Are you kids balking at the paleo dinners you make them? Do they want to remain on first name terms with the pizza delivery guy?
This is a common and real problem because it hits us right in the the heart of what we consider to be good parents – to provide sustenance and keep them healthy.
So what do we do? Tell them to simply sit up and eat up? Explain the science behind it? Make a game of it? Have you tried any of these and failed?
Perhaps it’s time to consider something new.
Child and teen development expert, Dr Robyn Silverman says the way to teach respect is to show respect. And one of the most important places to show, and teach, respect for food is…the grocery store.
Stop groaning. I know you like to zoom around there as quickly as possible, in and out in ten minutes, preferably without little people hanging off you, whining, or worse, throwing easter eggs at each other in a spontaneous game of catch. (Not that I know anything about that, you understand ;-))
But, in fact, the grocery store is a wonderful cornucopia of sights, smells and sounds perfect for educating young minds on the wonders of food, stimulating interest and building paleo lifeskills.
Why You Should Take Your Kids Grocery Shopping
1. They can choose their own food. Let them choose something as a way to support their investment in food. I let my kids pick out the fruit for their school lunches – that way they are more likely to eat it. If they come back with something out of season, I ask them to check the price and consider if it is pricey compared to other similar items.
2. They learn math. Math is everywhere in the grocery store. Counting lemons or brussel sprouts. Weighing 5 pounds of sweet potatoes. Calculating how much items will cost. Working out if that chicken on sale is really a good deal or is our budget more suited to pork? You can even give your own kids a small budget. I give mine $2, they can buy anything paleo within that. Takes quite a while for them to make a decision sometimes, but it’s worth it for the learning and the self-esteem they get as a result.
3. They become interested in food. They start asking questions, they want to try new things. They eat the samples and their minds open to new possibilities. Soon, they start looking up recipes or wanting to buy ingredients to make their favorite foods. Done the right way, grocery shopping is an awakening. Truly. J
4. Store (or stall) staff become teachers and mentors. They can answer their questions and teach them about corn-fed and grass-fed, organic and not. The fish counter staff often are a wealth of information, I’ve found, and farmer’s market sellers love to talk to kids about their farming. Just don’t go when it’s busy.
5. They get to appreciate how much it costs to feed a family. When my kids were younger, we would load the conveyor belt, then guess what we thought the total would come to. We had a monthly budget and when money was tight, we’d sometimes have a very small amount of food on the last day of the month. That taught the kids a lot about managing money, making smart purchases and estimating. They are also a lot more careful about eating their food and not wasting it.
6. You get to try new things. Kids are often far more adventurous at trying new foods than adults if they get the chance to choose. They often see produce you’ve never noticed before, either. If you give them the opportunity, you will find yourself cooking recipes you’ve never tried before. Encourage them to pick out one new fruit or vegetable regularly for the family to eat.
7. They learn to shop the perimeter of the store. The meat counter, dairy, fish counter, and produce department is all they need to know. That, and that there is almost no need to dive into the center.
8. You teach them conscious purchasing. If you show them the psychological techniques marketers use to separate us from our money, you are creating an awareness of the true value of food to them. Loss leaders, smells pumped into the store to tickle our taste buds and open our wallets, the special offers placed on the aisle ends, the sugary foods placed at children’s eye level – children can be taught not to be distracted by these tactics by making sure they are aware of them. That way, you’re teaching them the food bought is only the food needed.
9. You show them the importance of meal planning and shopping to the list. These are simple and basic but invaluable lifeskills that will reap huge dividends for your kids later in life. Seeing you role model and even involve your kids in these routines will be a huge bonus for them.
10. They can help you gather crops, select produce. My kids are older and can be sent off round the store, picking up items. They get a sense of their own independence, autonomy plus it takes less time and they enjoy it. But even younger kids can select good quality fruit, pick out avocados or put peppers in a bag.
11. You can take them from soup to nuts. Or rather dirt (almost) to dinner – planning a meal, looking up a recipe, shopping for the ingredients and cooking. Kids love doing this. Depending on their age, they can be involved a little or entirely. At 12, I have one boy who can do everything except drive himself to the store. A smaller kid can contribute ideas, help select the recipe, shop for food, do small food prep tasks, load the dishwasher, etc. They love it. Especially if mom (or dad) is the sous chef.
Does that sounds like a lot of hard work?
Is it really worth it?
By engaging them in the food shopping, you are helping them succeed. Their confidence shoots up, they get educated, they might even start making paleo choices when you’re not breathing over their shoulder.
You are changing lives.
But it’s also good for your motivation. Passing on this knowledge, seeing others grow gives you meaning.
If all you’re doing is going out week after week, day after day, hunting and foraging for food with no appreciation, no support and no end in sight, you will droop. You’ll get resentful. Feel hopeless.
That isn’t helpful.
And it isn’t paleo.
Tracking down nutritious food is fundamental for survival. The world is full of terribly learned people exchanging their knowledge for enormous sums of money and yet you go out offering your time and your energy week after week, month after month, year after year, so that your family can eat and be healthy. So they can live.
And you do it for free.
Having your family involved in grocery shopping is really about teaching understanding and respect. Respect for you, for your hard work, for that of the food producers, for that of the provider of the funds to buy the food.
So take them to the store with you. Teach them what you know. Encourage them to cook. Watch their minds grow.
Your respect for food and for their possibilities will breed their respect for food and your possibilities.
So watch for that respect, people. It’s going to come in a freakin’ flood.
And you know what?
You totally deserve it.
Do you take your kids grocery shopping? Or do you organize a babysitter? Let us know in the comments!