Reflecting on our trip to the grocery store

This week’s outing was a great success! My husband, Tony is in charge of keeping our family fed – this includes most of the shopping and cooking. Usually Betsy joins him for a big weekly shopping trip. In fact, most everyone who works at our local Trader Joe’s greets them by name when they enter the store… and looks confused when B & I walk in sans Tony for the occasional missed item.

Prior to our visit to the store for this week’s tour, B and I sat down at the kitchen counter with a couple of pens and some paper. We each wrote a list of what we might need for pizza. B was very intentional about writing her list of items. Although the marks she made were not actual letters, they were great pre-writing strokes. She had a variety of straight and curved lines, much like those that are used in conventional writing. As she wrote, B dictated the words to me – cheese, sausage, red pepper, guacamole (more on this later…).

For school this week, we opted to make a special trip to the store, rather than combine it with the weekly trip. We went as a family on a weekday afternoon with a list of “Panno Gravy” and pizza ingredients to pick up. B and Tony each grabbed a cart – appropriately sized for each of them – and we started collecting ingredients.

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Betsy had decided, when writing her grocery list, that she wanted red peppers on her pizza so we started in the produce section where we gathered those and some herbs needed for the sauce. As we worked our way around the store, Tony and I were intentional about slowing down and letting B explore various items that interested her. She checked out a variety of produce, the sample (of course!), and was especially interested in the spice display.

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At home, we give B our emptied spice containers for her play kitchen so she’s familiar with many of the labels and the various sizes of containers. However, the grocery store has a much greater selection than she’s explored at home. B was fascinated by the various sizes, shapes and colors and was especially drawn to a small jar of saffron. Although we didn’t purchase any that day, I’ve made a mental note to keep my eyes open for a good recipe using saffron (links to tried and true options welcome in the comments!) so we can pick some up for her to explore further one day soon.

Finally, we made it to the checkout where B helped to hand each item to the cashier and to pay for our food. As we left the store I handed B’s list to her and asked if we had purchased everything we need. She looked at the “words” she had written and immediately said, “Oh no! We forgot the guacamole!” Tony and I had noticed that on her list but had omitted it from our own… it’s not a usual pizza ingredient. Despite this, I ran back into the store and picked some up. Guacamole doesn’t go to waste in our house and I felt it was important to respect B’s effort at writing, and then reading her own writing with such strong recall.

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Eventually, we returned home and began creating our pizza. Tony set up our bread machine to begin making dough while he and B began working on the sauce. I headed out for a run, since I’m not privy to the secret recipe. When I returned, they were sliding 3 pizza’s out of the oven – one for each of us. We all enjoyed the yummy dinner. B enjoys pizza but usually leaves the crust behind. On this evening, she chose to dip her crust in guacamole and ate every bite of her personal pizza! I also tried the crust dipped in guac idea and it was yummy!

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Shopping and cooking together are weekly and daily routines for our family. This tour was certainly nothing outside of the ordinary… That said I feel really great about our work this week. The experience began with some early literacy work, a reminder that writing is a useful skill for things such as writing a list. Eating is an essential part of life. Shopping, preparing food and eating together as a family are important cultural touchstones within our family and community. B & Tony’s preparation of a family recipe connects her to our family across time and place and will serve as a foundation for her later understanding of geography and history. We talked about nutrition, applauding B’s choice of red pepper for her pizza, and discussed the importance of eating the rainbow, or foods of various colors. As we checked out at the grocery store, B was given an opportunity to begin to understand the value money.

Finally, we ended our school week with some journaling. I asked B if she would like to write about cooking with Daddy, her trip to the store, or both. She immediately insisted that she wanted to draw her shopping cart, and then proceeded to do so. We’re now 2 weeks into her preschool experience and I’m feeling confident that we’ve begun to establish a routine that is achievable, fun, and appropriate to B’s needs. I hope you’ll enjoy following along!

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