Author Topic: Suggestions on lowering food bill with three athletic teenagers in the house  (Read 6877 times)

Melissa

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Our food budget has been creeping upwards the last two years. I'd like to try to cut it down but I'm home not sure where.

We are a household of 5 with three teenagers. All of them run track and cross country, husband runs and I jog and row.

Our budget is $800 a month and that includes one dinner out a week

Anyone with a teens have my suggestions?

lsl129

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I heard of a family that had a small crock pot of meatballs or pasta or something that was specifically for the kids to eat after school instead of more expensive individual sized or frozen microwave snacks. Maybe also send snacks with them to keep them satisfied throughout the day so they don't come home starving and eat a large amount at once.

Otherwise, if you have Aldi I would recommend shopping there as much as you can, and other options like replacing some of the meat in a recipe with beans or cooking ahead and freezing to benefit from bulk shopping.

abhe8

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Or a big crock pot of beans to read with rice or lentil soup... Something cheap but filling. I agree with using it for snacks instead of more expensive shack food. Also, eggs are cheap for a filing breakfast. Lots of potatoes.

vhalros

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I agree with the suggestions above, but being familiar with athletic teenagers, you will need multiple crock pots, or pressure cookers. One just won't be enough, unless there are giant industrial ones out there I don't know about. Biryani is a pretty good choice.

Scandium

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Get everyone to watch more netflix instead of exercising. The subscription fee will be worth it for lower food bill. Problem solved

lakemom

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Having been in your shoes a couple of years ago you are doing great at $800 per month!  Teens EAT and teen athletes *E-A-T*!!!  That said cheap proteins and cheap fats can help them up their calorie count without doing too much damage to the food budget.  Things like eggs (I always kept a dozen hard cooked in the fridge), peanut butter, meats like turkey breast cooked and sliced (as opposed to presliced lunch meats) or roast beef cooked and sliced.  Encouraging them to eat full fat dairy products as opposed to 1% or fat free versions.  Stock up on frozen pizzas when they are on super sale (around super bowl time should be the next big loss leader on these) and do the same with other frozen (or freezable options.)  We did have the rule that if it was in the big freezer it was off limits but anything in the fridge freezer was fair game.  Keep an eye on how often groups of friends are hanging out and munching YOU out of house and home.  Implement a ONE PIZZA or popcorn only rule (if you think it would be doable...I'd rather have a high bill and know my kids peers but some limits are always needed and respected). 

BPA

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Get everyone to watch more netflix instead of exercising. The subscription fee will be worth it for lower food bill. Problem solved

lol

I have one teenage son living with me and when he eats what he wants, it's always meat.  My mantra lately is "Meat is part of a meal; it's not a snack."  I nearly killed him when he ate half a prime rib we had and I'd been planning for another dinner.

I've been encouraging pasta and I make my own bread along with fruits and vegetables.  He also loves cheese, but will eat a 500g block in one day if I let him. 

So, I'm emphasizing carbs which some will undoubtedly disagree with. 

cats

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My husband sometimes still eats like a teenager (he is a big cyclist, so it kind of makes sense).  We keep the fruit bowl filled with cheaper fruits (our local market sells "banana singles" for 40 c/lb), and also keep a lot of roasted peanuts on hand.  If he wants something hot there is generally some kind of bean/lentil based soup, curry, or chili on hand but he really prefers meat/eggs/something with melted cheese as a hot snack.  Since eggs are the cheapest of those options if he wants something hot and asks "what can I eat???" I suggest some scrambled eggs with hot sauce, if he wants more than a couple eggs I'll suggest a bowl of chili with scrambled eggs on top, which seems to be an acceptable compromise.

Protein shakes might also be an option, depending on how the cost of protein powder compares to whatever you are currently eating for snacks.

My brothers and I ate a lot of pasta/crackers/tortilla chips after school when we were teenagers.  I'm going to say that even though we were fairly active I wish we had not gotten into that habit because two (out of three) of us did wind up developing some teenage chub and eventually needed to figure out how to cut back, and for me at least it took quite a while to develop a more "normal" relationship with food/my body image.  It would have been great if my mom had steered us more towards fruit/nuts/soups and limited the availability of the junkier snack options a little more (though in reality, I'm not sure how much we would have listened).

mm1970

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My son is only 9, but I feel your pain.  I remember my brother as a teen, and he would come to visit (parents were divorced), and he'd clear out our fridge.

I'd get tips from The Prudent Homemaker on how to make cheaper meals.  Kids are going to need fruit and meat and vegetables.

But for straight up energy, I'd go with cheaper sources of calories - carbs (if they can burn it off) and fat. Beans cooked in bacon fat with tortillas?

