 year old and leave the 5 and 2 year old with daddy. This gives her some time alone with me and we are working with her to understand the concept of money. I usually pay cash so I give her my store card and the money. She is also very into finding and counting my coupons. At Harris Teeter I do let her hit all the sampling stands first to get this out of her system. She is a great help at getting the stuff on the lower shelves that is all the way in the back. I always shop with lists but like the other commenter let her pick when I can. I find if I shop with all 3 something always happens. If my husband goes with us to help he is bad about giving in to the kids pleas so he gets left home too.

  • momma2two Jul 7, 2011

    My children are 2 and 4 and it is a challenge to shop with them. I often go at night after they are in bed or on my way home from work before I pick them up. When I need to shop with them, I put my oldest in charge of the list. He can't read yet so I tell him a few items on the list to help me remember. He loves reminding me over and over again that we need milk for example. It keeps him focussed and I never forget the milk.

    Something I tried today was very helpful and fun. My oldest is very into pirates right now. So I made a picture list of items that we needed at the store. We went on an adventure in the store to find our "treasures". Other shoppers were looking for the same treasure so we had to be quick to find it first. We had a blast and were in and out in no time. My younger child had a copy of the list and thought it was funny how mom and brother were hurrying around the store.

  • thekeslings Jul 7, 2011

    Nancy, that's so awesome!! My little one has said to me can we get this sometime when you have a coupon? He also gets excited when I tell him what I'm buying... the one day I told him we were buying organic pears for .99/lb. He said, "Mommy, organic pears? Really? That's a really good price." :)

  • asphinctersayswhat Jul 7, 2011

    I can totally relate to this article. I shop with my 4 children who are 10, 8, 6 and 4 with coupons, meal plan and shopping list in hand. It is extremely difficult to concentrate on the task at hand while playing prison guard and referee and Mom at the same time ;-) I promise them one treat in the store that I've got a coupon for, whether it's PopTarts, Lucky Charms or an ice cream treat, it's usually worth the effort for them to get something that they wouldn't normally get since Mom "only buys healthy stuff". I probably still sound and look like a crazy person to other shoppers while keeping them in line, but the shopping gets done, regardless.