Food and Drink

4 steps to involving kids in grocery shopping and meals

Many kids can’t wait to get older so they can do more of the things you do. Depending on your child’s age and abilities, it can be easy and fun to include them in family tasks like shopping for groceries. Grocery shopping is a wonderful opportunity to talk about food groups, where food comes from, how food is grown and the process of getting food from various places to your family table. We’re fortunate in Portland to have a large variety of grocery stores, farmers’ markets and garden stores that offer avenues to be more connected to our food sources.

What we as caretakers might take for granted can be a golden opportunity to teach our children. Guiding your child through the entire process – from choosing a recipe, to planning, to eating the final product – can serve multiple purposes. They will learn about budgeting, planning for a shopping trip, how to choose ingredients at the store and cooking a meal.

Choosing the recipe
Start by picking out a recipe that can be adapted to your child’s age and skill level. For example, tacos can be as complex or simple as you like. Kids can think of lots of fun fixings to put on their tacos based on what different family members like, as well as side dishes to pair with the meal. Guide them in choosing a protein, a vegetable, a starch and a fruit for a full meal.

Creating the list
This is a great opportunity to put those writing or drawing skills into practice! A grocery list doesn’t have to be the traditional written format – bust out the colored pencils and creativity. Kids can explore their art and math skills by drawing pictures of the ingredients and the number needed of each item (8 taco shells, 2 tomatoes, etc.)

Locating the items or ingredients at the store or market can be a fun treasure hunt of sorts. Practice kind manners with the customer service folks. If age appropriate, your child can start budgeting for the costs of ingredients and learn how to pay using cash or card machines. Allow them to make some purchasing choices based on the meal’s budget and interact with the cashier at checkout.

Once home with all the ingredients, your child can practice their culinary skills and pitch in with the cooking. Depending on their age, they can prep ingredients, help mix or blend items or even serve as the official taste tester. Children who take part in the purchasing and cooking of their own food will often choose to eat a variety of things they might not otherwise. Being a part of the process helps them appreciate where our food comes from and feel like an important contributor in the family.

Building lifelong skills through regular daily activities is a wonderful opportunity to see your kid beam with pride and to feel “grown up”!

About Carmen Ripley Wilson

As a child, Carmen Ripley Wilson grew up recycling, reusing and repurposing just about everything on her family’s farm in the coastal mountains of Oregon. Prior to opening Beanstalk, Carmen was a Naturopathic family physician. Carmen’s attentiveness to health, wellness and safety has strongly influenced the foundation for Beanstalk, a children’s resale store. Located in the Northeast Fremont and Southeast Montavilla neighborhoods, Beanstalk specializes in modern and hip children’s resale clothing, shoes, toys and gear. For more information, please visit