I have two boys, and I fear the day when they are 18 and 12.  At least by then my husband and I will be in our 50s and maybe won't be eating as much.

partgypsy

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My girls are 9 and 13 and they are already starting to be like locusts with the food after school, with the refrain "I'm hungry!" I think they are both going through growth spurts. Like the suggestions. We are working on showing kids how to cook simple things (quesadillas, eggs) as well as microwavable stuff (sweet potatoes) so they can start making some of their own snacks.

AlwaysLearningToSave

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Don't have teens, but I remember what I was like when I was a teenage athlete.  I have no idea how my parents could afford to feed me.  $800 actually strikes me as you doing a pretty good job.  That said, the comments I would have would be:

(1)  Don't fret about feeding your teenage athletes lots of carbs.  They need carbs and their metabolism can handle carbs.  Just try to give them good carbs, like whole grains rather than refined carbs. 

(2)  Give them beans and inexpensive meats as protein sources.  I recently bought a 10 lb bag of chicken leg quarters for .49 cents per pound and pork butt roasts are routinely less than a dollar per pounds.  They may not be the most desirable cuts of meat but you can still prepare them in delicious ways.  Beef should be a rare delicacy because even cheap cuts are three times those prices.

(3)  Only buy and serve produce that is in-season or on-sale. 

(4)  If they want to go to restaurants or get fast food beyond what you budget, they can buy it themselves. 

Good luck and Godspeed. 


Gone Fishing

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Where are you shopping and what are you eating now?

Great tag line, by the way.

With This Herring

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Recently, DBF and I have been loving beans and rice.

1) Cook up 2 cups of white or brown rice (becomes 6 cups).
2) Cook up (in 6+ qt. slow cooker) 3 lbs black or pinto beans (becomes LOTS, most get frozen).
3) Bowl of half rice, half beans.  Reheat.  Season to taste.

My pref:  Drench in hot sauce (buy this in bulk, too!  I like the Valentina brand carried at Aldi in the Mexican section), shred on an ounce of cheddar (from big 2 lb block, or whatever else I can get under $3-4/lb), pour on some salsa (from two qt jug), and dig in!

DBF's pref: Shred on cheddar, splash of hot sauce, splash of salsa verde (I need a cheaper source of this), splash of salsa, and dig in!

But with locusts like your sons, the key is going to be getting 50-lb bags of rice at the Asian market and 50-lb bags of beans at your local bulk food store.

Another Reader

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Home-made mac and cheese.  Sprouts often has mild cheddar or Colby Jack at $2.99 a pound.    Cheese sauce is a basic white sauce with a lot of shredded cheese stirred in.  Boil up a lot of elbow macaroni, drain, dump in a baking dish, stir in sauce, save some to top the casserole off along with grated cheese.  Bake at 350, using the broiling element at the end to give it a little color if necessary.  Cool, cut up into large, teenager-size portions and freeze.  Cheesy Rice is similar, add sauteed onions and a little bacon for flavor.  Egg casserole - Slices or chunks of day-old bread, covered with eggs beaten with milk and topped with cheese.  Mix in wilted and drained spinach if you have it.  Bake until done and portion out.  Makes a good mid-morning meal.

Greek yogurt is expensive and it's easy for teens to sit and eat an entire quart container.  Allow half to 3/4 cup mixed with protein powder, fruit and crushed ice for a smoothie.

Second the rice and beans.  Go Mexican with the salsa and the cheese.  Add some lettuce or other greens and a tortilla to make a burrito or burrito bowl.  Cook up some on-sale boneless/skinless chicken in the slow cooker and shred.  Freeze in small portions, one per person as a topper.

Put out a few of whatever fruit is on sale in quantity - bags of apples and oranges and bunches of bananas.  Nuts are generally expensive, so offer them in small quantities as snacks or flavoring.  Except peanut butter, which is filling and relatively inexpensive.

No to the sweets.  Expensive and empty calories.
« Last Edit: January 14, 2016, 01:42:06 PM by Another Reader »

TrMama

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Frankly, I think you're doing great at $800/mo. We spent $660/mo last year to feed 2 adults and 2 school age kids in a HCOL area.

In your case, I'd make sure to check out all the grocers in the area to make sure you're getting the best prices. Get the kids to pick up food when they're out if it saves you some driving. See if buying meat from a farmer is cheaper than the store. See if there's some sort of produce distribution group (CSA or bulk buy organization) that's cheaper. Etc.

Try serving more beans (cooked from dry). Even if you just put out a bowl of them with each meal, so the kids can add them to whatever ever else is on the table. I'd also try to serve brown rice, rather than white since it's more filling. Pot barley can also be cooked like rice and it's also very filling. Oatmeal for breakfast. It feels like a brick in your stomach.

