Family-Friendly Supermarkets

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While shopping with young children will never rate among life’s most enjoyable moments, the amenities offered by many supermarket chains help make the chore more pleasant.

When Sandra O., of West Virginia, needs to do some serious grocery shopping, she drives several miles past the nearest grocery store to reach Giant Eagle. While better prices and selection are two reasons for the longer trip, the main motivating factor is Giant Eagle’s family-friendly environment. “I’m able to quickly get my shopping done while my three kids play in the store’s supervised play area. They have fun, and I’m not stressed while shopping,” Sandra says.

Rhode Island resident Kathleen F. sometimes shops at the slightly more expensive IGA store in town because she and her son enjoy the store’s many family-friendly features. “He can choose from a kid-sized shopping cart or a truck cart, receive a delicious free cookie from the bakery, sample the cold cuts at the deli, nibble on a baby carrot in produce, and visit the lobster tank in seafood. He actually enjoys these little outings to the market, and frankly, so do I,” Kathleen says.

From colorful car and truck shopping carts to free munchies while shopping, today’s successful supermarkets are catering to families with more than bargain prices. Smart retailers—like the ones profiled below—have created family-friendly services and events designed to woo busy parents and entertain energetic children. The result is a win-win shopping experience for everyone.

Albertson’s

At the more than 2,300 Albertson stores nationwide, employees help grocery-laden shoppers out to their cars and return the shopping carts for you—making it easier to keep an eye on children in busy parking lots, as well as ensuring your car doesn’t get dinged by a runaway shopping cart. In addition, Albertson supports educational programs in several ways: its Community Partners Card enables shoppers to earn money for local schools and other community organizations; via its partnership with Coca-Cola, Albertson’s distributes a half million books to local schools; and the company’s Summer Enrichment and Scholarship program helps economically disadvantaged students get the education they seek.

Andronico’s

Located throughout California’s San Francisco Bay area, Andronico’s was chosen “Best Grocery Store” by San Francisco Chronicle readers and was the recipient of Specialty Food Trade’s “Retailer of the Year” award. At Andronico’s 11 stores, families can feast on healthy “fast food” at in-store restaurants that serve homemade soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta dishes, and desserts. In addition, a Kid’s Club membership card entitles youngsters to free fruit or juice during store visits, and parents can arrange “behind-the-store tours” to give their kids a look at what goes on behind the scenes of a supermarket.

Piggly Wiggly

The name is just too cute, making it a hit with both children and parents. Piggly Wiggly’s claim to fame is being the first self-service grocery store back in 1916: they were the first to price mark every item in the store, as well as provide check-out aisles. Today there are more than 600 Piggly Wigglies throughout 16 states. At the Piggly Wiggly website, a busy mom can create custom shopping lists—with columns for meats, produce, bread, beverages and more—that are available for reuse every time she goes online. Kids will enjoy Mr. Pig’s online Kids’ Korner featuring coloring sheets and yummy, easy-to-make recipes.

Weis Markets

Weis Markets also operates under the names Mr. Z’s, Scot’s Lo-Cost, and King’s, and has 158 stores throughout Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. With a free membership to the Weis Kids’ Club, children ages two through 12 receive their own Kids’ Club card, a free gift, a quarterly newsletter, a birthday card, and coupons for free snacks. The markets’ bake shops also give free cookies to youngsters.

Whole Foods Market

You’ll find the world’s largest retailer of natural and organic products, Whole Foods Market, in 156 locations throughout 25 states and Washington, D.C. Whole Foods was the first grocery store chain to launch the nation’s first organic food line developed for children, Whole Kids. You can rest assured that anything you buy at Whole Foods is good for your family—all store products are free of preservatives, artificial ingredients, flavorings, additives and trans fat. Kids also enjoy the store’s Kids’ Club, which provides balloons, a piece of fruit (or cookie), stickers, coloring books, and soy-based crayons.

Giant Eagle

Giant Eagle is a family-owned company that has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency for excellence in energy management and by the Department of Labor for its training and employment programs for people with disabilities. The company has 222 stores throughout Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Many Giant Eagle stores feature a children’s play area called the Eagle’s Nest that provides a safe, fun learning environment for children ages 3 to 9 to play while parents shop. The company also sponsors educational programs, such as its Be-A-Smart Shopper program, which educates children ages seven through eleven about the importance of eating healthy, as well as how to prepare foods, plan meals, and manage money. The Apples for the Students program enables shoppers to earn points that local schools can redeem for computers and other educational tools.

