STEP 1: CHECK INVENTORY
Before you hit the grocery store together, demonstrate the prep work that goes into making the trip a success. Let kids help you clear space and do a quick clean of the refrigerator and pantry. Assign them the role of “Inventory Manager” and have them check what’s “in stock” and what you’ll need to add to the shopping list.
This is also a great opportunity to talk about impulse buying, and why it’s such a good idea to make a list and stick to it. To demonstrate, ask kids what kinds of lunch items, like yogurt and cheese sticks, and afterschool snacks, like veggies and Ranch Veggie Dip they’d like for the week ahead. Include their choices on the list with the understanding that you won’t be straying far from the list once you’re at the store.
STEP 2: ORGANIZE YOUR GROCERY LIST, MEAL PLAN, AND BUDGET
Not only are these your most important shopping tools, they need to work in tandem to keep the household running smoothly. Look over the grocery list together and discuss the difference between priorities and extras. Go through cookbooks and choose a new dish to try out for tonight’s dinner. Give kids a printout of the recipe, and make it their job to find all the ingredients on your trip.
Whether you plan to pay with a credit card or cash, set a spending expectation beforehand. Bring a calculator—your child can manage a running tally as you shop to keep the budget on-track.
STEP 3: SEE WHAT’S IN STORE
As you move through the aisles, look for more interactive ways to keep kids engaged and learning. Small children can count how many apples you’re putting into the bag; older kids can weigh produce on the scale or help discern quality.
Encourage them to explore items with all the senses—feel the firmness of a peach, smell the fragrant herbs, see the rainbow assortment of peppers. Turn identifying foods into a game like “Fruit 411” or “Name That Veggie,” and test each other’s knowledge. Maybe they’ll teach you something new!
STEP 4: COOK TOGETHER
Once kids know their way around a market (and a budget!), it’s time to boost their skills and confidence in the kitchen. Gather together the ingredients you purchased for a particular dish—either a new recipe or an old favorite. Be clear about which cooking tasks are appropriate for which ages (“I’ll use the stove and chop the veggies, you can measure dry ingredients, pour, and stir”) and incorporate lessons about safety, hygiene, and nutrition wherever possible.
But most importantly, keep the mood light and fun! Play some upbeat music, share your top moments of the day, and quiz each other on silly things like “How many colors of berries did we see?” and “Which bag of fruit weighed the most?”
STEP 5: TASTE THE FRUITS (AND VEGGIES) OF YOUR LABOR
From planning to dining, your family food shopping experience has come full circle. Enjoy!