Melissa

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Thanks for all the great suggestions

Where are you shopping and what are you eating now?

Great tag line, by the way.

I shop at a combination of Aldi, Kroger, and Giant Eagle.

For breakfast they usually have bagels, or homemade pancakes/waffles.  I tried to get them to eat some protein with breakfast, but so far no go. Especially since they are trying to get out the door.  DH and I have steel cut oats and scrambled eggs each morning (love Aldi steel cut oats)

They pack their lunches and usually pack a whole wheat sandwhich (I do buy deli turkey for convenience) or they use peanut butter, fruit, cheese stick, whatever dessert I made for the week (cookies, muffins)

After school snacks are things like cheese quesadillas, pretzels, air popped popcorm with butter and salt, fruit and veggies sticks.

Dinner is usually has meat with it (I have to admit that we only eat beans and rice once every couple of weeks.  I could definitely work on that. And the meat we buy is usually organic.

Fortunately friends don't hang out at the house to eat and if they go out they pay for it on their own.


I did discover how much money I was spending on convenience salad (aka bagged salad).  We were going through 2 bags with dinner 5 nights a week and at $2-3/ bag that's $20-30 a week on salad.  I asked my parents for a salad spinner for Christmas and am working on taking the time to shred and clean the lettuce (it's anywhere from .99-1.19 a pound)

I'll start it on the 15th and try out some of everyone's suggestions and report back on how things are going.

And So Close....I started using that tag line with the athletes I coach and decided that it is applicable for everything in life. How else can we be Mustachians :-)

MerryMcQ

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My 11 year old is starting to turn into a bottomless pit. I've instituted a few rules to help (as well as help with nutrition). If anyone is hungry after the first serving of dinner, they can eat cut veggies or green apples. Carrots & cucumbers are sliced and in fridge waiting. I've noticed that my son will eat 2 or 3 servings of meat if I let him, but if his choice is carrot sticks he suddenly isn't all that hungry.

Second, the only snack allowed while using the computer or watching TV is veggies or fresh fruit; no dips, no cheese, just fresh produce. Period. It has really changed the way the kids (and adults!) interact with mindless, boredom munching. And a few pounds of carrots are far, far cheaper than a bag of chips!

Finally, meat is a small side dish when we eat. Often it is just for flavor. For example, we have a regular baked-potato bar night, where we put out bowls of toppings for everyone. Typically, black beans, diced onions, tomatoes, peppers, shredded cheese, butter & sour cream, and a small bowl of crumbled bacon. The rule is 1 spoonful of bacon per person (otherwise my son would eat an entire pound!). Another night we do a taco bar dinner; again, a bit of ground turkey as a flavoring; most of the bulk comes from beans and brown rice.

pbkmaine

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Theprudenthomemaker.com. She feeds 7 children on a budget of $300 per month.

Bee21

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My husband still eats like a teanager. Whole chicken or a large roast can dissappear in seconds. Luckily we have girls :)

Have you tried soups? I mean soup at the start of the meal to fill them up followed by some protein and carbs. Bulk up the eggs with veggies ie make frittata with broccoli or potatoes instead of scrambled eggs. Make more stir fries and curries.

It also helped me when I figured out which supermarket puts out the heavily discounted meat on Friday mornings.

You are doing great to feed them for 800. The prudent honemaker style eating is not feasible for everybody. I accepted the fact that i cant feed him lima bean soup and risotto, I have to get the meat for him. Meal planning and stocking up on specials worked for me so far, but obviously I will never be able to brag with my low food budget.

cats

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One thought re: the turkey deli meat (since it kind of jumped out at me as one of the pricier parts of what frankly does look like a pretty healthy and frugal food plan).  I haven't bought deli meat in ages so I'm not sure how the price compares, but would it be cheaper to buy a whole chicken, roast it on the weekend, and then make some of that meat available for the kids' sandwiches?  Then you can make the chicken carcass into stock (super easy in the crockpot).  I bring this up mostly because I've found that when soup is made using homemade stock it is MUCH tastier and more satisfying to my meat loving husband.  I can make a soup that is mostly legumes/vegetables and if it has homemade stock as the base he pretty consistently loves it, whereas if I make the soup using water he's always saying it tastes bland, no matter how much spice or herbs I use.  I made avgolemono soup earlier this week and the recipe I used called for a whole chicken--instead I used SOME chicken from a chicken we had roasted the previous week (I set it aside and froze part of the meat as soon as we carved the chicken), and subbed in chickpeas for the remaining chicken. I had made overnight stock in the crockpot from the carcass of that same roast chicken and used it as a base for the soup.  The result tastes very "meaty" and delicious but had probably a quarter of the meat that the original recipe called for. So if you are looking to reduce the amount of meat in your dinners, that might be an option to do so.

