Savvy parents of young children know that any errand can become an educational and
entertaining experience. You just have to know how to start the conversation! Grocery
stores are especially wonderful places to explore and learn about food and going green.
Need hints about teachable moments?
1. Pick a smart time to shop.
The worst time to grocery shop is often painfully obvious - when a child (or adult) is hungry and the store is crowded. If this is your only option, buy a bag of baby carrots or a cheese stick to snack on - and get in-and-out as quickly as possible. If you have a choice, shop when everyone is well-rested and well-fed. Use a shopping list as your guide and stick to the departments with the nutrient-rich foods you want to purchase. Steer clear of the all-too-tempting cereal and snack aisles. Now we’re going shopping in the grocery store. What do we buy in this store? That’s right, yummy for your dinner!
2. Remember the reusable bags.
Reusing grocery bags - big (canvas, mesh, or cloth) and small (plastic for produce) - is one of the simplest, most effective ways to go green while shopping. Many people have bags, but forget to bring them into the store. Here’s a sure-fire way to make reusable bags part of every shopping trip: Get the kids involved! Keep a big bag of reusable bags in the car - right next to your child’s car seat. Ask your child(ren) to remember the bags every time you go into a grocery or other store. What do we need to take into the store with us? That’s right, all the blue bags so we can put our food into them!
3. Explore colors, shapes, numbers, and letters.
Every grocery store is filled with thousands of opportunities to help children learn age-appropriate skills. As you walk in the door, pick something that your child has been learning and focus on those items throughout the store, such as red items or circle shapes. With preschool and older children, you can take this discovery game a step further: At home, find a food picture in a book or cut one out of a magazine. Take the book or picture with you and try to find the item in the store. Where do you think the broccoli might be in this store? That’s right, it’s here - next to other green veggies, like peppers.
4. Put nutrition into their hands.
Every trip through the grocery store can be a nutrition lesson. For example, children can learn to put food into different categories: meats, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy foods. Grocery shopping can also be a chance for children to choose new foods that they want to try - like picking out a new fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruit each trip. Again, as children get older, they can help plan the menu at home and then pick out the foods to match the menu items at the grocery store. OK, tonight we are having tacos. Where should we look for the hamburger? That’s right, in the meat department!
5. Talk about where food comes from.
Children often do not understand where food comes from - before it appears on supermarket shelves or restaurant menus. Adults can help them learn how and where food grows by reading about it at home and discussing it at the store. Even better, make the connection directly by shopping at farmer’s markets or visiting greenhouses, dairies, or ranches. Supporting local farmers and ranchers makes good sense for your family’s nutrition and for the local economy. Look at the different cheeses. Where we do get cheese? That’s right, cheese is made from milk - from cows, goats, or sheep.
The programs of the MSU Extension Service are available to all people regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or family status. Issued in furtherance of cooperative extension work in agriculture and home economics, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Dr. Douglas Steele, Vice Provost and Director, Extension Service, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717.
Montana State University Extension Service is an ADA/EO/AA/Veteran's Preference Employer and educational outreach provider.