Shopping-List Scavenger Hunt


The other day I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and came across this photo, posted by Sarah Ann Noel, of the shopping-list scavenger hunt she made for her girls. (Brilliant!) Sarah works with me to coordinate the In Season food series, so I immediately wrote to her and asked if she would share it—and a printable version—on Hither & Thither. I asked for the blog, sure, but also selfishly: I wanted a copy to use myself! Here’s the happy result… 

by Sarah Ann Noel

This year, my family moved back west from New York City. While there have been many adjustments, some big and some silly, one of the most shocking to my system was grocery shopping with two actual kids, not toddlers or babies. We moved to the city when my youngest was 18 months old, and it was in the frenzy of transitioning to “city mom” that I discovered Fresh Direct and never looked back. To have my groceries delivered directly to my door was a tiny little luxury that I [happily] integrated into our regular routine.

Now we’re back in a more suburban environment, and while I have found joy in the task of sitting down to meal plan and then putting hand to the ingredients to bring it to life, trying to keep kids happy while tackling a lengthy shopping list is tricky! Our grocery store has the train-length shopping carts that have a toy car on the front; and I’m always sure to pack snacks and water. These things help, but I don’t want to bribe my kids out of the tasks that, though mundane, are just part of life. I take very seriously the role of motherhood that says I need my kids to learn what life is like. So, I started wracking my brain for ways to engage them in the shopping trip–something that would make it educational for them, and also, hopefully, save my sanity.

One morning, as I was making out the list, my oldest, Iris, who is five, asked me what I was doing. I showed her my shopping list, and she thought she ought to have one too. So I sketched out some of the items on my list. We made a copy for her sister, and they spent the next hour coloring in their own shopping lists. (The bonus being, I had some peace and quiet to plan a week’s worth of meals!) Then they took their lists to the store, and together, we all hunted down and checked off the items we needed that week. We called it a scavenger hunt, which instantly made it more fun, I think; but the real point is that we found a way to complete a chore as a happy family!

The best part is, this is a tactic I can use in other places too. Once, our entirely family was horribly sick. Too weak to really play, but too stir-crazy to stay in the house another day, I made a similar “scavenger hunt,” and we all piled into the car. We took ourselves through the drive-thru for treats, and then we spent an hour driving around and searching through the windows for the things on our lists. Or to fill up a quiet morning, we have taken walks with lists of things around the neighborhood. Sometimes we will look up the French or Spanish words for our items, instantly making the hunt even more exotic. However we execute, homemade scavenger hunts have become a sure-fire way for us to appreciate the simple things in our routines and neighborhoods, and to learn from them.

Download a printable version to use yourself.  

Thank you, Sarah! 

P.S. A printable first-cake recipe for baking with kids. And a list of first cookbooks.

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