Thegoblinchief

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$800 is great. Don't sweat it. I spend $600/mo for 3 kids who are active but younger.

But a few thoughts - any interest in gardening? You'll probably only break even in year 1, but future years can really save money and I find it fun. Not everyone does. I also strongly discourage people who only want to do it to save money. You have to like the process. That said I grew $800 worth of food on a small city lot (1/10th acre, maybe even smaller).

Buying meat in bulk. We buy a whole pig once a year and that forms the core of our carnivory. Whole roasting chickens are cheap much of the year. Turkeys get cheap around Thanksgiving.

How much of that $800 is the restaurant visit? Alcohol? Soda? If you want easy wins they are there.

Gone Fishing

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Can you garden?  With all that salad, are you blowing through a lot of dressing?  If so, consider making your own with oil, vinegar and a bit of salt/pepper/Italian seasoning...

Melissa

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I actually do some gardening, but we ended up flooded out this past summer. I'm thinking rice paddy next year lol

I just made up a big pot of black bean chili and used some frozen red peppers I still have from my mom's garden. I do put a pound of beef in it but go heavy on the beans.  That will last us for three meals (I might sneak some of it in the freezer though for 'fast food' later)

I do love homemade broth for making soup.  Which reminds me that Giant Eagle has whole chickens BOGO this week! I guess I didn't even think to make it in the crock pot. Love the suggestion!

For the salad I just use extra virgin olive oil and vinegar with some seasonings added. I hardly ever buy bottled dressing.

When we eat out we usually drink water (although sometimes I'll have tea) and no alcohol or desserts.

It's nice to know that our grocery budget isn't too off base.  I did look at the prudent homemaker but I don't think I can talk the family into eating like that all the time.

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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I don't think I can talk the family into eating like that all the time.

Maybe not, but you could definitely have more meals with meat as a seasoning or no meat at all! Split pea soup with a ham hock, for instance. Or if I buy a roast, it's because it's on sale and I'm going to put it in the crock-pot and make beef barley stew.

But yeah, $800/month just isn't outlandish. Probably a lot less than most families in your situation are spending!

For breakfast protein, I wonder if you could get them to add a hard-boiled egg or put peanut butter on that bagel?

mm1970

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I actually do some gardening, but we ended up flooded out this past summer. I'm thinking rice paddy next year lol

I just made up a big pot of black bean chili and used some frozen red peppers I still have from my mom's garden. I do put a pound of beef in it but go heavy on the beans.  That will last us for three meals (I might sneak some of it in the freezer though for 'fast food' later)

I do love homemade broth for making soup.  Which reminds me that Giant Eagle has whole chickens BOGO this week! I guess I didn't even think to make it in the crock pot. Love the suggestion!

For the salad I just use extra virgin olive oil and vinegar with some seasonings added. I hardly ever buy bottled dressing.

When we eat out we usually drink water (although sometimes I'll have tea) and no alcohol or desserts.

It's nice to know that our grocery budget isn't too off base.  I did look at the prudent homemaker but I don't think I can talk the family into eating like that all the time.
Looks like a few people suggested The Prudent Homemaker, besides just me!

The goal isn't necessarily to eat like that all the time. I'd also find it very hard.  The goal is to incorporate her tips where you can.

One night a week of soup and bread.
Roasting and slicing and freezing your own deli meats.  Even if you only do it once a month, and can save half over buying your deli meat, it helped.
I've found quite a few recipes of hers that I really like.  Even just making them twice a month (which, which leftovers, means 4 meals a month) = big difference.

mm1970

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(But I have a husband and two boys, 9 and 3, and we spend $500 a month.  $800 doesn't sound bad to me at all.  I can easily see us getting there when the boys are teens.)

squatman

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Eat more fat! Nuts (not the cheapest, I know, but Aldi probably has good options), avocados, etc. Eggs seem like they'd be helpful too. Maybe hard boil some in advance that they can eat with breakfast. Also, based on your meal descriptions, I'd guess that part of the reason your kids are hungry all the time is because their calories are ~60% carbs.

I'd second all of the suggestions for stews/casseroles/chilis/etc. Something like slow cooking a pork shoulder with sweet potatoes and other root veggies might be a good filling idea. Beans + rice + meat + avocado is always a great combination too.

And FWIW I do ~450/month for 2 adults + a 3y/o so I really think you're doing fine.