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I love going to the grocery by myself. It is faster, less expensive and gives me a little time to myself, but sometimes there is no way around taking one or all of my three children. Here are some strategies I use to make the trip smoother for all of us.

I have two 10-year-old girls and a 4-year-old girl and they are amazing children but, let’s face it, the grocery store can be a bit dull. And parents have the opportunity to say “no” a whole lot. Add in other families, people who have clearly never had the pleasure of taking a child in public and employees who might not be having their best day and it is a recipe for meltdowns.

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Divide and conquer. I let the bigger ones help by dividing up the list so that everyone is in the same section but is grabbing different things. For example, “I get the milk while you choose 10 yogurt cups and sister can pick out a carton of eggs with no broken eggs.” My older girls like the responsibility and the smaller one is excellent at dictating which flavors of yogurt she thinks everyone will enjoy.

I often shop with my mother-in-law since we live in the same area and frequent the same store. We have been family for so long that we know what is usually on the menu at both homes. She takes one of the big girls and starts on one end of the store while I start on the other, leaving us half a store to tackle. This might not work for every family but if Dad or an older teen child is available, a variation of that idea might work.

Gainful employment. I like to create important jobs for everyone because keeping my mini-mes busy keeps arguments down. We coupon — not extreme coupon, but a light version — so I can have one child with the physical coupons and another checking our Ibotta app. This helps me to get the best deal and the kids are super proud to hand that wad of coupons to the cashier. I love our Ibotta app; it allows us to double up on in-store and online savings, but much like texting and driving, there is a danger factor to pushing and scrolling, so having one person in charge of matching pictures to products is safer for other shoppers. This is easy enough for my four-year-old from to do from the cart with about 80 percent accuracy.

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Photo Credit: Meijer Madness

If I only have the big girls, I will use the jobs of cart pusher and runner — someone to keep the cart moving along and someone else to get things from the shelf. The runner really needs to be old enough to read and responsible enough to come back with only what they were supposed to get. The cart pusher should be aware of other traffic and strong enough to turn a full cart.

Distraction. My four year old is a pistol and really should ride in the cart for the safety of everyone in the store, so I enlist the help of her sisters to keep her happy. On days when she demands to walk, one (or sometimes both) of her sisters hold her hand or keep her from bolting to the produce for in-store snacks. If I only have the little one, I sometimes use a snack to keep her hands busy like fruit that is paid for by the piece or a baggie of Goldfish or Cheerios from home. I am also guilty of letting her use my phone to call home, grandma or my siblings. She always has plenty to say and most of the time her family loves surprise calls. I’d also advise going to the store on a day there are samples. This serves as a great (free) distraction and, every now and then, a product might actually get kid approved.