Setting Up a School Grocery Program!

(free forms included!)

If you teach special education at the secondary level, then you likely have Community Based Instruction (or CBIs). What I love about CBIs is that students experience REAL LIFE learning! For my middle school special education class, my favorite CBI was going to the grocery store, but I always felt it needed more.

I came up with a SHOPPING PROGRAM for our school. We would shop for members of our staff. It was amazing! Our administration loved it and so did the teachers! Nobody wants to go to the grocery store after working all day. And if you are like me, you finally decide what to make for dinner and then realize you are missing ONE item!

With this program our kids went shopping for the staff and  then delivered the items at the end of the day. We would buy just about anything (within reason). It can even be something as simple as a soda or pack of gum to keep in the teacher's desk.


1. APPROVAL - Check with your administration first to make sure everything is ok. My admin loved the idea and they were also the first set of staff that placed an order! If you have approval, then proceed with all of your usual permission and forms and transportation as well as determine a date. The nice thing is that grocery stores are usually not super crowded on a weekday during the day. :)

2. PRACTICE GROUP - Choose a group to begin with. I would recommend starting with a smaller group for practice. Our first "customers" were the administration which was about five people. Keep in mind that you will need to carry the items back to school. Our store was within walking distance and I'm in Las Vegas so weather is not an issue but many classes use buses for transportation to CBI's and weather may be a factor. I would suggest using sturdy grocery bags (cubes) such as these. These bags are super easy to carry. I found them on Amazon. Since we walked, I used our SPED money to buy a grocery cart which was super helpful!

3. DELIVER LIST - Hand out the Grocery Shopping list and explain that they are not only getting some items delivered, but that they are also really helping your students practice a valuable life skill! Really it's a WIN-WIN! I made to sure to hand out the list a few days in advance but not TOO early either. Give them a day or two to bring some cash in. I chose to set up our program using only cash but if you have the means to use another method that's up to you. I wanted my students to practice using money.

4. COLLECT FORMS AND  MONEY - Collect the forms and the money. I recommend stapling an envelope to each form. Write the name on the shopping list as well as on the envelope in case they get separated. Also, write the amount of money in the envelope.

5. REVIEW LISTS - When you get the forms back, spend a day or so going over the items with your class BEFORE the grocery trip. As a group, we googled images of the items that were on our list and printed them out. This is helpful for your visual learners who may not be reading. We then glued the images on a page.

6. GROUPING - Decide if you want to go as one large group or split up. Based on my class size of 14 and because I had an additional adult, we split up into 3 groups.  If you split up then you can divide the lists. You can also separate the lists based on ability, so you could give some students more items to shop for than others.

7. VOLUNTEERS  If you can, ask some of your related service providers to attend. I had our speech pathologist and OT come along. They were in the same group as some of their students and were a tremendous help! Just make sure you give them enough notice!

8. NOTIFY STORE -  This is totally optional, but I let the store know in advance we were on a CBI and that we would be practicing life skills. They were always super friendly and accommodating.

9. SORT AND PREPARE FOR DELIVERY - When you get back to school, make sure you put any change in the envelopes for each customer.

***After you do your shopping and return back to school, you can have students deliver the items. I would usually send one or two students along with staff (if they needed assistance).

This the form that I used to hand out to our school staff. You can find this FREE GROCERY FORM HERE.

You can grab this form and a few other FREE forms such as the one below here: GROCERY SHOPPING CBI. 

Our school staff really LOVED this program! They were happy to help and  it was an excellent LIFE SKILLS practice opportunity!


  1. thank you for great idea!!!

  2. This is a God send. Thank you so much.

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