Shopping for groceries with kids in tow can be quite the challenge. Instead of dreading your next family trip to the supermarket, try these simple (and sometimes even fun) ways to fill your cart with the staples you need — even when your "little helpers" are along for the ride.

1. Plan Your Attack

Proper preparation can mean the difference between a successfully completed mission and a total meltdown in aisle three. Limit the amount of time spent in the store by making a list, and checking it twice. Group items by department for a speedier trip, and use an app like Grocery Gadget for even greater efficiency.

2. Pack Snacks

Whining and tantrums are often the result of hunger, so bring a healthy a high-protein snack such as nuts or whole-grain cereal. If you're seriously desperate, a cookie is always an option.

3. Discuss Expectations

Let your children know exactly what kind of behavior you expect, and what the consequences will be if they don't comply. Even toddlers understand more than you think.

4. Time Your Trip Strategically

Taking hungry children into the grocery store right before dinner is asking for trouble. Ditto for sleepy children at naptime, unless they'll nap in the cart. Try to shop early in the day, when all family members (including you) are well-rested and well-fed.

5. Assign Age-Appropriate Tasks

Think about it. The grocery store is boring for children if you expect them to simply sit in the shopping cart or walk quietly by your side. Encourage responsibility and give them something to do by requiring their help with the tasks at hand.

  • Send older kids to the next aisle to retrieve their favorite cereal.
  • Ask younger children to fill a bag with the six shiniest apples they can find.
  • Put one child in charge of crossing items off the list once they're in the cart.

6. Channel Your Inner Mary Poppins

She suggests that "In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun." Turn the grocery chore into an adventure by playing a family game of I Spy, or by taking advantage of the "print-rich environment" to play a few grocery store reading games with early readers.

Remember, "You find the fun and SNAP, the job's a game!"

7. Ignore Your Critics

Let's be realistic. There will inevitably be days where your kids whine and complain and get in the way of the other shoppers, and all you want to do is run away. And of course discipline, which is tough under the best of circumstances, is even tougher in public when all eyes are on you.

The trick? Ignore the bystanders rolling their eyes, and focus on your children. Employ the discipline techniques that work for you, not the ones you think the people watching expect. Eventually, your kids will learn how to behave appropriately in the store.

Or, better yet, reach the age where you can just leave them at home.