13 May 2009

are you afraid of the big, bad wolf? or of your own children in Piggly Wiggly?

One of my primary household responsibilities is food planning, shopping and preparation (as well as consuming, but we pretty well divvy that one up). Since our budget is quite tight (I don't know if anyone knows, but public school teachers are overworked and under paid - news alert), a big part of that job is feeding us on the least amount of money possible. That's a bit dramatic - its not the least amount of money possible - but you get what I mean.

Since this is my goal - economic food planning (we'll call it EFP) - I often click on/pick up articles about EFP in general, and many of these are about the grocery shopping side of things.

The tips are generally not new (or shouldn't be to the EFP concerned) - read grocery store circulars before you go, eat before you go, only buy what you need, check expiration dates, make a list, only go once a week, shop meat specials and freeze any extras, etc. And one that often appears: LEAVE THE KIDS AT HOME.

I have two small children - almost five and recently two - and I'm mystified by this command. Don't get me wrong - I would sometimes prefer to shop one or two kids down - just because it increases my efficiency (the never ending conversing, "yes, Eason, that banana IS yellow" and "Don't ask me what it says, Ada Brooks, sound it out", slows me down a bit). And I can see how having fewer distractions would allow you to do more division of prices/ounces, thus making you more economically successful.

But these aren't the reason(s) given. The reasons are usually something cutesy along the lines of "Little hands tend to grab things off the shelf when you aren't looking" or "You'll be forced to buy things you'd never dream of putting on your list when little ones are around"

Excuse my french, but when in the hell did children hijack our wallets? and do away with control over purchasing? I went to the grocery store with my children on Monday. We did pass the instant pudding and Ada Brooks commented that she wished I would buy some. I explained why instant pudding wasn't likely to make an appearance on our weekly menu, and we moved on down the ailse. She did ask if I would make some homemade pudding sometime soon, and I acquiesced to making it once before the baby comes (she's a mental terrorist, that Ada Brooks). Eason did reach out of the cart one time and grab a bottle of bacon bits. I asked him to put them back and explained that if he liked taking things off the shelf, I'd be glad to tell him what all we needed and he could help, but no bacon bits. I'm sure I'll have to tell him that a few more times before he is like his sister and doesn't even think of adding to the buggy sans permission.

Which brings us to the point - Children require training. And if you train them, calmly, faithfully, consistently - why should they not be able to go grocery shopping. help cook supper. pack their lunches for school. shower themselves. sit through a church service. Children are much like any investment - and we're treating them just like we've treated the economy. We are not investing in the future - instead we are paying babysitters so we can grocery shop alone. Again, I understand occassionally needing to grocery shop alone. But Ada Brooks knows what a green banana and an overripe banana look like - and Eason is learning his letters in Kroger, week by week.

How do we think people learn to grocery shop? - learn all our mothers' tricks? by going with our mother - and being told to hush when we whined - and never being allowed to demand products - and learning why Mama buys Heinz ketchup and Bounty paper towels when she buys the store brand of most everything else (because Mama needs her sanity - and store brand ketchup is gross.... and store brand paper towels remind her of using looseleaf to clean up a spill).

Our children are not scary. They are hard work - and sometimes frustrating - and almost always exhausting. But they are generally joyful and eager learners. And contrary to popular belief, they cannot make you buy anything. We are bigger than they are. And generally faster and more knowledgable. And your local super market provides a plethora of opportunities for vocab lessons, economics lessons, laughter, colors, shapes - you name it.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6.
Of course it applies to grocery shopping. Of course.


  1. i think you should send this in somewhere to be published. it is great. you are great.

  2. Hey Ann Lowrey, I stumbled on to your blog this morning and have LOVED reading it - especially this one. The grocery is my favorite place to family-watch (and critique). It sounds like you and Paul have done a wonderful job raising your little ones and you seem so content with life. That's so very exciting!

    -Fran (Varner) Snow