Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Grocery budgeting

Budgeting for food with teenage boys, especially a boy like Gary, is really really difficult. I've been aiming for having left-overs, but that is clearly a mistake.

Three nights ago I cooked bratwurst for dinner. I had one and there was enough for all the guys to have two. After dinner I put three in the frig. They were gone in the morning.

Two days ago I made Chicken Marsala. I cooked an extra piece for Alice who didn't come over after all. Gary was busy and did not come in to eat with us, but when he came in later he ate both pieces. You must understand, these are pretty BIG. I still have 3 cups of mushroom-marsala sauce if anyone cares.

Last night Andrew cooked a chicken curry. He used 6 large chicken breast fillets, two cans of chick peas, and pound of spinach, and cups of rice. Gary and Brian were at Marial Arts class working up an appetite. While they were gone Roland, Andrew, Alice and I ate a little less than half of it. When Gary came home he ate the rest. I'm not quite sure what Brian ate. He doesn't really like curry. In case you lost count, that means that Gary ate 3 large chicken breasts, one can of chick peas, and 1/2 a pound of spinach, no rice though. I now have four cuts of cooked rice in the frig, if anyone is interested. (I may be eating it with mushroom-marasala sauce for lunch).

Gary is not the least bit fat. He is very muscular, and he is working out. I know he needs the calories, but the boy is going to eat me out of house and home.

Like a lot of teen boys, Gary likes meat, lots of meat. He eats fruits and veggies. Grapes are a favorite. He likes his carbs. I bought frozen waffles as a treat. Gary ate 5 at a time, because that is as many as he could fit into the toaster oven. He likes pasta and will cook himself enough penne pasta to fill a 2 quart bowl and eat it with sauce and cheese for lunch. Okay, he likes food. Still, it is meat that I need to learn not to try to fix enough for leftovers.

We are spending too much money on food, but Gary needs the calories and he needs quality food. He will eat bean dishes, if there isn't any meat. He is pretty good, in fact, about being willing to extend meat dishes with beans. He did not, for instance, have any problems with the chickpeas in the curry. When he makes enchilladas he uses chicken but then he also adds lots of beans.

For a while I was doing really well on our food budget. Of course I was buying a lot of whole chickens and cutting them up myself. We were eating more dark meat. Recently I have gone back to buying chicken breasts. I've bought big bags of them from Costco, so they are less expensive, but it is really still too much.

I'm mostly just whining. I know I need to start planning nutritious, inexpensive meals my whole family will eat. It is just when I start trying to make list of those sorts of things I come up with so little.


  1. Ugh, this posts worries me, Im already having a problem and my sons are only 10 and 6, yikes!

  2. (First of all, on an unrelated note, I've been unable to post comments on your blog using IE for the past few days. Is anyone else having the same problem?)

    I rarely eat meat in my home for logistical reasons, but I'm not sure that my diet would be the greatest for an active teenage male. Nevertheless, a few thoughts:

    1. Not great for summer, but stews are a great way to use less expensive meat and to make meat stretch. (And even though the traditional beef stew doesn't have beans, we Jews -- stereotyping! -- like to add beans to our stews and then call it cholent.)

    2. Mash up tofu and simmer it in pasta sauce. (This because I only eat pasta.)

    3. Roast whole chickens and then use the bones to make soup. Or even better: roast a turkey when there isn't the stress of Thanksgiving, and use it for all of those yummy leftover purposes (fried rice--also good for your leftover rice, turkey salad, turkey soup, etc.).

    4. (Note that I'm just typing as things come to mind...) Keep some sort of "approved-for-snacking" protein, whether it's part of the turkey in #3, or a package of frozen burgers and a foreman least that way you won't end up discovering that the leftovers disappeared!

  3. My 13 y/o is a big eater too. I can only imagine what it will be like when he is Gary's age. My 23 y/o has to be reminded to eat! He literally forgets. Go figure.

