How to Survive Grocery Shopping (With ADHD)

The thing that brings me the most dread in my life is the responsibility of keeping my home stocked with food and having meals ready for my family of 5. This has to happen 3 times a day, 365 days a year.

Let me stop right here: If you are a man with ADHD who has a wife that takes care of the shopping and the cooking for you and your family, you need to get down on your knees and thank the Lord for the fact that you are free from this burden. I could really use a wife.

Struggling to focus while shopping with Adult ADHD.Were you taught meal planning? I wasn’t. Were you taught how to look around your fridge and your pantry and make a grocery list? I wasn’t. Or maybe I was and I just wasn’t paying attention.

In any case, it’s been a struggle to focus while shopping since the day I moved out of my parents’ house. I have gone through seasons of buying WAY too much, way too little, forgetting important things and almost always making multiple trips to the store each week. And now that my kids are old enough to remind me of my shortcomings (“MOOOOOOM you forgot to buy _________”), it’s even worse.

In the last year, I’ve created a system for myself that has really saved my sanity. Ready for it? I don’t go to the grocery store.

Listen, it’s not 1990 anymore. There is no reason for you to have to go to the grocery store unless you live in a super remote area (in which case, move. It’ll be worth it since you won’t have to go to the store).

I’m in Pennsylvania and 3 of our local grocery stores allow for online ordering and store pickup. This means that I order my groceries once a week, pay online, set a pickup time that works for me, drive up to the store and they literally put the bags of groceries into my car and then I drive away. You guys, this is a total game-changer.

Here are the top 5 things I love about ordering my groceries online:

  1. Less thought involved. Ok I’ll be honest, the first 2 or 3 times I ordered online it was a pain. I had to search for the items I wanted and the website was not easy to navigate. BUT now all of my key items are saved in a master “weekly groceries” list. So when I go to order, I have all of my regular items saved and can easily scan the things that I regularly buy (“do I need this?”) and add it to my cart. Far less thinking and fewer decisions to make.
  2. Fewer things forgotten. Instead of looking through my pantry/fridge and writing it on a list and then having to remember to take the list to the store with me, I’m looking through my pantry/fridge and literally adding needed items to my cart. This REALLY cuts down on the margin for error as far as forgetting things that I need.
  3. Major time-saver! Because I’m me, I often time myself ordering groceries to see how fast I can do it. 11 minutes is my time to beat. That’s right folks, I can order a full week’s worth of groceries (usually on my couch in my pajamas) in freaking 11 minutes.
  4. No temper tantrums. If you’re a parent, your child has thrown a tantrum in a grocery store. Your kids have begged you for every sugary item in every single isle. Your precious angels have talked incessantly about Pokémon or Mine Craft while you’ve been trying to decide on which bowtie pasta to buy. JUST SHUT UP AND LET ME SHOP. I love my kids. So much. They’re adorable. But as an adult with ADHD, grocery shopping with children is torture. Now my kids can climb in the car with no shoes on and we can pick up the groceries in about 15 minutes door to door. Pro tip: there are also stores that will deliver your groceries for you!
  5. Fewer impulse buys. I’ll tell you what, ordering online has cut WAY back on my impulse buys at the grocery store. I go off of my “weekly groceries” list and get what we need/want. But I don’t walk through the baking isle and randomly think “OOOOH BROWNIES” and put 5 boxes into my cart. Also, when I go to check out, I can see exactly how much it’s going to cost. If I’m over budget (LOL what’s a budget?), I can take unnecessary items out of my cart and get the price down to what I want to spend.

Ok, one more thing that has really helped me this year: I’ve chosen 1 day a week to grocery shop. That’s it. I’m not making multiple trips to the store. I’m a working mom of 3 who also happens to have friends and hobbies. I do not have time OR DESIRE to make a bunch of trips to the grocery store.

Choosing one day a week and sticking to it has really, really helped me. So now, every Wednesday I order groceries first thing in the morning, and pick them up sometime in the day that works for our schedule. If I forget something important, I’ll grab it when I’m at Target over the weekend or ask my husband to pick it up on his way home. Setting this boundary of just ONCE a week has helped me remember more (I take it more seriously), and it’s helped me hate it less.

I have better things to do than to grocery shop. I really do. If I forget something, we’ll go without it. It’s fine.

If you can’t or won’t order your groceries online, here are some tips to help you focus while shopping.

  1. Choose 1 day to shop. That’s it. You have better things to do with your life than make multiple trips to the store.
  2. Create a master list – whether you realize it or not, we all usually buy the same food each week. Spend 20 minutes thinking this through and creating a master list to save yourself time and energy in the future.
  3. Plan 3 or 4 dinners for the week (I haven’t found success with planning all 7 dinners, but if you do, go for it!)
  4. Make a list while you’re in front of your fridge/pantry – don’t buy what you don’t need. Don’t forget what you do need.
  5. Put your list next to your keys. Don’t forget the damn list.
  6. Grocery shop with the list in hand
  7. Before you head to the checkout line, stop and think: go over the list to make sure you didn’t forget anything.
  8. Now go have a margarita – you don’t have to do this again for 7 days!

Here’s some truth: we are lucky to have money to spend on food to eat. We are lucky that our kids have full bellies and we don’t have to worry about where our next meal is coming from. According to the World Health Organization, 815 million people are hungry today while you’re reading this, many of them children. We have a lot to be thankful for. As your blood pressure raises thinking of meal planning, list-making, and grocery shopping, remember to be grateful. We are blessed. We can implement systems to make our lives easier.

Dive into how I’ve streamlined my grocery shopping routine by listening to Episode 7: Grocery Shopping Tips for Dopamine-Depleted Brains. You may find some nuggets that help you get through this hefty chore.


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