Grocery shop as a family and enjoy these benefits

When you’re juggling busy schedules and long to-do lists, it’s understandable if you want a trip to the grocery store to be as quick and efficient as possible. But bringing your children along offers a teachable moment: they can pick up a number of life skills just by walking the aisles with you.

A family grocery shopping trip can spark curiosity about food. It may also help your children grow into healthy eaters as adults. After all, people who spend more time preparing food at home have healthier diets.1 And picky eaters and younger kids might be inclined to eat more if they have a hand in food prep themselves.2

Find out how to get (and keep) kids involved in the entire food shopping process – and learn what it will teach them before they even visit the store.

Before you leave home

Making a list or taking stock of the pantry before going to the store is a great way to stay organized and it could save you money, too. Here are a few pre-shopping habits to get into with the family.

Create a meal plan

Jotting down some meal ideas for the week streamlines shopping. Ask the kids to brainstorm too. What would they like for lunches and dinners? Involving them in the decision making manages their expectations and can make mealtimes easier.

Take inventory

Have the kids check pantry and fridge shelves against the meal plan recipes. What ingredients do you already have – and what’s missing? Then build your list based on what you need. Younger kids can practice counting. Older kids can work on the math of measuring: Do you need more butter if the recipe calls for 4 tablespoons?

Make a grocery list

Grocery lists make shopping easier and faster, and may save you money because you’re more likely to stick to the items on your list. They also cut down on extra food that might go to waste during the week. Explain how lists are time-savers and money-savers. Depending on your kids’ ages, they can write the list for you.

While you shop

There’s a lot for kids to master as you go through the aisles together and pick out the items on your list. Focus on the following shopping tasks.

Pick produce and meat together

Most of us are thoughtful when we choose our grocery items, whether it’s a bunch of bananas or a pack of chicken thighs. Talk to your kids about how to spot the freshest ingredients, and why it’s important. That could include squeezing fruit and looking at sell-by dates.

Compare items

Show your kids how to compare products. For example, point out the nutrition panel and ingredients list for 2 different boxes of cereal. Read them together and then choose the healthiest one. Older kids can learn about the price per unit versus total cost – and which is cheaper.

When you get back home

You might be tempted to finish these tasks by yourself. But there are other valuable lessons for your kids to learn if they help you.

Unload and unpack together

When everyone pitches in, the work goes faster. Take time to teach your kids the “first in, first out” rule of the fridge and freezer. That’s the importance of storing the new milk behind the one you already have open, for instance.

Do some food prep

Kids don’t have to help you prepare the whole meal. Just focusing their energy on a single item – such as the salad or peeling garlic – is great. It will help them see how the raw ingredients they picked out become a meal. And they may be more engaged because they were involved in shopping. They might also be more likely to try new-to-them foods at mealtimes.

You don’t have to go shopping together every time. Think of it as a family field trip – maybe it’s something to do once a month. That’s often enough to teach your kids some impactful life lessons that they can take with them into adulthood.

This article is part of UnitedHealthcare’s 7-Day Healthy Eating Challenge. For an entire week, you'll find new ideas that encourage every member of your household to get involved. Eating nutritious meals – and teaching kids about the importance of healthy foods – is a key to overall health, both now and in years to come.

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