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Conversations You Don’t Want to Miss with Kids in the Grocery Store

Updated: Sep 3, 2022

Photo "free to use" on Pexels by Photo Mix Company, Europe

On trips to grocery store, these are common exchanges I hear between parents and their children:

  • A girl said “Mom, let's get romaine.” She said, “No, honey.” Then the girl said, “Remember Mom we’ve got to get paper plates. I remembered to remind you at the store.” The mother thanked her.

  • A boy points to dragon fruit, asking, “Mom, what is this?” The mother distractedly says, “No,” as she picks other items in the produce section.

  • One girl exclaimed with glee, “Look, Daddy, blueberries!” He replied, “We picked strawberries already.”

Many parents and guardians are stressed over budgets of time and money. So, grocery shopping with children can be a subconscious source of frustration, stress, or even a painful reminder of expenses for some adults. (I add guardians but will refer just to parents in the rest of the article for the sake of simplicity. Many of my sons’ generation were raised by a grandparent).

My adult son and I had gone to a grocery store to get lunch ingredients for the first time in ages (I had been doing curbside pickup during the pandemic until only recently). I complained to him about a plastic-wrapped iceberg lettuce someone left on an un-refrigerated shelf near the checkout area. My son showed compassion. He said “That was a hard choice. They got to the checkout with a fixed income. Things people want to get sometimes they can’t.”

We have to say “No” to set limits of time and money often as a parent. But how has our economy gotten to the point that we tell a child “No” over a fresh fruit or vegetable if a child asks for it?

Please don’t let “No” be the final word in this exchange. Consider these alternatives if they express an interest in a fresh fruit or vegetable:

· Start your grocery shopping in the produce section. Don’t fill your cart with more processed un-refrigerated items first. Or if that order doesn’t work for you, you can suggest if the child wants that fruit or vegetable over something they picked that can go back on the shelf as a result?

· As much as possible and based on their ability, teach them how to pick the fruit/veg and let them practice that skill. Kids love to learn these tricks.

· If the child asks what an item is, find the name or ask the produce staff then look it up on your phone. Ask the child questions of what they think it is? How they describe it? What it reminds them of? You might hear some great stories. You might try it and find it’s delicious.

· If you don’t have time to find out what it is at the store, take a snapshot of the item and then tell your child that they are responsible to remind you to research together what it is at another later time. Find recipes for it!

· Have them identify what veggies or fruits they want and help them talk through what they want the most.

· Make a list together and plan for the week.

· Have the child locate where those fruits and veggies are in the store.

· When the produce looks bad, then show the child about signs that indicate to not get that produce.

· Learn how to store each produce item effectively to maximize how long it will stay fresh. Nothing grosser than throwing away some slime-that-was-once-produce-still-in-a-plastic-bag (actually, opening the bag and taking a big sniff is grosser).

· Consider store brand for non-perishables to save money towards more produce in season?

· Know when produce’s seasons are to save money and to get fresher produce? Melons in summer. Oranges in winter.

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