Eat Well, Spend Less: Teaching Your Kids While You Grocery Shop

The theme for this month’s Eat Well, Spend Less is one that I am really excited about: kids in the kitchen!  I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject lately and am so excited to read everyone’s posts.  (Jessica’s and Aimee’s were fantastic, and I know the others will be, too – I’ll do a wrapup next week.)

I started writing a post about kids in the kitchen but didn’t finish it before I gashed my hand opening a pickle jar.  Yes, fixing lunch can be dangerous, even for adults!  I’m trying to type as little as possible and still have a lot of grocery deals to get up, so I’m republishing this post about how your kids can learn while you grocery shop.  Enjoy!

I was homeschooled before it was cool. Anyone else like me out there? You told the clerk at Walmart that you were on a field trip when they asked you why you weren’t in school?

Well, now that I’m a homeschooling mom myself, I’m realizing that wasn’t so far-fetched. There is an awful lot that can be learned at the grocery store! I’ve come up with thirty ways – how many more can you add?

  1. Write the PLU numbers on the tags from the bulk bins. (writing)
  2. Weigh your produce. (math)
  3. Put a prescribed number of items in your cart. (math)
  4. Keep track of your items for Buy 10 type sales. (math)
  5. Figure out which brand is cheapest. (math)
  6. Push a second cart because you have too many kids in the first one. (driver’s ed)
  7. Tell you how much a certain item will be after a coupon. (math)
  8. Tell you how much a certain item will be after a doubled coupon. (math)
  9. Identify items in the produce section. (health)
  10. Look at where an item is grown in the produce section. (geoography)
  11. Figure out whether the small, medium, or large package is the best deal. (math)
  12. Cross things off your list. (reading)
  13. Re-organize your list, grouping like items together. (reading)
  14. Check for coupons in your coupon box. (reading)
  15. Look for the latest-dated milk (and check the milk price tracker to see who has the best price on milk!). (math)
  16. Keep a running total of your bill. (math)
  17. Figure out which items will have sales tax and which won’t. (math, critical thinking)
  18. Compute how many fuel points you will earn based on your final bill, and how much it will save you if you fill up with X gallons. (math)
  19. Ask an employee where to find something. (communication)
  20. Put the shopping cart away. (responsibility)
  21. Keep track of a smaller child. (responsibility)
  22. Check for broken eggs. (thoroughness)
  23. Enter your phone number for your store savings card. (life skills)
  24. Compare ingredient lists to find the best-quality products. (reading, health, critical thinking)
  25. Run the self-checkout machine. (technology)
  26. Choose a reward to be received upon good behaviour. (negotiation, debate)
  27. Discuss why you’re waiting to purchase a certain item because it’s not on sale. (critical thinking)
  28. Name the animal that different types of meat come from (ie, pork = pig, beef = cow). (science)
  29. Talk about why you might be buying one item organic but not another. (health)
  30. Figure out the percentage discount of something that’s on sale. (math)

How many more can you add?


  1. Ticee Graham says:

    Wow! My mom was an amazing homeschooler 20 years ago and had a lot of these on her list but there are a lot that I never thought about (geography for produce, etc.). My favorite is the animal from different types of meat tho. This can be somewhat devastating to some children. My family was always of the small-farm variety and had an understanding of this connection. Some modern kids, not so much.

    The BIGGEST shock came to me about a month ago. After I moved to Alaska we eat mostly moose (free-range, organic, no hormones, sustainable, etc.). So when discussing healthy food choices with our five-year-old boy from a worksheet and the information that a (McDonalds) hamburger came from cows and weren’t so healthy for you. His response? “EWWWW, Yuck! Who would eat a COW?” (his emphasis, not mine)

    I am not sure I wlll ever quite forget that….

  2. Great list! When I was a Girl Scout leader, we did a supermarket field trip in which each team bought food in one category for a food bank and tried to get the best value for the money, considering both price and nutrition. The girls were 5-9 years old, and many of them had never done anything like this before. They were really excited by what they learned and continued to apply it afterward–we began eating better on our troop camping weekends because the GIRLS insisted on whole-wheat bread, 100% juice instead of punch, dark greens mixed with the iceberg lettuce, etc., when we planned menus!

    My son is 7 and usually comes shopping with me; although he does go to school, I work during his school hours, so we shop mostly on weekends. As soon as he could talk, he began plucking random items from bins and frowning, “Trans fat!” or “Made in China!” :-) But by about 4 years old, he truly understood some of these shopping skills and knew how to do things like choose a good cantaloupe. In the past few months he’s become really good at scooping from the bulk bins, so that I can trust him to do it all by himself (our store allows you to fill reused jars, subtracting the weight of the jar from the total weight so that you only pay for the food–so we arrive with a bag full of labeled jars, and my son matches the PLU# on the label to the bin) and it now takes us half as long to get through the bulk section!