Grocery Rummy

by Roxanna Springer

Roxanna Springer is a graduate student in Educational Technology at San Diego State University, starting the second (better) half of her life. She is a founder, owner, and partner at Springsong Wheatens.


Instructional Objective The learners will be able to organize and budget for grocery shopping according to planned menus. They will attain mastery of monies calculation skills. In the affective domain, the students will acquire an understanding of how complex planning and budgeting can be when wants and needs meet prices and paychecks.


Learners/Context The learners are students in courses that cover the basic addition and subtraction of monies, i.e., dollars and cents. This game will serve as reinforcement of the concepts in adding monies, as motivator for mastering the concepts by providing a real-life context, and as practice in "grown-up" living skills such as adding prices in your head and making choices. The game's real-life characteristics of chance, choice, moderate competition, and context will increase attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction aspects of motivation (per ARCS, Keller). Practice with these game characteristics will increase performance in the instructional concept and in the real-life skill. The game is designed to be played during or between classes to reinforce the connection between booklearning and real-world learning and to help the student conceptualize the decision-making life skill based on the monies-calculating intellectual skill.


Rationale A game is an appropriate format for this situation because it provides a visual/analytical/physical interface for an intensely visual/analytical/physical life skill. The rules of the game reinforce the choice and chance aspects inherent in the real world. Occasional Non-Food Grocery cards reinforce the unexpected role that "the necessities of life" play, inserting themselves in the budget process and requiring accomodation. The circular structure of turn-taking reinforces the ongoing opportunities in shopping and highlights the achievement aspect of savings (vs. a winner-take-all mode). The scoring process reinforces the positive aspects of any savings and rewards efficiencies. The card game is compact, allowing for reinforcement and motivation to take place in any venue. It takes about as much time and has nearly the same complexity as the real-life process of grocery shopping. (The complexity can be varied by the teacher depending on the students' mastery and motivation.) The rules are familiar, therefore the game's learning curve neither impedes attempting to play the game nor complicates the educational purpose of the game.


Rules Two to six people may play at the same time.



  1. The object of the game is to get the Groceries needed for specified Menus within a predetermined budget. The teacher will determine the budget based on the number of Menus each student must "shop" for - approximately $12-$15 per Menu. The dealer deals one Menu card to each player. If there are remaining Menu cards, they are set aside. (If increased complexity is desired, students may be dealt more than one Menu card.) Then the dealer deals six Grocery cards to each player. The remaining Grocery cards are placed face down and the top card is turned over to begin the discard stack. The first player on the dealer's left chooses either the top discarded card or a card from the face down pile. The player determines which cards to keep and discards the extra card. Play continues to each player's left. The first player to complete their Grocery list (Menucard) places their cards down and states the total monies spent. The other players check the player's Menu card(s) for completion and refer to a "cashier" (calculator) to ascertain whether the player's total "spent" is correct.


    If the player/shopper has overspent or forgotten an item on the Menu, that amount is deducted from the player's "savings," i.e., score total. Likewise, if the player has money left over in the budget, that surplus is added to the player's score total. Players still holding cards add the value of their Groceries, subtracting amounts for Groceries held but not on their Menu and for Groceries not yet purchased and combine their totals with their scores. The game is over when a player reaches a predetermined score, e.g., $50. If a time limit is set instead, e.g. 20 min., the winner is the player with the highest score at the end of the period. An advanced variation for 2 or 3 players ends the game when the items on two Menus are "purchased" for families of from 1 to 4 members - students must decide whether duplicate items must be purchased as with fruit or need not be purchased as with coffee.



  2. The Use of "Alternate" Cards and Prices. Players may earn more points,"money," by using cards with better prices (generics vs. name brands), coupon cards which have a value of ten cents, and "1/2 off" cards. If players receive a Non-Food Groceries card - detergent, paper towels, aspirin, etc. - they must keep that card (they "needed" that item) and work it into their budget. Teachers can add "Daily Specials" to the game by declaring special deals on particular items, perhaps based on current newspaper adds from local grocery stores.



Card Design Each Grocery card has the name of a general grocery list item (as named on Menu cards) in its top left quadrant. The particular item is identified and priced in the card's center. Each Menu card lists the name of the meal at the top left and approximately six general food items in the center. Alternate Value (Coupon and "1/2 Off") cards are named in the top left corners; their values are in the centers. The cards are the same size as playing cards and have a pattern on the front bottoms and the backs which differs for Menu cards and for Grocery cards.



Deck Design The deck contains 72 cards: six different Menu cards, 54 Grocery cards (including generic, lower-priced alternatives to brand names), six Non-Food Grocery cards, three Coupon cards, and three "1/2 Off" cards. The Menus are as follows: Basic Breakfast, Breakfast of Champions, School Lunch, Business Lunch, "Roman" Meal, and Sunday BBQ. Advanced students could include more difficulty with Menus such as "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (includes Eggs Benedict), Friday's Fish Feast, and Saturday Steak Out and the corresponding Grocery cards of Hollandaise Sauce, Salmon, and RibEye.


Sample Cards

Grocery Card Front: Basic Breakfast Grocery Card Back


Menu Card Front: Fruit: Apple Menu Card Back


Design Process I started by considering a desired life skill, my audience, their needs, and how they could be reached. Grocery Shopping on a Budget is a difficult life skill with a large component of trial-and-error before experience makes the shopper/learner efficient. Because items are not consistently available at the lowest price, the element of chance was reinforced by making only the top card of the discard pile available. Because savings in any amount is an appropriate life skill goal, the scoring process makes these numbers positive and only punishes excess spending. (This game can be played in a solitaire structure in which the Menus are assembled for practice in choosing among menus as well as prices. Also, a type of war game can be played where the players win if their item has a lower price AND is on the predesignated Menu.)


References Kid Pix (1991,1992). Broderbund.

Last updated by Roxanna Springer on September 30, 1996.

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Educational Technology 670, Fall 1996.