Grocery Shopping with the Kids

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Ilana Kriegsman of Healthy & Green on the Cheap and does NOT necessarily represent the opinions of DiseaseProof or Dr. Fuhrman.

“No, Mommy! I don’t want to sit in the cart! I want to go home! I want that!” Sound familiar? These are just a few of the things that my daughter has been known to say during a shopping excursion. Yes, grocery shopping can be a torturous experience for parent and child alike.

But what choice do we have? I suppose the obvious answer is to leave the kids at home, but my feeling is that’s not the right choice. With a slight change of purpose, you can keep your children interested and occupied (and peaceful) while also taking advantage of some great learning opportunities. These are my rules to a happy shopping trip:

Engage your kids in the shopping experience.

  • Show them and talk about your shopping list: Why do you make it? What’s on it? Etc.
  • Tell them about how you plan to use the items you buy once you get them home and how they can be your helpers.
  • Show them how to look at produce: Is it ripe? Is it fresh? Etc.
  • Explain the seasonality of vegetables and fruits and where the produce in the store comes from.
  • Take them to farms and farmers markets to help them identify with the source of their food.
  • Allow them to make some decisions about the foods you buy. Do you want apples or pears?

Encourage questions and curiosity about food.

  • Let your child take a sample here and there of things you’re buying or if the store sets out samples. My daughter’s particularly fond of doing this with leafy greens, especially if it’s organic!
  • When they have a question, take the time to answer it, don’t rush.
  • Allow them to take an interest in packaging and other marketing ploys. Candy and kids’ cereals might look like fun on the outside, but they’re not healthy on the inside.

Be consistent.

  • Let your children in on what is “okay” and what is not. Have them help you look at labels when they ask for something. Does it have hydrogenated oil or artificial colors? Then we can’t have it.
  • Be clear about what is a “treat” and what is an every day food. Treats in our family are things we have very rarely, generally for holidays and special occasions.
  • If you’re working within a tight budget, like we are, it’s also a good idea to stick to the list as a general rule, making exceptions for incredible bargains, but not for whims and fancies.

I believe the more kids understand about food, the more varieties of food they’ll try. They’ll be less inclined to eat food from unidentifiable sources (i.e. processed foods) and more inclined to eat whole foods. And the more they understand about shopping and meal planning, the more adept they will be at handling these sorts of tasks as teens and adults.

Image credit: mari.ologie

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diane lassen - April 13, 2009 5:58 AM

I couldn't agree more. Kids need to learn all about the food they eat. They also need to know that eggs and milk come from cows, not cartons. I love the idea of taking them to the farms. Here in Jersey there are plenty of U-pick farms that are great learning experiences for children.
Diane Lassen, RN, HHC

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