Feeding Hungry Teens on a Budget

We have four children in our home ranging in age from 12 to 18. Four hungry children with hungry friends who wander into our kitchen at all hours of the day. The pantry is opened and closed repeatedly. The fridge light constantly illuminates the first floor. My kids are on a mission: it’s Operation Snack Time.   

Except, a pack of fruit snacks doesn’t seem to get the job done anymore. Now, it’s trays of chicken nuggets and frozen pizzas popped in the oven. It’s multiple bowls of cereal consumed in a row. It’s a bottomless, endless pit at war with my bank account that very much is not bottomless and very much has an ending.  

To help save my bank account — especially with the rising cost of groceries — I have learned some cost saving tricks.   

Buy in Bulk 

When our family was smaller and the kids were younger, it didn’t seem to make sense to buy in bulk. But now, it absolutely does. Memberships to Costco, Sam’s Club, BJs and other stores that sell items in bulk are completely worth it. It might be painful to spend a lot upfront, but in the long run, you will save money buying bulk versus buying those items from your local grocery store multiple times.  

Shop Aldi and Other Value Stores 

Aldi has found a way to cut overhead costs so that they can cut the cost of the food. They have small stores, no bagging, use non-name-brand products, minimal decorating, meat sourced from regional stock, and carts locked up and used by the quarter system. All this adds up to providing quality food at a cost that won’t break the bank. Trust me, Aldi is amazing. If someone tries to tell you otherwise, my guess is they have never stepped foot in one themselves.  

Buy Sale Items 

If something your family loves is on sale, buy it in bulk while you can. Especially meat and other proteins. If you have room in your freezer, you can always freeze what you can’t eat by the expiration date and enjoy it another time. Take advantage of sales and consider planning your weekly meals around items that are on sale that week.   

Offer High-Protein Snacks 

Protein-rich foods keep us full longer than carb-heavy foods. These are the foods you want your kids grabbing during their food raid. Consider stocking up on yogurt, cheese, meat, nuts and other high-protein foods that will both satisfy and fill.  

Clip Coupons and Use Apps 

In addition to sale items, grocery stores are offer coupons to make those prices go down even more. Most stores have digital coupons you can clip that attach to your store card that will automatically be applied at checkout.   

Shop Online 

Grocery stores now offer the option to shop online, for either pickup or delivery. Even with a list in hand at the store, I always end up with way more on my way out than I planned to purchase on my way in. Online shopping not only saves time, it also saves money, because it cuts down on impulse buying.   

Meal Plan 

In addition to planning meals around what’s on sale, just having a meal plan saves money. Instead of scrambling and trying to figure out what’s for dinner, or needing to run out and grab fast food, you know what’s for dinner and can use what you have efficiently and wisely. If you are close to reaching your grocery budget for the month, look at what you already have and try to use that in the week’s meals. A little creativity can go a long way.  

Close the Kitchen 

It’s OK to have times during the day when the pantry and fridge are off limits. For our home, it’s a couple hours before mealtime. I know if my kids are snacking right up until the time dinner is on the table, then they won’t eat what’s been prepared for them. It’s OK if they are hungry for a little while. Plus, dinner will be a lot more appealing if they haven’t had five bowls of cereal just 30 minutes ago.  

Feeding growing tweens and teens is no joke! But it doesn’t have to break the bank. With a little planning, preparation and some boundaries placed around mealtime, you might find your bank account growing — just like your kids.  

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