Who loves going to the grocery store? Anyone? Anyone? Actually, I have to admit that I don’t hate going to the grocery store, and sometimes I really enjoy it. However, going with kids always makes it more challenging, and that’s what I want to talk about today. Because while I can’t promise you won’t leave the store without a headache, I can promise you there are lots of teachable moments that make tackling the grocery store with the kids (once in a while) a worthwhile experience for all of you.
I know everyone’s schedules differ depending on if and when you work outside of the home, what the ages and schedules are of your children, and all the other things you have to fit into your busy days! But it is my experience that taking the time to think about your week and strategize the best time to do your “big shop” makes the whole process much more bearable. Of course I’ve found myself at the store on any given day and time of the week, but I’ve now learned what works and doesn’t work. For instance, on Tuesday mornings, the senior center in our town takes a bus trip to the grocery store. While this is a lovely service, I find I cannot be there at that time with my brood and my need for speeding up and down the aisles (which is my signature shopping style.) Also, waiting until 4:00 on a weekday means I’ll have to take all the kids with me, and the store will be packed with all the teachers who are stopping on their way home to pick up stuff for dinner…this is another NO-GO time for me! So while it might seem obvious, I bet some of you have never really stopped to think about what day and time would really work best for you to do your shopping…it can be life-changing!
Next, is the whole list thing. I have tried all different ways to prep for shopping trips: spreadsheets, apps, cute notepads…and I always come back to a last minute, scribbled “things we’re out of” note on a scrap of paper combined with my mental list of things we just always have in the house. This is what works for me. Of course I try to shop the sales and switch things up here and there, but in this season of our lives (young kids with very specific palettes, busy schedules and a specified budget) I just find this is the best, most convenient way for me to shop.
Ok, now on to the part about making it not the worst 1-2 hours of your day! First let me say, I try to go by myself as often as possible, with the next best option being to bring only one child with me, but of course that doesn’t always happen. So here’s what we do when the shopping is a family affair:
- An older kid in charge of the list…this gives them something to do and focus on. It gets them reading, checking things off as we go and helping to figure what part of the store we need to be in.
- Play “Name that Fruit/Veggie” in the produce section…this is something that everyone can do because there are so many different and interesting things to see in the produce section. Sure the baby is focusing on the basic apple, banana and carrots. But I challenge my older kids to find something that starts with a K, or to see how many purple vegetables are available. We also do lessons in quantity and weight in the produce section.
- In the basic center aisles, we always talk about sales, the size of packages and how to determine what the best values are for your money. Sometimes I’ll have coupons, and I ask the older kids to track down those particular items for me.
- When we get to the snack aisles, instead of listening to them pester for cheesy poofs and ring dings, I take the opportunity to talk about nutrition labels. I’m not saying I never give into occasional treats, but I ask the kids to take a minute to compare items and make smart choices. We also talk about what things we could try making at home in order to make healthier versions.
- In the deli or fish department, I try to encourage my older kids to do the ordering for me, giving them the opportunity to practice public speaking. “Speak loudly. Say it clearly. Be polite.” They feel important and this is such a necessary life skill!
- At the end everyone helps with the loading and unloading. Sure I’m particular about putting the things away in the fridge and pantry, but everyone can help carry all the stuff into the house, that’s for sure!
I’d love to hear some of your best grocery shopping stories…no judgement here for nightmares…we are that family that has knocked down an entire display!!!