God knows one of the most peaceful times in a parent’s week is potentially the peace and freedom from screaming, whining kids a solo trip to the grocery store brings. I often find myself wandering ALL of the aisles at an extremely slow pace just savouring the moment and extending the “me time” as long as possible! It’s lovely to be able to carefully choose the perfect fruits and vegetables without the tower of oranges plummeting to the floor, get through the cookie aisle without the tantrum after the “why we can’t buy these today” speech, get through the checkout line without an exploded milk bag thanks to a certain little “helper” (yes, these have all happened to me while shopping with Miss J!) and get the groceries loaded and unloaded in record time without kids screaming about the van being too hot or that they are thirsty, hungry, tired, etc.
Miss J’s recent preschool field trip to Commisso’s Fresh Foods really got me thinking about the pros and cons of shopping with your kids rather than “The Great Mommy Escape” shopping trip … it’s a double-edged sword since “me time” can be so scarce! While bringing your kids to the grocery store or market with you throws a wrench in that desperately sought after “me time”, there are ways to flip the experience from “whining and tantrums” to positive involvement that yields important life lessons.
Here are a few tips I’ve used to turn the trip from “frustrating disaster” to “teachable moment”:
* Plan Ahead: Let your preschooler help make the grocery list – do a web search for a “weird fruit/veggie” and prepare to hunt for it and bring one home to try. Your school-aged kids can benefit from helping plan their weekly lunch menu and learn about the benefits of certain foods (which vitamins are in them, etc.) and search the weekly store flyers or online sales for the stores with the best deals.
* At The Store: Let them help – if you have coupons, this can become a scavenger hunt-style search for stuff. Delegate part of the list to the older kids, take two loaves of the same kind of bread and let your preschooler pick which one to take home, etc. Teach them the mantra “stick to the list” (this will help avoid those cookie/candy/chip aisle meltdowns!)
*Math: look for patterns, sorted colours, get kids to weigh things to get as close to “1lb of apples” if your store has a scale handy. Teach them how to read nutritional information labels – you have three boxes of cereal, find the one with the highest amount of fibre and lowest amount of sugar, etc.
* Nurture nutrition with exploration: find those healthy “new” or “weird” foods and pick one to try together or have them pick three or four different kinds of the same food (red, green, concord or globe grapes) and do a taste comparison (go crazy and make a scientific chart for them to write their observations on … the “teacher” in me is getting carried away …).
Teaching your kids to be smart in the grocery store is an extremely valuable lesson that will transcend their childhood and help them make smart decisions for the rest of their lives. Don’t do too much in one visit – just pick one or two things to try from time to time to help boost the experience. This doesn’t have to be overwhelming for you or them, especially if your kids are younger. You could even break your grocery store visits into two – do the nit-picky stuff on your own (Yay! Save the “me time”!!) and bring the kids with you to perimeter-shop (dairy, bakery, meats, produce) since these departments are where the more healthy foods are found anyway!
The best piece of advice I can give that will round out the entire experience and have your kids looking forward to their grocery store visit is to introduce your kids to and really get to know your bakers, butchers, produce, seafood and deli managers and let them become an integral part of your grocery shopping experience. The department managers at many grocery stores – large franchises included – have often made careers in this area and are all too thrilled to get to know you, your kids and help make your shopping experience a positive one. At the same time, you’re helping make their day more fulfilling by letting them into your life and your child’s life while helping them love their jobs just a little bit more! It’s win-win!
There’s no better way to get your kids to eat healthier foods than to get them involved in the process of picking them out – sometimes it takes awhile for the lesson to sink in, but it does eventually sink in! The “going to the market” experience is full of teachable moments.
What tried, tested and true shopping-with-kids-in-tow tricks do you have?? Please comment below – we’d love to hear from you!!