Maybe you like to shop with your kids. Maybe you don’t. Either way, there will be days when you and your children go grocery shopping together. Here are some ways to get the job done.
Make a list. A shopping list gives you a sense of purpose. It ensures that you will remember to buy the foods you need, and it keeps you from buying foods you don’t need or want in your home. Enlist your children’s help when you make your list. Tape a list of grow foods to your refrigerator and ask your children to check them off when they are used up so that you can add them to your shopping list. Ask your kids which grow food they’d especially like, including, of course, a few acceptable treats. You might compare your shopping list with the traffic-light list. (Maybe you even have it posted on your refrigerator.) Be sure your shopping list contains mostly green-light grow foods, and perhaps a few yellow-light foods. Ignore the red-light foods.
Go directly to the grow foods. As you enter the supermarket, say to your child, “We’ll skip the junk-food aisles and go to the grow foods. Let’s find the fruits and vegetables.” Avoid dragging your kids past displays of stuff you’re not going to buy.
Ask kids to help. Kids love to bag apples, pick out lettuce, find foods on the shelves, and put things in the grocery cart. You could include pictures on your list of what to buy, or have your first-grader practice reading the words on your list.
Shop the perimeter. Many stores are arranged with the produce, meat, and dairy foods around the perimeter of the store, and the more processed foods in the aisles in the middle. Stick to the outside for fresh foods and skip the junk-food and pop aisles.
Get away from “red-light” foods. Besides saying, “We only shop the perimeter,” tell your inquisitive child, “There is an aisle in the supermarket that we just don’t go down.” “Why?” she’s likely to ask. “Because that aisle contains red-light foods, those with the three ‘bad words’ on the label: high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oil, and a color with a number, like red #40.”
Practice numbers and colors. Kids can practice math and language skills at the supermarket. Count “one, two, three, four apples.” Talk about what costs more and what costs less. Calculate prices per serving or per pound.
Just say no! You can’t get out of the store without going through the checkout lane, with all of its last-minutes temptations. So prepare for last-minutes appeals for candy by picking out healthier treats elsewhere in the store and handing them out while you wait in line. Remind your child, “We just don’t eat that stuff in our family. Remember, we got you that special juice (or whatever) for a treat. For now, here a handful or Mighty Bites (or whatever).”