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Teaching kids about grocery shopping

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Teach grocery shopping? Really? Yes!

You’ve gone to the grocery store with your child hundreds -- if not thousands -- of times by now. He watches you, he knows where your favorite salad dressing is and maybe even why you don’t buy the sugary cereal. But have you ever really explained what your doing? Have your ever talked about your grocery shopping strategies and budgeting?

mom-child-grocery-store

Teach grocery shopping? Really? Yes, really. Food is a part of the family budget and necessary for our survival. The amount of time we spend thinking about, purchasing, preparing and consuming food is actually rather significant. Sure, your child will pick up a bunch by osmosis, but there are clear things that can be taught -- that can be time and money savers for your child for the long term as you child grows into an adult.

Organizing the shopping list

Organizing the shopping list is, of course, closely tied to meal planning, and happens well before one steps foot in the mega mart. Having a list to begin with helps ensure you don't forget an important ingredient, and organizing by food category helps you move through the market more efficiently. As soon as your child can write, he or she can help with the family grocery list, writing down items as you double check the kitchen cabinets. And sorting the items in the list? Your child's teacher will be very impressed with your child's sorting skills at school with this kind of lesson support at home.

Costs and values and labels and specials

Generic versus brand name? Does is matter? And what size box of cereal? "All-natural" or "lite?" It may take a little extra time at the market, but talking through how you decide between one brand or another of cake mix communicates not only how you manage the food budget with all the options, but also a bit about your food values. Why you choose to spend more on one brand of cookies because they are your spouse's favorite, but feel it's okay to use the store brand for vegetable oil, for example, or how the weekly circular and rotating specials impact how you purchase certain staples.

(Super) coupons

Being a coupon user adds another layer of information to the grocery shopping lesson. Whether you are an intermittent coupon user or a super-user, you are adding some additional lessons about taking a extra effort to save money, and the impact that has on the food (and family) budget and food choices. On top of that, kids, especially younger kids, love helping to cut out coupons and organize them. Let them help!

Personal tips and tricks

If you have any personal tips and tricks for your food marketing, share them with your child. This is a life skill you are teaching and your kids deserve a jump start on learning how to do this well! Think of how far ahead of the game they'll be when they get out into the "real world" -- and they'll have more time (and money) to concentrate on other things.

More help for you

As you children get older, but before they are on their own, teaching the simple but important grocery shopping lesson could have a real family benefit. As families get busier and busier, you may find it harder and harder to get to the market yourself. But if you've taught your teenager what to do, you can send your child off to the market to take care of that weekly task with confidence. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

More grocery shopping tips

How and why to do your grocery shopping online
How to prepare for the grocery store
4 Money-saving grocery apps


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