Wanna talk about something mundane with me today? How about grocery shopping? No? Doesn't float your boat?
When I tell friends that every Sunday (it used to be Monday) night you can find my family doing the same thing, they think I'm a little wacky (perhaps deservedly so). Especially when I tell them we're spending our time at the grocery store...all five of us...together. We've been doing family grocery trips for the last decade or so, adding new family members to the dynamic as they entered the world. :)
Here are my thoughts on how to make it work and even make it fun. I'd love to hear your tips!
1. EVERYBODY'S GOT THE PLAN
I am not an ultra organizer. I do, however, try to put together a list, look through sales flyers, clip a few coupons, and have a rough idea of a menu before we make the trip to the store. I've taken the family on thissojourn without doing this and, well, it's not pretty. So I find a little up-front work is super helpful. We also engage everyone in contributing to the week's meal ideas (my daughter's 1st grade class made a cookbook of kids foods that has been very helpful with this). We talk about what items are on sale and how to best spend our family dollar.
2. BRING YOUR WINGMAN
This excursion does not work without a willing and energetic partner. My husband is the driver (of the cart) and the one who can instigate fun as necessary. Hang from the cart like it's the monkey bars? Sure! See how many containers of apple juice you can pick up? Yes. Daddy's here for support. Momma's job is sticking to the list and offering treats. My job would stink (I mean, I'm not the funster parent here) except I get to talk with each kiddo about something extra yummy just for them. Sharing is optional on these treats.
3. EAT IN
Every Sunday dinner is spent dining in at our grocery store. We come with our giant bag of canvas bags, our refillable water jugs, sippies of milk/juice (we're quite a site). Our store has a second level for dining and the kids love to look out at shoppers or down at the parking lot activity. I find it helps keep everyone's appetites in check as well to start off with full tummies.
4. ENLIST HELP
We know every attendant at the deli. Why? Because our store has a policy of offering free cheese slices to children. And for my bunch a free slice of cheese is a great big slice of Heaven. Many of these women and men have now greeted and gifted my children since their infancy, and we, too, know about their children and grandchildren. Community always helps.
Once your children reach a certain age, let them in on the budgeting, too. We have our oldest bring her calcuator or Ipod and keep a running total of our expenses. Are we near our budget? Did we go over with a certain item? What's her prediction for the final total? It's an awesome way to teach, and it keeps all of us accountable to our budget.
5. ENGAGE EVEN THE LITTLEST
Since we embrace the full family-ness (chaos and all) of the trip, each child helps to take items off of shelves, put them in the cart, and scratch items off the list. We typically pay with gift certificates purchased through my children's school, and each child even gets to practice paying for the bill by handing one certificate each to the cashier. Everyone helps to bring the goods into our house and put everything away. It's become a point of pride to see who can carry more bags and I'm all for it.
Honesty here: some trips are a challenge. We've had Sunday evenings when I wonder why the what(!) did I think this was a good idea.
But mostly I enjoy the ordinariness of it all. We are a real family with tired, fussy, fun, and quirky days and I'm happy we can share the amazing and the mundane together.
What do you think? Are you for the full team approach? Or does a quick trip through with no kids work better for you? Or something in between?