Grocery Store Schooling

The other day, I sent my eighteen-year-old out to the store to pick up some sweet rolls. He called me while he was there, asking where to find them. I told him to go along the back wall by the dairy and they would be in the corner to the right. “How did you know that?” he asked. “Because I’ve been grocery shopping for a lot of years,” I replied.

Then I started to think about why he didn’t know that. After all, when all of my kids were younger, I took them everywhere I went, including the grocery store. But as the older ones became teenagers, I stopped toting them along.  After all, I didn’t want to go grocery shopping, so why would they want to go?

But there are a lot of opportunities for learning during a trip to the grocery store. Your child can:

help make the menu for the week (or the next few days). This requires planning balanced and healthy meals that are within your family’s grocery budget.

see which menu items you already have and don’t need to buy. Your child will get very familiar with the kitchen!

lead the way through the grocery store as you find the items. He’ll learn that the more natural foods are around the perimeter of the store, while processed foods are shelved towards the center. Show him that the healthier choices are usually higher on the shelves, while the brightly-colored kid-friendly packages are lower. This is a good time to talk about marketing and advertising!

choose the most economical items. Show him how to compare prices. Talk about why some items may cost more, and decide if they are worth the extra cost.

look for sales. Most grocery stores have weekly sales and bargains. Show him how to find those and figure out how much money he can save.

use coupons. I don’t use a lot of coupons these days, but if I come across one for an item I know we’ll buy, I’ll clip it. Even if you’re not a fan of coupons, cut out a few and show him how to use them. If the store doubles or triples coupons, figure out just how much (or how little!) the item will cost before you get to the register.

unload the cart. Have your child place all of the items on the conveyor belt. Teach him how to keep more fragile items like bread and eggs separate from the heavier items.

scan the items. If the store has a self-scanning section, let your child give it a try. Teach him what a barcode is and show him how it works.

pay for the groceries. If you’re using cash, allow your child to pay and double-check the change that he receives. I usually use a debit card; in this case, let your child swipe the card and punch in the number.

bag the groceries. Some stores let the customers bag their own groceries in order to save money. If you shop at one of these stores, teach your child how to place similar items in the same bag with the heaviest ones on the bottom. Don’t make the bags too heavy, though!

load them in the car. Show your child how to arrange the bags so none of them spill. If you have a cold carrier, have him put the frozen or cold items inside.

unload the groceries. Have him help bring the groceries into the kitchen and put them where they go.

There is so much to learn from a trip to the grocery store: nutrition, economics, math, and lots of life skills. So the next time you go, take your child along. Then, when he’s 18, he’ll know just where to find the sweet rolls. 🙂

Photo by:  US Dept of Agriculture

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