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May 15, 2011

Every family is different and we all have different pressing concerns in our daily family life. Especially when you have children, daily chores can take FOREVER! What used to take an hour now takes me a day. I think grocery shopping is a love it/hate it thing for families. Either you love to go grocery shopping or you find it a hassle and try to speed through it, preferably when the kids are at school or on your way home from work.
Since my kid was young though, I’ve always made a point of bringing her with me to go grocery shopping because I’m a firm believer that if I involved her from an early age, she’d know what her food looked like, felt like, smelled like, before it turned into a meal. Now, I love Jamie Oliver’s ‘Food Revolution’ and its philosophy, but this thinking is pre-Jamie and stems from my love of food. So, here are some of my thoughts on grocery shopping with your child and how it can be fun and easier than it currently is and maybe some of these ideas will be useful for your family too:

Involve your child in grocery shopping:
Since she was a baby, she would always come with my husband and I to go grocery shopping. She never just sat there in the stroller. She got to touch fruits and vegetables, got to hold the crinkly bag that held the fresh bread (and also got to smell its freshness!). She learned from a young age that kale had bumpy leaves and that corn was yellow. I’d label foods for her so she’d become familiar with the words and she pretty much touched whatever I thought was safe for her at that age (ie. no raw chicken thank you, but please do admire from afar!). Now that she’s older, she helps to push the shopping cart, helps to pick and choose the foods and bag them, and I’ll often ask her to grab things off the shelf for me.
Your child learns a lot while grocery shopping: A whole lot of learning happens at the grocery store but only if you take the time to let the learning happen. For us, grocery shopping isn’t just a chore to grab food and go (there are times when it is and my kid knows in advance that we’re only going to pick up ‘milk’) but it’s a chance to learn how to weigh different foods to see which one is heavier (aha, pre-math!), to learn how to read the ingredient list and labels on packaged foods (aha, literacy skills), to pick the freshest foods and become an informed consumer (‘see that brown spot…’ ‘try to find an apple that feels really firm’). Your child will also learn to make wise decisions about spending if you involve them (e.g. looking at the different price tags, which is more expensive, which to buy based on the quality of the food and making an informed food choice).
Your child will learn how to self-regulate: From the very beginning, my kid has been involved in making food choices when we go to the grocery store and at home. Now that she’s older, there are times when she’ll say she’d rather stay at home instead of going ‘grocery shopping’. What I will often remind her is, if she goes, she gets to make decisions about what she eats because obviously, when daddy goes, he buys foods he wants and so on.  Now, I don’t want to jinx it, but my kid has never thrown a tantrum about anything at the grocery store. There are times she’ll ask to try a certain cereal or product and I’ll get her to read the ingredient list. I let her know that so long as it doesn’t have X or Y (for me BHT and BPA irritate the pants off of me but that’s a rant for a different day) we can buy it to try it. Sometimes, I’ll be honest with her and let her know I’d really like to buy a certain food that she’s picked up but that it’s just too expensive right now but that, when it goes on sale, we can certainly try it. I just make sure I follow through (the kid has a phenomenal memory. If I forget, she’ll remind me!). Over the years, she’s learned that she doesn’t always get what she wants right away because you know, life is just like that.
I know not every family has the time to make every grocery trip a learning experience because sometimes, you just have to grab the food and go especially if you’ve been up since the crack of dawn, have a cranky child (or 3) with you, or you still have a whack of other things that need to get done. I’ve had to do that too but whenever I can, I try to make grocery shopping about more than just the food alone. Just the other day, my kid says to me, “Mom, MOM! You HAVE to feel the portello. MOM. FEEL feels soooooo smooth. Get this one. Get THIS one!” Isn’t that the coolest? It was for me.

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