If you’re a mother of small children like I am, chances are you find it more challenging to coupon—or just to shop, in general—when the kids are with you. I know how other shoppers feel when my toddler has a meltdown in the checkout line, because it’s how I used to feel before I had kids: "Why in the world did she bring him shopping?"

But for busy families like ours, there's no way that a couponing mom will be able to shop by herself most of the time. I had to figure out how I could shop with coupons and manage two squirming children, as well. Through trial and error, I've found some strategies that make it much more likely that I'll have a successful coupon shopping trip:

1. Shop at a store you know well

This helps me get in, get my stuff quickly, and get out.

2. Create a prioritized grocery list

This means organizing my shopping list so that I focus on getting my "must-haves" first and my non-essentials second. I can purchase milk or diapers and know that if my kids hit meltdown mode I can still abort the rest of the mission. I can always make a late night run for the rest of my list.

3. Utilize an envelope

Before leaving my house, I pull out the coupons I'm going to use and put them in an envelope. This step eliminates the time I'd take in the store going through my coupon binder to find all the coupons I need. It doesn't seem like that would take much time, but when dealing with toddlers, even seconds can make a difference.

4. Leave your purse

Keep it at home or out of sight in your locked vehicle. Why, you ask? It is one less thing to juggle. Bring your cell phone and wallet and carry them in your pockets or in the diaper bag. Believe me, having one less thing to keep track of makes a huge difference!

5. Bring your diaper bag

Depending on the time of day and the mood of my kids, I stock my diaper bag to keep them occupied and happy. Want to peek in my diaper bag? Here's what I have right now:

  • Where Is Baby's Belly Button? by Karen Katz. Karen Katz's books are very entertaining for little ones as they have flaps your child can open and close.
  • A small rocket ship that lights up. My daughter and son both love toys that light up, so when I saw this in the stocking stuffer section of Target, I knew it was something I just had to buy. I shy away from bringing toys to the store that make a lot of noise as my children are already enough animation for one shopping aisle. Check out the dollar store and dollar and seasonal section of Target for small, cheap toys.
  • When my children were younger, I utilized baby toy rings and attached them to the safety belt. This ensured that my child would have ready access to the toy and prevented me from having to pick it up a million times!
  • Wikki Stix are little waxy pipecleaners that can provide hours of fun. They can be shaped into objects, letters, etc. and are perfect for independent play for kids three years and older.
  • Fruit puree pouches. I use coupons to get the best deal but usually buy GoGo squeeZ or Mott’s. These are found near the canned fruit and are much cheaper than the pouches you'll find in the baby food aisle.
  • A small Ziploc bag of Goldfish, Scooby Snacks, or Teddy Grahams. If the snacks are in a Ziploc bag, it will be clear to the cashier that you did not preemptively open some of their items before paying.
  • Grocery shopping bingo sheets. Create bingo sheets based on items that are always on your grocery list; laminate them, and have your child mark the items they find using a crayon.

This is a guest post by Elyse from Denver, CO
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5 Tips for Successful Grocery Shopping with Kids