One consistent theme for saving money seems to be leaving your kids home when it comes to grocery shopping. Mostly the advice is to go alone, go with a list, and never go hungry. While I do agree that going with a list and never going hungry does make a difference, I do not agree on leaving hubby and kids at home. When you make it a family affair, everyone gets the chance to learn about good shopping habits, frugality, sales, loss leaders, unit pricing, math skills and sticking within a budget!
Grocery Shopping With Family
One of the things I have found is that if you go grocery shopping and have the rest of the family just tag along, then certainly this creates an array of problems. They start to beg for items they want, start acting up (including hubby helping in this area) to cause distractions, and in general can cause a stress filled, very unpleasant outing and lead to overspending. With only one person leading the troops, putting items in the cart based on how the one person generally cooks and prepares food, this leads to some very unhappy campers who does not always agree with the cook and main shopper of the household.
Every person has different tastes and likes when it comes to food, so why not celebrate this diversity by involving every family member in the shopping experience? The ways you can go about this of course will depend on the ages and will need to be made age appropriate, but there are many things you can do for a fun and important learning experience for each member.
One of the things that have worked extremely well in my family is:
- Start with a grocery budget; know how much you have to spend before leaving the house!
- Give each member some control over purchases by giving each a certain amount out of that budget. As the main shopper keep enough for the staple supplies such as coffee, flour, sugar and a few items you know you absolutely need. Also allow yourself enough for a few fillers such as large package of chicken breasts to compensate for others lack of experience and ensuring there will be meals to fix!
- If the kids are old enough, give them each a pen and small notepad to keep track of how much they spend so they do not go over their allowed shopping amount. If younger children are involved, have them team up with the adults to help them with the math portions of keeping track of spending.
- Tell each person, they are allowed to get one small item for themselves, but for the rest of the amount, they need to keep the whole family and the meals in mind as they purchase food. Remind them to keep breakfasts, lunches and dinners in mind.
- Tell them they are free to prepare the meals they choose but if not comfortable with that, you will be happy to prepare their meal idea if they supervise it and tell you their idea and how to prepare it. This can lead to fabulous ideas but take the pressure off a child who just simply is not comfortable in the kitchen yet.
- If they go over budget, they will need to put items back until they are within their allowed budget.
This system has worked extremely well in my family personally, although I won’t lie, the first time I tried this, I was filled with anxiety fearing the worse. I had visions of eating pop tarts and Oreos for 2 weeks. Yet by providing ground rules and a budget up front, my family made me very proud and surprised me, rising to the challenge. The first time I tried this, my children were 9 and 11 so I realize younger children may need a little guidance towards perhaps a few sweets balanced with healthier choices.
However I found my family has tons of fun running around looking for sale items and good deals. Also by putting them in control of what is coming into the house to eat, and by allowing them one small purchase for themselves, there was no begging for things at all. It puts respecting them as individuals and trusting them in capable shoppers in the forefront where they feel, their desires and wants truly mattered. It also inspires everyone to get in the kitchen to prepare their meal ideas for the rest of the family!
Something else that is in my plans for the near future is to create a grocery scavenger hunt by using that weeks store flyers and having a checklist of items they have to find. These could include things like find one new thing we have never tried, find a type of meat that is $1.99 per pound (from sale flyers) and things like that. Use your imagination, sale ads, and get creative. While I have not tried this one out yet, it sure sounds like a fun family affair! By doing these things, you are passing important lessons down to another generation who will not have to learn these skills on their own when they leave home. So make it fun, and stick to the budget, and get the whole family involved!
Carrie Hetu is not a financial expert, but has been passionate about finances since the age of 19 years old when a neighbor introduced her to taxes. From that time, she has made a point to increase her financial literacy into areas of frugal living, investing, real estate, budgeting and passive income. She currently blogs at Poor to Rich a Day at a Time and Simply Homeschooled.