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Shopping at the grocery store is one of the most functional community trips we can take with our students. Despite the proliferation of grocery delivery and meal prep services, pretty much everyone goes grocery shopping regularly.

Hands pushing shopping cart with text overlay community based instruction grocery shopping

I took my students on weekly community trips and we would go to the same place several weeks in a row. Repetition is the best!

I scheduled our grocery shopping unit for mid October through mid November in order to line up with our school’s food drive for a local food bank. The shopping list I have below is based on their needs for Thanksgiving meals! Does your school do a food drive? Can you start one as a service project for your students?

My favorite store to go grocery shopping at is Aldi.  Do you have those in your area?  They are generally smaller and for the most part you follow a specific path. There’s less chance to get turned around or end up going down the same aisle twice. 

They also require far fewer choices to be made. Have crackers on your list? There’s one or two choices…not 27 like in a regular full size grocery store!

The worst part about Aldi?  Ours puts the wine bottles right in the front!  We had a few close calls but thankfully never broke any bottles. 

Sample student goals:

  • For younger students we focused on keeping a hand on the cart. At this age, parents need them to stay close and not touch things on the shelves.  We can practice that!
  • Only buy things on the list (this is good goal for me too!). I always have a shopping list so when a student wants something, I can refer to the list and say, “we’re only buying things on our list today.”
  • Older students can practice the entire checkout process – waiting for the total, paying with cash or card, waiting for change and receipt, and returning items to purse/wallet.

Reasons to grocery shop:

  • Do you cook in your classroom? Make an entire life skills unit including reading the recipe, creating a shopping list, shopping for ingredients, and finally cooking!
  • As I mentioned above my school hosts a food drive every Thanksgiving season. The entire month of October, I would take all of our classes shopping to buy food for the local food pantry.  They requested mashed potatoes, canned vegetables, corn muffins and gravy packets.  Easy shopping and a way for students to serve their community!
  • If there is a holiday party coming up, you can plan and shop for a classroom party. Let students be the party planners and create a menu!

Grocery shopping lists:

I always make shopping lists before our trips because it helps keep us on task! I also like to include a short visual task analysis so students know what they are supposed to be doing. It doesn’t include EVERY part of grocery shopping but can be referenced as needed.

This is my Thanksgiving food drive list. Grab this one along with an editable version below.

Usually, I would have each student responsible for one or two items so each list was different and only included what each person needed to find. If you have a small group, everyone can work together on one big list.

Classroom practice/extension:

  • Set up a classroom grocery store – students can choose items, determine prices and pay with pretend money.
  • Create work tasks with store ads and coupon flyers. Students can read and write down prices, add up savings, check expiration dates or match coupons to the correct food.
  • Use a website like All Recipes to search for a favorite recipe and create a grocery list. Bonus points if you really shop and make the food!
  • Practice a range of skills like shopping from a list, reading a receipt, finding store information and finding food in aisles with these grocery store worksheets. These are no prep and include multiple levels to meet the needs of your classroom.
Grocery store worksheets for life skills classrooms | Adapting for Autism

Do you go grocery shopping with your students?  Any great tips to share?

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Community based instruction: Grocery shopping | picture of hand holding grocery cart
Grocery Shopping for Community Based Instruction