Winter Grocery Shopping With Toddlers Is The Tenth Circle Of Hell

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children in grocery cartGrocery shopping with toddlers isn’t that much fun to begin with, but throw some -10ºF temperatures into the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for hell on earth. Frigid, snowy weather on grocery day is almost enough to convince me we’ll somehow manage to survive a a few cans of button mushrooms and a jar of olives until the next week.

Besides trying to corral tiny people who have mastered the art of ‘walking’ but not so much the art of ‘walking without careening into every other person/cart/carefully laid out pyramid of soup cans in the store’, the main problem with winter grocery shopping with small children is that it present a series of obnoxious choices. For example:

Safe baby or warm baby? A puffy winter coat on a kid strapped into a car seat can be dangerous if you get into an accident, but below-zero temperatures plus small children aren’t exactly a dream come true either. If you forgo coats, or try to cram your kids into winter gear only after you’ve taken them out of the car seats, watch out for helpful parking lot strangers who take the time to inform you that your offspring ‘looks cold’. Thanks to you, kind stranger, they will now be cold for five extra seconds while I listen to and acknowledge this shining gem of wisdom.

Cart or CPS? If you have more than one preschooler that you don’t trust to be afoot during your grocery trip, you’re going to have a problem. The standard grocery carts aren’t really built for two, and the special two-kid ones aren’t commonly spotted in the parking lot grocery cart corrals. Do you unsafely smash both kids into a single-child seat and run for it, or do you try to make a quick dash for the double-kid cart and be back before someone calls the police to tell them about the unattended children in your car?

My solution has been to grab the nearest standard cart, put the smaller toddler in the child seat first, then put her taller and somewhat hammier brother halfway top of her. Once he’s buckled in, she’s not going anywhere, even when the cart hits the Grand Canyon-sized potholes that every parking lot develops by mid-January or so.

What do you really need from the grocery store? It would be faster for me to list the things toddlers don’t like to grab at than to list things they do. The reason that this is faster is because that list has exactly zero entries. Can you manage a grocery trip without going down any aisles with glass jars or bottles? To me, going to the grocery store with the kids usually means skipping a trip to the beer section, and as a Wisconsin resident, you can imagine how difficult this is. Especially considering how much I’m going to need a beer by the time I get home.

If you find yourself stuck with toddlers, an empty pantry, and sub-Arctic temperatures, I wish you all the best luck. (You’ll need it.) And remember, spring is only a few weeks away–so either you only have a few more hellish grocery trips in store, or you can try to hold out till then with that half-bag of potato chips, elbow macaroni, and box of Cheez-Its in your cupboard.

(Image: Joanne Green / Getty)