Sunday, September 4, 2011

Shopping alone

Yesterday, I had the chance to head to town alone.  I had a few things to accomplish, and for a change, none of my children had anything they were supposed to be doing.

It had occurred to me, as I was having to hike back and forth with the Bountiful Baskets order, how much easier it is to get things done when I have my kids along.  And again, when I had to make a couple trips in and out at the farm stand, I realized what a blessing it is to have them with me.  Then in the grocery store, as I had to do all the comparison shopping myself, and put the groceries up on the belt, and get the bags back into the cart, and get the bags into the car, and put the cart away... well, it hit me again how much help my kids are when I'm shopping.

What really got me though was at a couple of stops I was asked where my kids were.  I said that they had the chance to stay home and sleep in.  And in both cases, the response I got was something like, "Oh, that must make it so much easier for you today!"

In both cases, I had to explain that no, in fact, it didn't.  I miss having my kids along.  They share the load, literally and figuratively.

One of the pieces of advice I see so often about grocery shopping on a budget, or saving time, or eating healthy is to be sure to shop without your kids.  In fact, I listened to that advice on some homeschooling seminar mp3 while I was driving yesterday.

And I just don't agree.

I know it is hard to shop with little kids.  A decade ago, I'd be in the store with my cart full of a 4 year old, and 2.5 year old, and my 9 month old.  There was barely room for groceries.  It was reasonably stressful.  I get that.  And yes, when I could shop without them it was a relief.

But you know what?  Shopping with them 85-90% of the time over the past dozen years has given me so many opportunities to train them.

They've sat in the car with me and prayed that the $15 we had to buy groceries that week would somehow stretch to feed us.  They've sat in the cart and listened to me talk over the price per ounce of various options, and whether or not it was worth getting the bigger size to pay less per ounce.  I wasn't trying to mentor.  I was trying to keep them occupied.

They definitely learned not to ask for things without having a solid argument for why it is appropriate.

They've helped me count items for the various buy 10, save $5 promotions.  They've helped me count dollars for various spend $25, get money off your next purchase promotions.  They've put groceries on the belt.  They've bagged groceries.  They've put bags in the cart and then in the car.  They not only return our cart, but the carts other shoppers rudely leave behind.

They have learned to watch for a sale, they have learned the value of coupons, they have learned to check the markdown racks.  They've learned to compare, they've learned to make choices. 

I have invested a lot in them... most of it totally unintentional.  Now that they are older (14, 12 and 10 for those older three) they are a tremendous help in the store, not a burden or a cause of stress.

So MY advice to moms of young ones?  Maybe leave them home for those complicated sales that require a fair amount of concentration.  And certainly, if you can shop without an infant then go for it.  But toddlers and preschoolers and certainly grade school children... they can start learning to be helpers.  And it will pay off. 


Michelle Smith said...

Wow, Debra. Great thoughts. I usually do shop with my children, too. I don't have that problem with my kids asking for all sorts of things, either, because they know we cannot afford them. Yes, they do ask for the free cookies which two of our stores give away, but that is it.

My older kids are huge helpers with the bags, too, and buckling in the little ones and even occupying them in the cart.

I'm not sure mine have learned the "value of the coupons" lesson yet, though. They are supposed to be helping me clip and organize the coupons, and let's just say that I don't think we've clipped a single coupon since we began school nearly 3 weeks ago. :(

Heather @ Marine Corps Nomads said...

I agree completely. It feels weird when my daughter is not with me when I shop, and I miss not only the help but the chance to talk. I also expected more of my daughter when she was younger, and for the most part, she met those expectations.

Unknown said...

Isn't that the truth? I enjoy being able to shop for certain things without my helpers, but overwhelmingly, I don't know what to do without them!

PS...I'll keep you posted on God & the History of Art!

Our Homeschool Reviews said...

My daughter is 8 and most of the time she is a big help with the shopping. Every once in a while though, I get this strange, hyper look alike child who is not much help at! That said, I do most of my shopping with her and we enjoy each others company.

Jennifer said...

For a while I thought it easier to shop on my own than answer the "can we get?" question from my kids repeatedly or the "are you playing hooky?" to my kids by complete strangers. Now, when I shop without my oldest daughter, I miss her help. I need to plan more lessons with my kiddos like the ones that you incorporated naturally.

Mary said...

My helpers are too expensive. I spend less when I go alone :)

Catherine said...

If it's grocery shopping, I like to have them with me. If it's shopping where I have to look, and compare, and decide, or try on.. well.. those kids of trips can go either way. Still, when they aren't there, it's weird. They are like celebrities when we shop, so they love it. Every aisle, counter and checkout is another smiling face saying hello to the boys. The bakery ladies know them, the pharmacist knows them, the deli ladies know them, and so on. They love that, and it's a chance to practice their social skills.
Great post.

nickandkatherine said...

What a great post. I sometimes think it would be great to shop without the kids. Yes, sometimes it;s far easier without the smaller ones, but often it's fun to shop with the older ones. They go get things, spot other offers you've not seen and generally be a help - even if it does take a bit longer.