February 10, 2009
OPINION SHAPER: Teach Your Kids How To Shop for Groceries By Pam Dyson
With the state of the economy, many families are looking for ways to cut expenses and stretch the
family dollar. One way is to eat out less and do more cooking at home.
You'll not only be saving money, but you will be able to ensure your family is eating nutritionally healthy
Using the weekly grocery ads, have your child help you plan a week's worth of menus and put together
the shopping list. Explain to your child the importance of establishing a food budget and purchasing
items on sale. Allow your child to select one item from the ad of his or her choosing to put on the list. If
your child is not yet old enough to read, cut the food item pictures from the ad and glue or tape them
onto a legal pad or into a spiral notebook to make a visual shopping list.
Your child can sharpen his fine motor skills by cutting coupons from the Sunday paper and magazines.
Encourage your child to match the coupons to the items in the weekly grocery ad. Put the coupons into
an envelope that can be attached to the legal pad or spiral notebook shopping list, and you're ready to
go grocery shopping.
Allow your child to accompany you to the store and make a game out of finding all the items on your
shopping list. Use this shopping experience as an opportunity to teach your child how to select fresh
produce, how to comparison shop, and the importance of sticking to the shopping list in order to save
If you think your child can tolerate the crowds, do your grocery shopping on a Friday or Saturday when
the store is handing out free samples or offering items to taste. Don't forget to take along your
reusable shopping bags. Once the groceries are purchased and you've made your way back home,
enlist your child's help in putting the groceries away.
Every good cook needs cooking tools, and children are no exception. Buy your child a kid-sized apron
or, to save even more money, make one using an old bath towel. Lay the towel vertically and cut a
circular hole a third of the way down. The towel will easily slide over your child's head for wearing, and
it's easy to wash.
Assemble some kitchen utensils that will be specifically for your child's use. Make sure the kit includes
pot holders, a wooden spoon, measuring cups and measuring spoons, a wire whisk and any other
utensils that would be age-appropriate. Utensils can be extra ones you already have, or they can be
purchased inexpensively at a dollar store. Store the utensils in a kitchen drawer or storage bin that can
be easily accessed by your child. Make sure teaching safety issues around kitchen equipment is a
Talk to your child about his favorite foods and help him discover what foods he can make himself. Those
foods might include cereal, a peanut butter sandwich and chocolate milk. Ask him what new foods he
would like to learn to make. Purchase a cook book for your child or, better yet, save the money you
would have spent on a cookbook by doing an online search for kid-friendly recipes. There are many
Web sites that offer simple and tasty step-by-step recipes for a beginning cook.
Children who help with meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking are more likely to be interested in
trying new foods. Meal planning, shopping for the ingredients and cooking your own meals provides
opportunities for you to spend valuable time with your child. It also encourages healthy eating habits in
your child that will last a lifetime.
Pam Dyson of Ballwin is one of 17 West County area Opinion Shapers. Opinion Shapers are guest
writers who submit a column three times a year on areas of interest to them. Dyson has a master's
degree in professional counseling and is a play therapist.