Homeschooling at the Grocery Store

If anyone can turn a trip to the mailbox into a Nature Study it’s a homeschool parent. I find that even the most mundane outings are candidates for a spontaneous field trip.

I am actually one of those strange beings who likes grocery shopping. I like pulling everything thing I can out of my last nickel. Or it could be that for years my grocery trips have been about as close to a shopping spree as I can get. Anybody else get excited about manager’s specials? I always feel like I’m getting in on the fix.

homeschooling at the grocery store

Despite my frugal finds euphoria, there are occasions that my shopping buddy exhausts me. My shopping buddy being 12 and much more interested in finding things he knows he can’t put in the cart (snack cakes) and wishing out loud that our supper market had a video game aisle or at least a lounge for “dudes.”

I will also admit that there have been a few times I’ve managed to sneak out of the house early in the morning before my young dude has had a chance to get up. Just so I could sniff the melon all by myself. It’s the little things.

This is not always practical or necessarily fair to my son.

“Fair! What mean you by fair?” you ask.

Part of my job as a parent/teacher is to prepare him for life. I need equip him to face the real world of produce, coupons and the cookie counter.

And there are simply times that I have to take him with me, along with whatever cousin/friend/husband might be around.

I have found that if I include Josiah in my shopping duties he not only learns those practical lessons, but I can throw in all kinds of interesting learning in the mix. I realize that being intentional about lessons at the grocery store can be time consuming. Nevertheless, think about the terrific, real life lessons to be found there!

Here are some ideas to take with you (along with the kiddos) to the grocery store. Please feel free to add your own ideas in the comments below. We mamas need each other!

If you have younger children pick a color or a letter of the alphabet before you enter the store. Have he or she identify all that they can see with that letter or color. You might also tease a “mystery item.” Provide clues along the way. See if your crew can guess the mystery item.

Sometimes we will grab a sale paper at the front of the store to take around with us. I let Josiah see if he can correspond what is on the sale paper to what is actually in the store. I have usually identified what is on sale (through my online ads), but he enjoys finding these treasures himself. Josiah is old enough to talk about economics. We’ve discussed how grocery stores will use loss leaders for business. He can identify what sale items might be the loss leaders.

Every grocery store has a produce section. We generally have certain fruits and veggies we put in our cart, but I like to take time to point out those that he might not be familiar with. We like to smell and discuss the differences (Which ones are root vegetables? Does this fruit grow on a tree?) When our budget allows we will chose a different fruit or vegetable to bring home. Be sure you teach them how to handle produce respectfully. Plus, teach them to identify what makes a fruit or veggie optimal.

If you use coupons let your child be the coupon holder, even if it simply to carry them. Older children identify how much you will save.

Josiah is almost always in charge of our list now. He has to be organized and takes great satisfaction in a job well done. Below I will give you a link for a printable grocery list for the Littles. Even they can get involved!

A grocery store is a terrific place for hands on learning concerning measurements. Gallons, ounces. Pounds, pints and quarts. You can even start by just identifying where the measurements are located on a product. We enjoy the using the produce scale as well. How many pounds is a particular head of cabbage? Compare and contrast gallons, ½ gallons and pints of milk or juice. Talk about fractions. What does it mean if a pound of butter divided into 4ths?

For older children this is a good time to talk about unit price. Most grocery stores will provide the unit price on the price sticker. What does it mean? And how can you find the best deal? I do most of my shopping at two different grocery stores. One is a local chain and the other is Aldi. We have talked about comparison shopping. Why spend 4.99 for a bag of green apples at one store when we can get them for 2.99 at the other. Are we getting more apples for 4.99? If not, how much are we saving if we buy them for 2.99?

A grocery store scavenger hunt can be a lot of fun. I have one or two you can use on my blog. Link forthcoming.

Younger children will enjoy counting or sorting items into categories. For example, you can sort the items in your cart into “hard or soft.” You can also sort the items by food groups.

We do a lot of label reading in our house. We talk about what kind of ingredients we need to avoid. If there is an ingredient that keeps popping up in a product we will go home and investigate what it might be.

Children enjoy being part of the menu planning process. Every week I will ask Josiah if there is a favorite meal he would like to help make. We first see what ingredients we have at home. The remaining group of ingredients get put on the shopping list. Josiah is able to “shop” for his meal. This is also a good opportunity to talk about budgeting and price comparisons.

And speaking of budgets. I am always having to guard against items being placed on the cart that are not on the list. If Josiah could have his way we would have a cart filled with poptarts. Every week I give him a tiny budget. He can add to the cart as long as it is in his budget. It’s amazing what stays out of the cart. This has helped learn to prioritize and manage his budget. I only give him a few dollars, but it has proved to be a valuable lesson.

Have a compass at home? This can be a fun tool to use in the grocery store! Your navigator will feel quite important.

Another fun mapping activity would be to create a map of the grocery store at home. Provide pen and paper at the store. Tell your kiddos to make a rough sketch or keep notes. When you arrive home you can get out the paper and markers. See if they can create a map using their “field notes.”

Any other ideas? Hopefully, I’ve given you some ideas to make your next grocery shopping adventure a great learning experience! On my blog I have a few fun (and FREE) printables just for grocery store learning.

Rebekah Teague is a homeschooling Mama of one creative and highly-entertaining son. She has been married to The Muffin Man who is a pastor and a great guy. She resides in the Ozark Mountains and blogs at There Will Be a $5 Charge For Whining.

4 thoughts on “Homeschooling at the Grocery Store”

  1. I love all these great tips! My daughter loves to go grocery shopping with me and my mom (it’s a family affair). She rolls the carts and buys herself a small cup of fruit from the deli section. We haven’t gotten into these great learning ideas though. Food for thought (Hahaha!)


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