How to Teach Kids to Grocery Shop Frugally

by Vincent King · 4 comments

Teaching kids about money is one of the most difficult tasks we’re faced with when parenting. It’s a challenge to raise kids who are financially aware, and who will hopefully make better decisions than we do.

Often that’s because we spend our time telling our children how they should do things, rather than letting them follow in our footsteps. It’s difficult for us to change. We’ve settled into not-so-wise routines and are creatures of habit.

We live our lives hoping they’ll hear our words instead of watching our actions — so they’ll live their lives out better than we lived ours.

And even if we’re taking the right steps, we often don’t explain why we’re doing so. By using small tasks like grocery shopping as a teaching tool, we can help our children understand our thought processes and learn to make solid financial choices.

Here’s how to teach your kids to grocery shop frugally:

Take Them With You

If you want your babies to grow into fiscally austere grocery shoppers, you must involve them.

When you go grocery shopping, take the little tikes with you, and don’t shop in a hurry. Rushing through your shopping makes it all too easy to make mistakes. Do it right, and you won’t have to take as many “field trips” as you think. It’s great to start exposing children to logic and decision making, as they’ll catch on quickly.

Talk It Out

When you hit the store, be armed with a map and plan. Then work your way around the store’s perimeter.

Fill your cart mostly with fresh produce; avoid the processed food aisles and freezer sections as much as possible. These foods cost less by volume, but are also less filling and cause far more health problems.

Explain to your children why you’re sticking to the store’s outside edges. Talk about why you’re choosing seasonal veggies, instead of paying more for imported ones that are available all year long — like tomatoes and strawberries that are unusually large and unseasonably red and juicy.

Talk to them about prices per unit and how things look like a bargain, but really may not be once you break them down into price per unit. Discuss why you choose to buy certain items on certain weeks and not others.

Explain how important menus and lists are when shopping — that knowing what you need is half the battle. Your children will come to understand that walking into the grocery store blind means walking into a spending trap, because they’ll surely pick up unneeded items.

If you use coupons, then talk to the kids about which coupons serve you best and which don’t. This will help them recognize good and bad deals.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once your children have accompanied you on a couple of shopping trips, start asking questions about what you should choose. Help them talk their way through their thought processes. Even if they come to a wrong conclusion, be easy and tread lightly — the last thing you want is for them to shy away from the process.

In all likelihood, this will be a lesson for you both, and will take lots of patience. But, the reward will be children who follow in your footsteps. They’ll be on their way to becoming frugal shoppers and health-conscious consumers.

Children need you to show them how to do what’s best; telling them just doesn’t cut it. The most effective way to make this a part of their thinking is by involving them in the process and actively teaching them along the way.

How have you taught your kids to be frugal?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

John S @ Frugal Rules September 16, 2013 at 6:29 am

Great tips! We’ll include our oldest, which is six, in grocery shopping and just starting with the next one. It can provide a great opportunity to help teach them wants vs. needs and using our budget to get what we need.

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Jon @ MoneySmartGuides September 16, 2013 at 12:43 pm

I plan on taking my kids with me to the grocery when they are old enough and teaching them how to shop smartly. I think the sooner you get that into their head, the better off they will be since marketers will be coming at them from every direction.

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Property Marbella September 18, 2013 at 1:03 am

Teach children to understand the extraordinary prices, offer, coupon discounts, great packaging purchase benefits etc. They can slowly learn food economy better then.

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julia @ howmuchcost.org September 18, 2013 at 9:40 pm

I really liked this and wish my parents took the time to do this with me. I remember when I first started shopping on my own after I moved out. It can be very overwhelming. This is a great idea to do with your kids!

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