Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Making Life Easier

Today is grocery day.  Twice a month, faithfully, we make the rounds to places like Costco and, my favorite, Winco Foods.
For years this trip was made with many children in tow- from babies on up.
There were times when I dreaded getting groceries.  Dreaded loading and unloading loads of groceries, only to have to make lunch or dinner an hour later.  Years when I struggled to keep six young bodies polite and organized as we made our way through the aisles.   When I had serious doubts about the designer of the freezer section...who chose to install a pattern of black and white floor tiles with which to lure my children
away from my side.  Those black tiles became hot lava and the white tiles the safe spots on which to jump.
 In retrospect, I wish I could go back in time, tell myself to relax and enjoy their antics and not feel hurried through the store.  However, back then, I was very conscious of the fact that we were a larger-than-average family (which attracts stares and contempt at times) as well as a homeschooling family; which made us very visible shopping during school hours.  My children knew they were to be clean and well groomed and on their best behavior if they were to have the privilege of going to town.

I'd give a lot to have a photo or better yet, a video of just one of those excursions!  One of the most memorable involved a fist fight between my oldest two, over who got to run the conveyor belt and who got to bag the groceries.  That was the same day when, still steaming over their public display of rudeness, and while lecturing them on the way to the van, I found that my keys were locked in and we were locked out.  It began to rain and the kids got really quiet.  I marched them back to the store, pushing two wet, fully loaded grocery carts and sat them on benches just outside as we called The Man of the House to come rescue us.  Silently, they waited- sensing that Mom could not tolerate one. more. thing.

 For the most part, though, grocery day has always been looked forward to.  It was the day they could pick out a treat if they were good, they could help plan the menu for the next week or two and often, we would leave the food in the van on a winter's day and head inside to watch a matinee movie at the dollar theater.  Good times!

A few of my best tips for shopping with children are these:
*  Feed everyone a good meal before heading to the store.  This cuts down on cravings and impulsive purchases and puts the kids in a decent mood.
* Go early!  Getting your shopping done before 11 am the best.  Less crowds, shorter lines, better parking.  Enough said.
* After including the kids in menu choices for the next week or so, let them write the grocery list.  Every week, I would choose a child (often the older ones) and dictate my list to them while driving into town.  It was good spelling practice!
* Let children 11 and up take their own cart through the store.  Our routine was to have the list written and once we arrived, I would rip it into three sections.  I would then pair up responsible kids: my 12 year old son with his 7 year old brother, for example, and my 11 year old daughter and her 5 year old brother.   They would each have their portion of the list and a cart.  They knew to act mature and it was great to feel important!   I was amazed at how quickly they learned to look for sale items and better bargains.  I taught them how to look for the best price per ounce and often, they discovered brands that we ended up preferring over name brands.
* Keep little children's hands busy.  So often, my toddlers and preschoolers wanted to be out of the cart seat and walk themselves.  This wasn't the most efficient way to get through a store.  So, some bribery became the rule.  They knew if they sat buckled up in their seat, they could have a treat while we shopped.  Skittles or fruit snacks were favorites- but any item that had lots of little pieces so it required some time to eat.  With Skittles or M& M's I did two things: first, I had wipes ready for the unavoidable messiness and second, I only allowed a small opening in the corner of the package.  Just big enough for one or two little fingers to work hard to get a piece out.   This made the treat last much longer.
*  Expect children to behave in a store.  Once or twice, we had to leave items in a cart and go home because someone was really disobeying or throwing a fit.  Not fun for me, not fun for them.   I had to be tough and lay down the rules.  Basic child exuberance is part of life and fun to be around- but running in front of people, pointing and gawking at people with disabilities, grabbing things without asking or throwing tantrums wasn't allowed.
  At the same time, I don't believe in harshly punishing children- especially in a store!- or expecting them to be cheerful when they're tired or hungry and don't want Mom dragging them from place to place. I've seen far too many mothers screaming at their tired children late at night or ignoring their crying babies because they want to shop.  On the other hand, I've also seen parents who allow their children to run all over, helping themselves to 'free' items from the bulk bins and be generally wild.
*  Praise them for their help and for being good!  Kids love to feel needed and helpful.  I often told them I couldn't do it without them. I also told them that since they ate the food, they could help bring it home!

Today, my grocery partner is my 16 year old son.  He's a huge help.  He knows exactly what we need and always puts my cart away for me.  I may actually cry the day he's grown and I realize the cart return is all up to me....forever.
This son is the person who has been on my case to print a grocery template so we don't have to write every last item down when we go shopping.  Probably because often now, he's the list writer.  Okay, okay, so he can spell cabbage and spaghetti and lasagna noodles on his own and doesn't exactly need the practice.    For him, today, I will print a grocery list.  It probably will make life easier.

If you're interested in using a Grocery List template, here's one for you!
Master Grocery List

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