child pushing cart through grocery store aisle with text 6 life skills to teach students while grocery shopping

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Did you know that when you go to the grocery store you are actually working on tons of amazing life skills? I loved taking my students on community-based instruction (or CBI) trips to work on essential life skills. Did you know that there are at least 6 life skills you can work on when you take students in special education grocery shopping? Let’s look at those today plus the grocery shopping worksheets that I use to make teaching this life skill easier.

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What is the Purpose of Community-Based Instruction?

Community-based instruction, or CBI, basically means going out into the community to work on functional skills or life skills that students will need in order to be functioning members of the community. This might mean doing things such as placing their order at Chick-fil-A, shopping for groceries or buying stamps at the post office. We might take daily parts of life like this for granted but many of our students in special ed need to work on these functional life skills to improve in them. This is why many special education classrooms have begun to take Community-Based Instruction (or CBI) trips throughout the school year.

Use the dollar up method on this grocery store worksheet for special education.

Community-Based Instruction Activities

When you take students out into the community, you may be wondering what types of places you should take them. I like to think that there are three different “types” of CBI trips: retail, dining and daily living. Remember, however that the site is actually not the most important part of CBI trips. The most important part is to increase independence of a student within the community so that he or she can be a functioning member.

Here is a list of some community-based instruction places for your special needs classroom to visit:

  • Aldi or another grocery store
  • McDonalds
  • Dollar Tree
  • Applebees or Steak n Shake (a sit-down restaurant instead of an order at the counter restaurant)
  • Petsmart
  • hardware store
  • retail store such as Target or Wal-Mart
  • Pharmacy – Walgreens or CVS
  • bowling alley
  • movie theater
  • mall
  • bank
  • post office
  • laundry mat
  • doctor’s office
grocery shopping worksheets for life skills

Community-Based Instruction at the Grocery Store

Shopping at the grocery store is one of the most functional community trips we can take with our students to practice essential life skills. When I was in the classroom, we would go grocery shopping for our CBI trip during October and November because it was the same time as our school’s local food drive. My favorite place to take students grocery shopping is Aldi. The main reason for this is that Aldi is smaller, there is a typical path to follow in the store and there are fewer choices than bigger grocery stores. I always liked to take students to the grocery store more than once because repetition is best for them!

Create a Grocery Shopping Lesson Plan for your Special Education Classroom

Before we went on our grocery store trip to Aldi in the community, we would practice grocery shopping in the classroom together. This can look a couple different ways. Sometimes I set up a play grocery store in the classroom. A simple grocery stand like this would work {affiliate link} or you could simply just use a desk or table that you already have. We add this as a center rotation during math time or play grocery store at the end of the day. Students can choose items and use play money to buy them. In addition to this, I incorporated these grocery shopping worksheets for life skills into our grocery shopping lesson plans.

create a grocery shopping lesson plan using these worksheets for your special education classroom

Grocery Shopping Worksheets that Help Teach Life Skills

These worksheets for practicing grocery life skills really helped me to differentiate between the many levels of learners in my special ed classroom when doing our grocery shopping unit. With some students, I could simply work on counting items up to 5, patterns or big vs. little sorting. With some older students, I used these grocery store worksheets to add the total cost of the items or practice the dollar up method.

6 Life Skills to Teach Students While Grocery Shopping in the Community

As I said above, taking students grocery shopping is one of my favorite types of trips into the community. A trip to grocery shop focuses on and teaches at least 6 different life skills that we will go over below.

Life Skill #1 – Cooking

Cooking is the obvious life skill that grocery shopping teaches. Try something fun with your special education class such as going to All Recipes and voting on a class recipe to shop for before your grocery trip into the community. Create the list together and then make the recipe as a class the same week that you grocery shop!

Life Skill #2 – Number Recognition

Next, taking students to the grocery store helps practice number recognition. They must look at the price of the items that they are shopping for on their list. Plus, it gives them a chance to compare prices of items and even decide which item is the better deal. In addition, you can practice having students go to certain numbered aisles to get what they need. For example, maybe all of the baking items are in aisle 10 so they will need to find that aisle.

Practice number recognition using grocery shopping worksheets for life skills

Life Skill #3 – Waiting in Line

Some students can practice the entire checkout process of a grocery store. This includes waiting in line to check out, waiting for the total from the store clerk, paying with cash or card and waiting for change and receipt.

Life Skill #4 – Pushing a Grocery Cart

Pushing a grocery cart is actually harder than it looks and will definitely be difficult for some children that have a hard time with gross or fine motor skills. With younger students, I like to practice having students stay near the cart at the store. For many older students, we will have them push the cart while watching not to bump into other items or people in the grocery store.

Life Skill # 5 – Addition and Subtraction

The first time that I take students to the store, we focus on simple things such as locating aisles numbers and simply getting the items on our list. After we have mastered those two things I may challenge students by giving them a budget to stick to while shopping for items on their list.

When my students get to the checkout line, they know that the clerk will be ringing up the items and adding them together. I try to have them estimate and add the items up before we even go to check out lane and then see how close they were! In addition, there are tons of addition and dollar up activities to practice before hand in the Grocery Store Life Skills worksheets.

Life Skill #6 – Making a List

Finally, making a list is another important skill that grocery shopping works on. This is the perfect time to teach students what a list is and let them practice creating them. Find a favorite recipe that they love and have them do the writing and create their very own grocery list. Or as a class, shop for a specific recipe together in the grocery store and break up the grocery list so that each student has to find certain things. Check out my FREE grocery shopping list below that is editable!

FREE grocery shopping list for community-based instruction trips

FREE Grocery Shopping List for Community – Based Instruction Trips

I always make shopping lists before our grocery 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.

Typically, 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 grocery list.

visual grocery shopping list with five items to purchase and a six step task analysis
Fold the sheet in half for a quick reference to the shopping steps and the grocery list.

You can grab a FREE grocery shopping list for your CBI trip with your special education students by entering your email below:


If you’re convinced and ready to plan a CBI trip to the grocery store, check out this post with student goals and more tips for grocery shopping!

Want the Grocery Store Life Skills Activities for your Grocery Shopping Unit? Grab them here!

Do you take students to the grocery store for community based field trips? What tips do you have to share?

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6 Life Skills To Teach Students While Grocery Shopping