Wegman’s Food Markets

Wegman’s Food Markets has been consistently named one of the Top 100 Companies to Work for in America by Fortune Magazine. You’ll find Wegman’s in 68 locations throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. This family-owned company is a favorite of parents and kids thanks to its child-sized shopping carts with “shopper in training” flags; W-Kids Fun Centers where children ages three to eight can play in a supervised area while parents shop; and its Good Food Tours designed to educate fourth graders about healthy eating choices.

Publix

Founded in 1930, Publix is the largest employee-owned supermarket chain in the nation with 812 stores throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee. Parents can get free membership in the chain’s Baby Club, which provides them with coupons, gifts, and other helpful information. The chain’s online club, Preschool Pals, provides helpful information for parents, as well as entertaining, educational games for preschoolers. In addition, Publix hosts a free Baby Fest in the spring and a Kids’ Fest in the fall that features fire trucks, face painting, and free child identification photos.

Harris Teeter

If you shop at one of Harris Teeter’s 141 stores in Florida, Georgia North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia or Tennessee, you won’t wait more than a minute in the checkout line before your first item is scanned. That’s a great company policy for parents dealing with kids who are antsy to leave. Children love the Harris Teeter mascot, Harry the Dragon, who greets them as they enter the store and hands out coloring sheets, balloons, and cookies. At the chain’s annual Safe Kids Program parents can register their kids’ fingerprints with the local police department. Harris Teeter is also a big advocate of education. The company donates thousands of dollars annually via its Together in Education program to help local schools buy supplies, as well as offering scholarships to employees to help them acquire a college education.

A&P;

The country’s first national supermarket chain, The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P;) operates 630 stores throughout Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, as well as Washington, D.C., and Ontario, Canada. It uses 11 different retail names including A&P;, Waldbaum’s, The Food Emporium, A&P; Super Foodmart, Super Fresh, Farmer Jack, Sav-A-Center, Dominion, The Barn Markets, Food Basics and Ultra Food & Drug. With A&P;’s Baby Savings Club, parents earn $20 for every $200 spent on diapers and other baby products, and with The Food Emporium’s Gold Points Reward Network, shoppers in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York can earn points redeemable at department stores, hotels, restaurants and more. For the latest information on food safety, consumer updates, and quick, healthy recipes, log on to one of the chain’s many retail store websites.

Raley’s

Rated the best supermarket chain in the nation by Consumer Reports for seven consecutive years, Raley’s has 134 stores in California, Nevada, and New Mexico. At Raley’s, you’ll find supervised play centers for children ages two through eight, and hand sanitizers and plastic bags near the meat section to protect children and adults from the spread of food-borne illness. In addition, community organizations like the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are invited to use Raley’s event rooms at no charge.

IGA

The Independent Grocers Alliance (IGA) has 1,750 independently owned and operated stores in every state except Colorado and North Dakota. These stores are big on family and community events. Every year, IGA stores sponsor an annual Explore the Store essay contest for children ages nine through twelve, with one winner from each store awarded a scholarship to attend U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. The summertime KidsFest features games, activities and food, as well as information on child safety, fire protection and bicycle safety. And the annual Hometown Proud festival and essay contest promotes fire safety awareness while honoring the community’s fire fighters.

Hy-Vee

Hy-Vee loves kids, which is why on any given week you’ll find one or more of the chain’s 219 stores hosting a weekly Kids’ Night featuring clowns, magicians, jugglers and other entertainment. In addition to Kids’ Night, some stores host an annual Kids’ Fishing Derby with proceeds benefiting a community non-profit organization. And for really harried parents, Hy-Vee has online grocery shopping available in select cities. You’ll find Hy-Vee stores in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

While shopping with young children in tow will probably never rate among life’s most enjoyable moments, the amenities offered by these supermarket chains—and many others like them—help make the chore a little more pleasant for the entire family.

Read more about how to make your next trip to the supermarket a walk in the park.

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