Thursday, June 12, 2014

Food shopping at our Summer Camp

How do you figure out what food to buy?  There are so many ways to get food from the field into your belly.  There's the "wander through the aisles and buy whatever catches my eye" method, the "run to the grocery store for what-I-just-ran-out-of" method, the "make a list and stick with it" method, and the pantry principle method, among many others.  

Here at Miser Mom's Financial Curriculum Summer Camp, the Head Counsellor has been working hard to have the campers think ahead about what we'll need and how we'll buy it.  Last Friday, we set menus for the week and planned who would make each dinner when.  Monday, we made shopping lists.  On Tuesday, I divvied up the list by children and then took them to Market so they could price out and purchase food on their own.
Each boy had a copy of this entire list; each boy had to price out the unit cost of every item on the list, but he only had to buy the items by his name.  [The 'X' items were things they knew they needed for cooking but we already had at home.  You'll notice this list is very heavy on the dairy side of things; it doesn't reflect all that we eat.  We get a giant box of vegetables from our CSA every Tuesday, and I have a giant stockpile of of baking ingredients at home, so we don't buy those ingredients at Market.]

This was a really good lesson for both boys.
N-son is an introvert who gets nervous in crowds, so just asking people for the price of their food or talking to them about buying stuff was emotionally hard on him at first.  Here is at one of our favorite stands -- the Turkey Lady -- asking for hot dogs and the price of bacon.  You can see he's holding it together, but it isn't excitement and happiness (yet).

Another challenge for N-son was just keeping track of many objects -- his list, the pen, his money, his shopping bag, and all the things he had to put in it.  At first, he kept asking me to hold things for him, and I had to gently tell him that learning how to hold onto things is part of shopping.    But as he went along, he got the hang of it.
In fact, pretty soon, N-son was helping J-son with his list.  J-son is both more sociable and more coordinated.  His difficulties are lack of focus and trouble reading (he has severe dyslexia), so he had a hard time paying attention to what he was actually supposed to buy or price out.  N-son helped his brother zero in on what was left on J-son's shopping list.

I usually make my Tuesday-morning shopping runs in just a half-hour--that's the time it takes from when I leave my front door, backpack on my back and bike at the ready, to when I hang the bike back up and put the milk in the fridge.  This week, shopping took about 2 hours instead.  So it was a good thing to do during the summer.

This was also one of my more expensive grocery runs -- we shelled out $55 in total.  The high expense is partly because truly low-cost strategies for getting food mean I normally don't do "one-stop shopping" like we did this Tuesday.  Cheese at market is about $7/pound, so I don't buy cheese there myself except in very special situations (like this one).  Instead, I make a trip every couple of months to the store that's right on the farm; I get a giant block of cheese (local, organic) for less than $3/pound.  But for fairly obvious reasons, I didn't want to overburden the boys with all the "advanced techniques" I usually use.  

But the high expense is also because I've ceded menu control to the kids, and they chose to make very meat intensive or cheese-intensive meals.  So our shopping experience is not yet done; today's summer camp experience will choose a time for reflection and analysis, with the hope that this will lead into future menu planning.  


  1. Cool. They also have a baseline against which to compare your advanced strategies, at least for the ingredients they chose today.

    I had a similar assignment in my home ec class in the eighth grade--we had to go to a store (or three?) and compare prices on three or more things (I chose different kinds of cheese and went overboard comparing as many kinds as I could find). I learned that some kinds of cheese cost way more than others and that it pays to grate your own cheese, especially for parmesan cheese.

    1. Oh, I like this assignment! I can totally see you (or anyone, really) get into comparing cheeses. Good lesson! -MM