Turn a trip to the grocery store into an educational outing

Molding the Savvy Young Shopper

by Kathleen D. Frassrand


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An everyday trip to the grocery store can become an educational outing. Getting children involved in the process from start to finish will teach not only the value of money, but also improve their organizational skills and problem solving abilities. Here are seven great ideas for the family grocery trip:

  1. Clipping coupons - When the Sunday paper hits the driveway, arm your children with a pair of safety scissors and turn them loose on the coupon section. Young children can cut coupons and stack them up, while older children can sort by expiration date and scan the sales flyers for great combo deals. Did we mention that mom and dad get an extra few moments of quiet to actually read the paper?
  2. Meal planning - Meal planning should be a family affair. Children learn valuable lessons on creating healthy meals and are much more likely to eat what is being served when they have helped plan the menu. Young children may only be able to pick from options you provide (Pork or chicken? Broccoli or asparagus?). Older children should be encouraged to rummage through the recipe box or flip through cooking magazines to create tasty and affordable menus.
  3. Creating a shopping list - Once the meal plan is complete, a shopping list is needed. Children can act as "runners," checking the fridge or pantry for called for staples. They can also help scan the recipes to identify products you will need. Have children help visualize the grocery store and where items are located, then group the shopping list accordingly. An organized shopping list speeds the trip along.
  4. Careful shopping - Invariably, as soon as you walk through the sliding doors of the grocery store, the children begin to beg for high-priced, character-themed, brand-name junk. This is the perfect time for a frank discussion on the benefits of store-brand products, coupons, and sticking to the grocery list. Teach them to shop carefully and thoughtfully. Create a running list of how much money is saved on each item. At the end of the trip, tally the numbers, amaze your children, and revel in your frugality.
  5. Quality versus price - No lesson in frugal living is complete without a discussion on quality. Children need to know that some items are worth the higher price tag. An inexpensive price can never make up for inferior quality.
  6. Take the TDS Pantry Challenge.
    Clean out that pantry, fridge and freezer and see how much extra cash you can free up this month!

  7. Cash is king - Children see checks and credit cards as magic money. No matter how many times parents explain that they pay off each charge at the end of the month, children still fail to completely grasp the concept. The remedy? Use cash. Standing in the checkout line watching mom count out the bills, provides a concrete correlation between filling up the shopping cart and emptying out the wallet. Try to use smaller denominations. You may look a little strange paying for groceries with five- and ten-dollar bills, but your children will be adequately horrified at the amount of money you just spent.
  8. Packing, stacking, and putting away - After the educational stimulation of the family grocery trip, children need a little manual labor. Emptying the car, unpacking the groceries, putting things away, and cleaning out the fridge are all great jobs for children to do. Add the incentive of payment and your children will happily toil away. Instead of a flat weekly allowance, offer payments "by the job" to reinforce the idea of actually earning the money you give them. By helping out more around the house, children have the ability to earn more money. Their earning potential is only limited by their desire.

The family grocery trip is a great way for parents to show their children what life is really about. It takes work, organization, and planning to keep good food on the table. The cart full of groceries comes at a cost, and spending time with mom is priceless.


Kathleen Frassrand is a stay-at-home mom of two young children. She enjoys the thrill of finding "a really great deal."

Take the Next Step:

  • Decide today that it's time to initiate family grocery trips into the list of tools that you are using to prepare your children for adulthood. Getting children involved in the process from start to finish will teach not only the value of money, but also improve their organizational skills and problem solving abilities.
  • It is never too early to start teaching your children the importance of saving. Compare savings and money market account rates and open an account for them today.
  • It's tough raising kids today! You need every time and money saving idea you can find. That's why you'll want to get our free weekly Dollar Stretcher for Parents newsletter. You'll find great ideas designed just for parents that will help your family 'live better...for less'! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.

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