Strategy 4 – to Help Parents Spend Less at the Supermarket

Reducing our supermarket reliance ​means we can spend less, live better, and look our grandchildren in the eye. This post contains strategy #4 to help you make the shift, as well as links to the post with the previous 3 strategies.

In a recent post, “3 Strategies to help you spend less at the Supermarket,” I said I believe we can gradually re-build food sovereignty in our local communities by making tiny shifts in our thinking, values, and habits. Shifts that help us move away from the supermarket giants towards healthier, more ethical, and still affordable ways of sourcing our needs.

Many people have already made big shifts. One reader who commented on the last post has drastically cut her supermarket reliance by shopping at the local co-op and using a local milk man and green grocer.

That’s an inspiring picture for us to hold in our minds. Imagine if in every neighbourhood you could trade eggs for excess greens with a neighbour, receive your milk from a farmer you know by name, and shop for your other needs at a small local co-op, knowing that your dollar helps keep it thrivingi.

Lots of neighbourhoods don’t yet have access to a food system like this. How do we build them?

I don’t have a quick and easy answer, unfortunately. But I do feel sure that if we just do what we can do in our current circumstances to loosen the grip of consumerism on our lives and to move toward more localised and ethical food systems, things will continue to shift.

I said it in the last post and I’ll say it again: may our grandchildren grow up connected to their food supply and free of the industrial-consumer complex.

With that vision in mind, here are two more strategies for you to use.

(Please if you haven’t read the previous post with the first 3 strategies, do that first. Then come back to this post.)

The first three strategies were numbered from 1 to 3; this post follows on from there so this strategy is numbered accordingly: Strategy #4.


Strategy #4: Setting yourself and your child/ren up for success before you leave home

This strategy is all about considering what you might be able to do before you leave home, to set yourself and your children up for success at the supermarket.  What exactly works for you will be unique to your circumstances, of course. These are suggestions to get you started.


Eat before you shop

If you can, eat a decent meal before you go shopping. At least have a snack that wont spike your blood sugar and then leave you feeling hungry an hour later. The last thing you want to be feeling as you push that trolley along the aisles is hunger or light-headedness.

Feed the kids too! And/or consider having healthy snacks for them in your handbag that you can reach for if you need to. If your child has a snack to much on, especially an interesting one that they don’t get very often, their hands will be occupied and they’ll be less interested in snatching things off the shelves.

When my kids were little, one of the first items I would buy at the supermarket was a small packet of soft cheese for them to much on as they sat in the trolley. I would keep the empty packet, and pay for it at the check out counter along with everything else. It was a special treat that the kids loved, that wasn’t available to them at any other time, and that wouldn’t spike their blood sugar or excite them.


Supermarket-only toys

Consider keeping a supermarket-only toy ready for your small child/ren that’s just for playing with while they’re sitting in the shopping trolley. It’s difficult to compete with the novelty and glitz that a small child sees in a supermarket, but a toy that’s just for her, that she never sees any other time, will help a bit.

(One word of caution: I never used screens as toys or distractions for my kids. Now that they’re older they use the computer to research things they are interested in and to do creative work, but they have never used screens for gaming or socializing. In fact, the creators of digital products expressly say that they don’t allow their own kids to play with them — which should be instructive for the rest of us!ii)


Enlist the kids’ help instead of fighting with them

Have a plan for how your older child is going to help with the shopping rather than hinder it. If the child is old enough, consider giving him his very own short list of items that he is responsible for noticing and putting in the trolley. The list can grow as his capacity grows.

A child who feels that their contributions are valued will be much more cooperative than one who is constantly hearing, “No! Don’t touch that! Put that back!”

Child In supermarket
Photo by Gustavo Fring:

Be clear

Be clear with your kids before you leave home about why you’re going to the supermarket.

(Hint: it’s not to spend your heard-earned money on spur-of-the-moment purchases and strange substances masquerading as food, to line the pockets of wealthy executives at the expense of your health and well-being.)

Consider having a short family meeting, perhaps during a meal the day before you go shopping, where you assert some variation of: “Here’s what is on our list; we are only going to buy anything that is not on our list if it meets such and such criteria.” An example of the criteria might be: it’s a real food or a needed cleaning product that is on special and has a good use-by date.


Building self-directed lives

Even very young children will gradually take all of this on board. You’ll be shaping their expectations ahead of time, which reduces disappointments and friction. And you’ll also be teaching them something incredibly valuable: how to hold to a meaningful course of action rather than be swayed by the noise and distractions that are aimed at parting us with our our money (and in the process, our ability to lead a self-directed life).



Kate writes at about Ditching the Supermarket, changing how we think to change how we live, and practical skills for sustainable living.

iUrban food farming is a growing movement; see here, here, here, and here. Will you be the one to kick it off in your neighbourhood? What about starting with a pot of herbs on the balcony, or a second pot if you already have a first one? Start small. Just start.
iiA quick internet search for something like “why tech creators put tech limits on their own kids” will yield plenty of examples.

Kate Martignier

Kate writes at – an exploration into thinking differently and living a more natural, connected, and sustainable life.

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