I am psychologically preparing myself for a bit of a strange one next week. For it will be the first time I will be away from both my children for a whole week. A whole week. It is half-term, and they are going to Granny and Grandad’s (well, actually not Granny, because she is Danish, and therefore she is known as Farmor – father’s mother – geddit?) while hub and I are staying in London. All parties are hugely looking forward to it. As for me, there is part of me that knows I am going to really really miss them, but also part of me that is elated and can’t wait to have a child-free week. We already have dinner booked one night, and cinema another, for example. But I know it will be strange without the Gruesome Twosome. One thing I will relish will be supermarket shopping on my own. No toddler to placate, no whining 6-year-old to buy tat for. Just little old me freewheelin’ down the aisles with a small trolley (sans child seat of course).
Going supermarket shopping with a little one in tow can be one of life’s more stressful experiences, shall we say. I remember when oldest child was a baby, all tucked up in his little MaxiCosi carseat, and off I merrily went to Sainsburys for the first time with him, thinking how hard can it be…? The answer is hard. Very hard. What. A. Palaver. You’ve got to park in the right bay, then find the right kind of trolley to perch the carseat on top of, having found one, you then have to hoist the bloody thing up there, invariably hurting your back …
So how did that day go? Well, once I’d finally got in the store and started shopping, he needed a nappy change half way round (of course) … which mean that I then started panicking about him getting hungry and screaming … by which time it was too late, so I just carried on shopping anyway, blindly throwing things in the trolley in a bid to get it done. Only for him to let rip and scream the place down as I tried to unload the trolley onto the conveyer belt, which the cashier kept moving along, making me even more stressed as I couldn’t keep up.
I was, of course, operating one-handed by this stage, having wrenched son out of the MaxiCosi and onto my hip in a bid to calm him down, and as we all know, pushing a trolley one-handed is nigh on impossible. By this time it was starting to feel like it was taking for ever, with no-one asking me if I need any help (‘Yes, if you could just ask security to escort me from the premises that would be lovely, thanks. No, I insist’), as I cursed while trying to placate puce-faced baby and locate my bank card, all while sweating profusely. ‘Why is it so goddamm hot in here? Oh, please stop crying! Nectar card? What? I don’t know. Yes. Somewhere. Nope, can’t find it,’ as I hurled shopping in to plastic bags in a blind panic (having long forgotten I had brought my own bags with me) and then hot-footed it to the café to breastfeed starving child and, for the first time, properly observe contents of shopping bags (‘Baked beans? I don’t even like baked beans… oh shit, I forgot to get bin liners. Well I’m not going back in there with him. I’d rather give birth again…’)
Fast-forward a few years and it’s easier, but it’s still hard at times. Weirdly, I’ve never fully embraced the online shop, although I do do it very occasionally. I have friends who swear by it, but I dunno, I find it all a bit clinical. I quite like going out, seeing what’s new, browsing the books and DVD department (if possible), the wine aisle … So, here are my five top tips for getting round a supermarket with a toddler. Learnt the hard way, from bitter experience. Sorry, I mean happy times shared together. And if you have twins, and you take them to the supermarket, you deserve a medal.
My top 5 tips for getting round a supermarket with a toddler
1. Write a list, and – this is going to sound really crazy, but please stick with me as it WORKS (and I only recommend things that work, remember) – once you’ve written it, rewrite it and organize it according to the different zones or sections in the supermarket. So you’ve got your fruit and veg section, your meats and chilled foods section, your yogurt, milk and cheese section, your store cupboard section, bakery items, toiletries, baby, drinks, baking goods… etc. It will help preserve your sanity, I promise.
2. Before you begin, set a timer – either mentally or on your phone – you’ve got ONE HOUR to get it done (including the checkout). My motto, ‘get in quick, get out quick, nobody gets hurt.’ Nothing focuses the mind like a deadline. And with your mega-organised list you will be like Supermum getting round that store, I promise you.
3. Always, always, always get your toddler in the trolley before you go into the supermarket. And do up the safety belt thing. Always.
4. Take snacks. Take more snacks than you think you could ever possibly need – rice cakes, squeezy fruit pouches, boxes of raisins, etc. If you run out, go to the cheese counter and get hold of as many sample cubes as possible. Beg if necessary.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are choosing to spend your money in their store (probably quite a lot of money), and supermarkets are all billing themselves as ‘family friendly’ these days, so get ‘em to practise what they preach. Say, ‘Please can someone help me pack the shopping?’ or if you’re in the queue, tell a member of staff ‘I’ve forgotten x, please can you get it for me?’. They always do for me! So speak up, get help, keep moving.
6. (I know this is number six.) Treat yourself to a nice coffee and a biscuit when you’ve finished. You’ve earned it!
Happy shopping, folks. And think of me skipping down the aisles in Sainsburys on my own next week … ooh, and they’ve got a lovely homeware section…