Summer is coming soon which means strawberries in the garden, water fights in the backyard and horrible grocery store trips. Shopping excursions with all four of my kids are awful, and I don’t completely understand why. Most of them are girls. Shopping is supposed to be fun and addicting right? No. Instead my oldest complains that shopping is boring and she would rather be home reading a book. My second child cries if I don’t let her buy whatever she asks for, and my third child cries if we go to any store but the one that gives out free Smarties at the checkout counter. The baby is honestly the best shopper as long as he hasn’t found a way to climb out of the shopping cart yet. It’s a disaster, and I inevitably get the sympathetic, “You sure have your hands full, don’t you,” comment from passers by.
So my options, Go to the store when the kids are in bed (my only by-myself-time), or find a way to make shopping fun. Thinking about it logically, I determined that grocery shopping really is an important skill to teach children.
First of all, grocery shopping is a major family expense. What better way to teach your children to budget than to show them how you do it at the grocery store? For example, when my kids ask if we can get that bag of candy I respond, “We could, but then we don’t have money for something we want more.” My kids are obsessed with going to Disneyland so they know that if we want to save up money to go to Disneyland then we have to be careful what else we are spending money on. We also talk about how we can pay for gymnastics and ballet lessons because they are more important to us than more toys and candy. I don’t like the phrase, “We don’t have money for that,” because I don’t want them to stress about us not having enough money to take care of our family, and, on the other hand, I don’t want them to feel that if they have money they can just spend it. Instead I want to teach them how make better decisions with their money.
Second, the grocery store is where healthy eating habits are born. If you fill your house with healthy food, then that is what you are more likely to eat. During the summer I allow my three oldest children to plan a meal each week which I will help them prepare. They are responsible for the health and well being of our family for that meal, and they love the responsibility. They plan their menu, which has to be passed off my mom, and then when we go to the store they have a budget and can select the items they need for their meal. They are required to have healthy items as a part of their meal, and their budget is usually around $5 for the meal. While they are picking out their fruits and vegetables I teach them about how to pick the freshest ones, and they are so proud of themselves if they pick out a good orange or tomato out of the bin. During the winter, when they don’t have as much time to plan and prepare a meal, I let them each pick one fruit or vegetable of their choice for us to take home and try out. It is a fun way to have them invested in healthy eating and expanding their tastes.
Another strategy I’ve used to make shopping more fun for the kids is to do something else on shopping day that they love and remember. One of our favorite “Special Shopping Day” activities is to go out to lunch. Now normally I we go out to eat almost never, but our local library has a fun summer reading program where the children win coupons and vouchers for their reading logs. Last summer my kids were getting lunch coupons every week to various restaurants in our city, and since they each had one, I would take them to lunch, and I only had to pay for myself. They couldn’t wait for Wednesdays because that was lunch and shopping day.
I still have annoying trips to the grocery store, but as a whole, we have greatly improved our shopping trips. The children have more ownership in them, and something to do while we are there or right after. I don’t have to bribe them with treats to be good, and they are learning life skills that I hope will stick with them long after this summer.