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How to Handle Costco Like A Boss, From a Mom of 4

Grocery shopping with children. Just the thought of it raises my blood pressure just a little bit. Grocery pickup has honestly been one of the greatest inventions for my mom life. I don’t think I have taken all of my children on a full grocery shopping trip in at least two years. The one exception is Costco. In my opinion, Costco is an experience and not so much of a burden. Both my kids and I enjoy our trips there. With free samples, lunch, the toy and book aisles, I easily can make a morning out of it. With that being said, it is still an undertaking to bring multiple children to Costco.

I recently headed to Costco with my four kids and realized that over the years, I have created a fairly foolproof routine when it comes to conquering the warehouse store with my (now four) children in tow.  I divide this routine into four areas: Before Entering, Inside the Store, Exiting the Store, and Unloading at Home.

BEFORE ENTERING

  • Set Expectations: Before you even unbuckle the children, communicate your expectations. I let my kids know which kids will be riding in the cart, who will be walking, whether or not we are getting lunch or a snack, and what will happen if they don’t listen or stay close to me in the store. I also remind them to ask before throwing something in the cart. This sets everyone up for success before you even leave the car.
  • Unbuckling and loading up the cart: Park near the cart return so you can easily bring a cart to your car to load up your kids. This eliminates potentially juggling a car seat and multiple walking children. I get my kids who will be riding in the cart settled in first (high fives for double seats!), then the walkers get out of the car, which means less potential for wandering children!
  • Review Expectations: As you walk into the store, review the expectations previously discussed in the car. Have the kids repeat back to you what they are expected to do or not do. 

INSIDE THE STORE

  • Potty Breaks: I have learned from previous experiences to just leave my full cart in an aisle and hope it’s still there when I return. Getting everyone to the bathroom is the priority!
  • Positive Reinforcement: Have some sort of positive reinforcement to look forward to at the end of the trip. For us, it is sometimes a trip down the book or toy aisle. Other times it is pizza for lunch afterwards. And sometimes we just get to it right out of the gate with a smoothie and/or churro as a distraction so mom can get the shopping done!
  • Talk: Thanks to free samples, my kids are usually pretty entertained and occupied during our Costco trips. Even then, sometimes they get a little restless. The best remedy I have found for this is conversation! Talk about what you see on the aisles, if they like it, if they would try it. I also often tell them what we are looking for next, so they can keep an eye out and see if they spot it first!
  • Checkout: Set expectations as you approach the checkout. If you have runners or wanderers, remind them that they need to stay by you. It’s easy to get distracted at this point! Again, talking is important here, too! Let the walkers help load things on the belt. Talk to your kids who are sitting in the cart. Ask for a box to put your groceries in.

EXITING THE STORE

  • Buckle up! The first thing I do is get all my kids loaded and buckled in the car. I leave the doors open for air flow, but for me, getting them all buckled in is key at this point. Then I am certain they are all safe and accounted for while I load the groceries. This is also the reason why I will drive around at the beginning looking for a spot right next to the cart return.
  • Snack: At this point, if we didn’t eat lunch or have a decent amount of samples, I’ll break into the fruit snacks or goldfish so the kids are occupied while I load the groceries.
  • Debrief: After an outing, I try to have a “debriefing” with the kids. If it went really well, I praise them! I tell them specifically what they did well and how proud I am of them. If things didn’t go so well, we talk about how to improve for next time.

UNLOADING AT HOME

  • Kids First: I try to get the kids situated first. If it was a morning trip and we ate lunch at Costco, I get the babies down for a nap and the big kids in quiet time, then I unload the groceries in peace. If lunch didn’t happen, I get a quick lunch together and let them have a picnic and watch a show. If it’s an afternoon trip, a picnic snack and a show is an easy go-to. Or, if you snagged a box at checkout, let the kids’ creativity run wild! We’ve had space ships, race cars, and even Costco itself made out of those boxes!
  • Groceries Second: Organization is my jam, so unloading my Costco haul and getting it all put away is often my favorite part of the experience. Don’t forget to find a spot for those snazzy new water bottles with built-in snack holders that you didn’t know you actually needed (don’t you always find those types of things at Costco?). 

With a little planning and preparation, you can handle a trip with multiple kids to Costco (or any grocery store) like a boss. Happy shopping!  

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