I Send My Young Kids Grocery Shopping Without Me

Every Sunday is Grocery Day. Typically, my husband handles chores at home while I go to the grocery with our kids. Are the kids always eager to go to the grocery? No. Am I always excited for them to tag along? Also, no. But lately, my grocery trips with my 10-year-old and 7-year-old boys have been a freaking blast.

How It Started

It all began when I enlisted my oldest son’s help with the grocery list (side note: this list we use is awesome). I went through the kitchen calling out items for him to add to the list. I discovered this was a much more efficient process than making the list myself, so that became our custom. Then, at the grocery, my youngest was tasked with checking items off the list. They both became more interested in our regular trips to the store.

A Learning Opportunity

Our next few trips to the store took longer, but I viewed the experience as an investment. Everything became a teachable moment. When we got to the chicken broth, I stopped to explain that it would be more cost-effective to purchase the carton rather than several cans. We discussed broth vs. stock as well as the importance of paying close attention to the labels for regular vs. unsalted. They know that our family requires 1 pound of Cajun turkey sliced so thinly it almost falls apart but not so thinly that we pay the extra charge. They learned that there are trips when we buy the already chopped, expensive onions and other trips when we buy them whole and chop them ourselves at home. Those trips took forever, but they were engaged and learning. As they learned more, I’d send them off on small missions together. If I was picking out pasta, I’d have them grab the sauce down that same aisle or an item from the next aisle over. It helped me a little bit, and they felt independent and useful. After about a month of these educational trips, I decided to entrust them with more responsibility. We were ready to split up.

The Rules

Safety first: They must always remain together and should never leave the store for any reason. No running. Good manners are imperative, so they learned to say “Excuse me” when walking in front of others in the aisles. They are never permitted to climb for an out-of-reach item; they can politely ask for assistance or skip it.

Shopping Off-leash

We shop at Zuppardo’s, which has little carts for kids. I gave them a list of seven easy items to track down for their little cart. I picked things I knew they’d recognize like Goldfish and shampoo and sent them on their way, reminding them of the rules. For that first trip, I made sure to keep “bumping into them” just for peace of mind. They did great with their small list, so the following week, they earned more items. By our third trip, they needed the double-decker but easy-to-maneuver buggy. They were ready for the hard stuff: meat and produce. They had to account for weight, specific cuts and varieties, and price. For the most part, they did great, though we did have to talk about checking labels carefully for bone-in vs. boneless and beef vs. chuck.

Skills for Life

In addition to the usual grocery store stuff, my boys learned important life skills. At the deli, they learned to stand tall and speak up. Shopping alone reinforced the importance of paying attention to detail. They know it takes a village and to lean on others for help. They are learning to plan menus. They realize when we skimp vs. when we splurge when it comes to brands. They are comfortable applying math to real-world situations. They understand that regardless of age, everyone can contribute to running the house.

This process has been a total joy to watch, and we’ve all been looking forward to our shopping trips ever since. Give it a shot next time you head to the store!

Alyson lives in Metairie with her husband, Patrick, their 10- and 7-year-old boys, and their Morkie, Beignet. After teaching for almost ten years, she left a career in education, earned her BSN, and now works as a pediatric emergency nurse. In her free time, Alyson enjoys flipping furniture, writing, dancing, and painting. She is always looking for a racquetball partner and loves streetcar rides and playing board games with her family. A good cook, she is constantly on a quest to answer the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” but has thus far been unsuccessful.

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