    We are vegetarian so can't help w/ any of the meat things though! My kids go thru a ton of fruit and veggies and also cookies/cakes/puddings. In a way you are lucky that Gary likes really healthy things. Rob's preferences have always been to the sweet and to mitigate his desire to horde I always have copious home made desserts at home. (my rationale being it is sugary yes, but at least preservative free!)

  4. Anonymous11:08 AM

    I found a great blog that addresses that exact problem and it seems doable if you don't live in a tiny town miles and miles away from a winco like I do. It's a mom that is feeding a family of 6, the kids being teens, for as close to $60 a week as she can get. And she has grocery lists and weekly meal plans if you want to look into it.

  5. Thanks for the suggestions and comments.

    I just realized something else as I've started to come up with ideas: I'm lazy.

    The thought of going to the dollar store, the grocery outlet, and then Winco makes me tired. I need to get over it though. I go long stretches where I do really well with menus and lists. Recently it is all going to hell in a handbag.

  6. Winco is really the best place to go. Their prices are so competitive and they use local farmers. I think they accept competitor coupons as well. I know clipping store coupons and manufacturer coupons can be a pain, but sometimes I save up to half on my groceries because of the coupons I use. The main thing is buying things because you will use them, not just because of the coupon and also stocking up on essentials or when something you can freeze goes on sale.

  7. Anonymous3:17 PM

    Yondalla, I am with you. I don't have time to run around and get the best deals on everything. Plus, we live in the middle of nowheresville so it isn't even an option. I make tons of Mexican and stirfry type food. I always buy or make tortillas or pitas and keep extra on hand in the freezer. Snacks are easy with these: cheese and onions in a pita with some mexican seasoning...fry some onions and peppers and beans and kids eat copious amounts of food because of their hoarding issues. We spend more than $60 a week (about twice that actually) but we eat well and always have food around. Like you, I make huge meals and never get the leftovers. I avoid meat though as that is so expensive...but I when I use it, it is more of a flavoring for the dish rather than the main entree. I use coupons if they apply, but don't buy stuff just cause it is on coupon or sale. Food, to me, is important. It is how I show my kids I love them and I want to make sure that they always have plenty and it is good for them...but I don't want to spend my life cooking. I am just rambling at this point. I blame the Percosets.

  8. Are you missing the days of, "no really, I'm just not a big eater"?


  9. Anonymous10:28 AM

    does he like eggs? they keep a long time in the fridge and are pretty inexpensive forms of protein...he could scramble some up and add beans, cheese, and salsa and eat with a tortilla or bread or something. Or just eat a couple hard-boiled.

    I also like peanut butter as a cheap source of protein--with banana or other fruit on a sandwich; mixed with soy sauce, lime juice, chili flakes, and hot water as a sauce for pasta and veggies; or just with a spoon.

    Finally, are there any farmers in your area? I live by myself and don't eat much meat, but I've heard it's possible to buy a whole side of beef at a time, and it works out much cheaper (but you need a lot of freezer space...maybe you could split it with a couple other families?)

  10. He ate 5 eggs for breakfast. Last night he ate three cans of ravioli I bought for Roland, combined with several slices of luncheon meat. (Yes, the meat was cut up and tossed in with the ravioli.)

    Buying meat in bulk is possible and a good idea. I have a smallish freezer. I might keep my eyes open for a bigger one.

  11. My sympathies to you (teenage food bill) but I have to ask the same as 'Innocent Observer'??!! How great are you that he's come to this stage??!! & of course that's not counting the hug! Cook on MOM!
    PS Canned Ravioli & lunch meat - where do they get these ideas?? Your hormones don't have a chance!

  12. I'm chuckling as i read this... i never realized there were such perks to fostering teenage boys until reading those kinds of posts! See, that's where fostering infants wins out. That, and they never break curfew.

    They just poo everywhere.

    Wait. now i'm confused. Which is better again??


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