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Parents and kids have been grocery shopping together for as long as there have been grocery stores. Parents and kids also struggle to grocery shop together. The parents feel like they can’t get what they need in a timely manner and kids act like crazy people when they get bored going from aisle to aisle. Shopping for food is such an important task to keep the family functioning and there are skills involved in shopping that ensure that you have all the food you need and stay within your grocery budget. Why not start teaching your kids those skills right away? We think you will find that you and your kids will enjoy working together as a team turning a mundane chore that you dread every week into a fun learning experience for you all. Here are 3 ways to teach your kids to grocery shop.
Make the List Together
The key to effective and efficient grocery shopping is a meal plan and an organized list based on that meal plan. Before you go to the store, include your children in the meal planning and list making. You probably don’t want to let your kids pick all the meals but consider letting them pick one meal. Maybe your kid really loves chicken strips. Ask him if he wants that for dinner on Friday night and add it to the meal plan. If your child is older, consider asking him to pick a meal that he wants to cook. When your kids see you planning the meals for the week and participate in that, they may grow to appreciate all the work that goes into feeding a family.
Once you have the meals planned out, make the list together.
- For younger kids who can’t read or write yet, let them check the pantry or refrigerator to see what you need and what you already have. Ask them to check for eggs and if they don’t see any eggs in the refrigerator, they can tell you to add it to the list. This will teach young children how to search for things, what different foods look like and how you organize things in your kitchen.
- If you have a child that is working on reading and writing, by all means, have him write the list with you. You will be working on handwriting, reading and spelling.
It will take longer to meal plan and complete a grocery list with the “help” of your little assistants. However, the skills they gain will be worth it. Just plan on slowing down a little and pat yourself on the back for this screen-free activity for your kiddos.
Talk About the Budget
Making and sticking to a budget is an important life skill that many adults still struggle with. Maybe if we start working with our kids on budgeting early, they won’t struggle with it when they are on their own. As with anything, how much you let your kids in on needs to be age appropriate. If money is a little tight, you certainly don’t want to stress out your first grader with that but you can tell her that your grocery budget is $150 a week and practice some math skills with her through your shopping trip.
If your child is able to use and understand a calculator, let her add up the cost of the food as you put it in the cart. She might want some ice cream so tell her to keep up with the cost during the trip then let her pick out ice cream based on what is left in the budget. Here is a good opportunity to teach about brand name and generic items and sales. Show her that the brand name can of black beans costs 50 cents more than the store brand that is essentially the same thing. She will probably get into finding the best deals and shopping thoughtfully so that she will have enough money left over for the ice cream she really wants. If you still don’t have money left over, that is also a valuable lesson. Sometimes we just can’t buy extra treats we don’t really need and that’s ok. Kids need to learn that the budget calls for things to be left on the shelf sometimes.
If you are shopping with a toddler, consider having her hand the money over to pay for one item that is just for her. While you can’t really budget with a 3 year old, you can practice counting and start teaching the concept of money and paying for things. For example, if you are getting some juice just for her that is $3.50, have the cashier ring it up separately and count out the $3.50 in cash with her. She can proudly hand it over and take the receipt herself. You just had a counting lesson, a money lesson and a lesson on checking out at the store in less than a minute!
Let Your Child Shop
Shopping can be challenging because parents get focused on the task at hand and kids get bored and let the parents know it. Shop together to avoid a grocery store breakdown. Pick a family friendly store that you know your way around well. We love going to Walmart when we are shopping with young kids for this very reason.
Again, pick age appropriate tasks for your kids. A child that is reading can carry the list and read it to you as you go along. A child that cannot read yet can get things off the shelf while you read the list. Even a really young toddler can throw things into the cart while sitting in the seat. Figure out the best way to get your kids involved and be sure to discuss what you are doing in the store all along. Tell them that you are on a mission to get everything on the list. Your kids may be so into the “mission” that they will forget to bug you to buy a bunch of random junk. Here are some more tips on How to Grocery Shop with a Toddler (or Two).
Congratulations on a successful trip to the grocery store with your kids. With a little change in the routine, you avoided meltdowns, taught some important lessons and returned home with a car full of good food to feed your family all week. Try to change it up if the new routine gets boring. Give your kids new tasks as they get older. Keep on shopping together as a team!
Photo Credit: Kristen Lee Douglas