Jan 15, 2015
Grocery shopping—many of us take it for granted and view it as a chore. However, for a person with an intellectual disability, this experience, like many others, is an opportunity. Taking charge of one’s normal, everyday activities and routines, like grocery shopping, for instance, is the definition of independence. It’s hard for some of us to think about such boring activities as victories, but for someone who doesn’t get to experience them often, if ever, learning to do something like grocery shopping is an important accomplishment.
Menu planning, grocery shopping and meal preparation are opportunities for people receiving services from Trinity Services, Inc. to participate in the daily operation of their home to the fullest extent possible. As an organization, Trinity has embraced enabling practices in this area and suggests the following guidelines.
Shopping for groceries can be as simple as running to the local Jewel for bread and milk or as complicated as using sales papers to plan a trip to multiple stores to purchase a week’s worth of groceries. In both instances the people who will be eating and cooking ideally will be doing the shopping.
Grocery shopping for a large household requires a bit of planning and thinking ahead. Relevant factors include having a menu, creating a list, sales, coupons, comparison shopping, and quality and freshness of food. All things considered, it can be a time consuming event and it can be it is tempting for busy staff to leave persons with disabilities out of the process. However, shopping is chock-full of opportunities for learning.
Considerations for maximizing the learning experience:
Prior to shopping, assist several people with making a grocery list. Always use the menu to determine items needed. Teach people to check existing supply of needed items prior to including them on a list. Remember to check the expiration dates for those items that are less frequently used. It can be helpful to use a preprinted list that allows someone to simply circle or check the items that are needed. You might also use a picture list.There's even apps to explore for shopping lists that can be downloaded to someone's phone or tablet.
Minimally one person should shop with staff while learning the process. When deciding who should participate, consider the specific needs of the individuals. Shopping with four or five people is likely not as conducive to learning and should be avoided.
The appropriate amount of time should be scheduled so that shopping can be completed in a learningful manner rather than a mad dash. People who are able to do so should participate by pushing the basket and selecting food from the shelf. The motorized cart available at many stores can facilitate shopping for some persons with physical limitations.
Most people increase efficiency and comfort by knowing the layout of the stores where they shop most often. Familiarity with a store develops with repeated visits. Note that people learn the store layout more quickly if entering via the same door and shopping in the same direction or order of food on every visit. (Many people start with produce and end with the frozen food section.) It is also helpful to check out using the same clerk. Grocery store cashiers come to know their regulars. People should complete as much of the process as possible independently or with assistance, including checking out, paying, bagging etc. Certainly after returning home everyone in the house can help unload and put away the groceries.
Considerations for maximizing the budget:
Recognizing that purchasing groceries for a large house can be costly, every attempt should be made to help people learn to minimize the cost of food while maximizing the quality of healthy foods.
Generally speaking senior staff who has demonstrated an understanding of assisting individuals with shopping as well as an ability to balance cost should be the staff working with people around budgeting/cost issues.
Shopping is typically done at discount stores. Larger chains are used when sales are particularly good or when shopping for an item or two. Sales paper review and comparison shopping when planning menus should be standard practice. Couponing can be beneficial and fun and is encouraged. Shopping at multiple stores for sales should be balanced with the time and gas cost of the extra travel. People with disabilities who have a limited personal budget can become very skilled at finding coupons and great sales and planning around these.