You’ll do anything to put off grocery shopping, open up a can of apple pie filling…fruit. Stuffing mix, that’s a passable entree, right? You don’t want to go when you have my kids with you because…well, you know. You also don’t want to go when you are away from your kids because that’s when you get everything else done. Yeah, you could always order your groceries and have them delivered, but you’re the kind of shopper who likes to pick out her own produce.

Kid-Friendly Grocery Stores

I’ve faced the music, I have to take my kids most of the time. So, I do whatever I can to make it an interesting and engaging experience; we talk about different foods, unfamiliar food items and the variety of colors we see. I really appreciate the grocery stores that make their stores welcoming to children and families.

The Market District

11505 N Illinois St, Carmel

  • Kids can ride in a variety of shopping carts that look like cars
  • Little Shopper’s Treat Card program: $1 per child annually: allows children to pick up a treat while they are shopping. Choose a cookie from the bakery, a fresh piece of fruit or cheese from the deli
  • Classes and events for kids and families — we love the breakfast with Santa
  •  Family brunch in the restaurant

Trader Joe’s

2 Indy area locations

This was where we had one of our first tiny cart shopping experiences – so fun! Many Trader Joe’s stores hide a stuffed animal n a new spot every day. Kids who find where the monkey is hidden can receive a treat at checkout! Pick up a small bouquet of flowers while you are there!

  • Small shopping carts for kids to push around
  • A hidden animal for kids to find

5473 E 82nd St., Indianapolis
2902 W 86th St., Indianapolis

Earth Fare

3 Indy area locations

Let your tots tote some grocery items while shopping – bonus points if you go on a Thursday for their $6 take and bake pizzas (cheese and pepperoni only).

1392 S. Rangeline Rd., Carmel
13145 Levinson Ln. – Hamilton Town Center, Noblesville
2110 E. County Line Rd., Greenwood

Meijer

Many Indy area locations

  • Take a “reward ride” on Sandy, the famous penny pony ride
  • The Bakery often will give a free cookie to children
  • Ask for samples of the deli meats and cheeses

Fresh Thyme

Small grocery carts are typically located just inside the interior doors behind the cash registers. Insider tip: play “Spot the Tractor!” Fresh Thyme hides a small red tractor in the store and it’s up to the little ones to find it! If your child spots the tractor and tells the cashier as you check out they receive a free organic lollipop!

  • Small shopping cart for your kids to push around
  • Make your own peanut butter & almond butter
  • Large bulk item area, let your kids create trail mixes and fruit and nut mixes
  • Produce at a low level for kids to help select
  • Small red tractor hidden in the store with a reward for kids who find it
  • Free fruit area for kids to take one piece of fruit to eat

4225 E. 82nd St., Indianapolis
11481 E. 116th St., Carmel
2342 W. 86th St., Indianapolis
3400 E. 146th St., Carmel
8750 US-31, Greenwood

Whole Foods

Several Indy area locations

In addition to small shopping carts for tots, make sure to stop at customer service during your visit to pick up a Whole Foods Market Kid’s Club coupon good for complementary organic apple, 100% organic fruit leather, or natural animal crackers.

  • Kid friendly and family friendly recipes and menu planning resources
  • Food and cooking classes for kids, some are free

1300 E. 86th St., Indianapolis
14598 Clay Terrace Blvd., Carmel

We shared our favorite places to shop with kids in the Indy Star in October 2015. Stacey Quasebarth contributed to this article.

Fun Places to Shop with Your Kids

Home Depot Stores

Home Depot has the coolest kid carts! The typical “car” carts at places at Kroger and even Fresh Thyme are always a mile long and hard to maneuver – but this one is perfect! The “car” is built into the front of the cart adding nearly no extra length and kiddos cannot escape out the side – bonus! Plus, on some carts there’s a seat area up top that holds multiple kids and is way more comfortable for older/bigger kiddos.

ACE Hardware Stores (select stores)

Can you say free popcorn? Sometimes in the Summer they have free hotdogs! If I am going to wrestle the kids out of the car and across the parking lot for a hose or piece to our faucet it makes it a take better to know there is something yummy involved.

Sullivan Hardware Store

Not only does Sullivan Hardware have one of the coolest Christmas train rides, the Sullivan Express, but they have other fun events throughout the year. It’s a great place to host a party and they have free popcorn for guests.

There are events or things for kids to do at Nordstrom, Microsoft, Verizon, Michael’s, Lakeshore and Apple stores.

Grocery Shopping Tips from a Nutritionist

I’ve found that I seem to buy a lot of the same things over and over at the grocery store. Almost every shopping trip renders the same food; ground beef, chicken, fresh fruit, fresh veggies, milk, eggs, butter, deli meat and cheese. Then I throw in a few boxed items, frozen items and packaged snacks. The type of fruit I buy might be different, the veggies might vary depending on the season, but otherwise I’m buying, making and eating the same stuff.

I went on a grocery store tour with Martha Rardin, Director of Nutrition and Dietetics at Hendricks Regional Health. Her wisdom taught me more about the food I’m eating and the food I should be eating. If you live in Hendricks County, you can contact Martha and schedule a grocery store tour of your own, free of charge.

I’m buying a lot of the right things but to be completely transparent here, I end up with a lot of waste. I’m not really great at planning out meals in advance and I pay for my good intentions with wasted food and wasted money. A lot of my friends are really into eating organic produce, other friends just want it to be local, others (like me) purchase what is on sale and in season. Organic, local or not, just do whatever it takes to eat the recommended serving of fruits and vegetables. Your budget can be the biggest negotiator for what types of fruit and veggies you eat: fresh, frozen, canned, organic, local.

Fats and oils aren’t bad for you, they are necessary for a well balanced diet. Learn what oils you prefer, which ones are better for your body and how different oils work best with different types of meal preparation. I know that we overuse the olive oil in our family, I need to work on that or find other areas to cut oil usage to be more balanced.

Sometimes we make of decisions based on looks and color. Look at the content of the label more than the style of the label. This goes for all areas of food. There’s nothing wrong with eating packaged or prepared food, just be sure you balance your meals out and everything in moderation. Here are some other great money saving tips from Cherie, the Queen of Free.

I’ll be making a menu plan from here on out and matching it up to my real life schedule that includes outings, meetings, school lunches and more. This will help me maximize my shopping budget and not have waste when it happens to be a week that we’ll be out of town, or eating meals in restaurants.