Before I start the post, let me assure you that this photo was taken because of its ridiculousness. Right after I took it, we put back all but one box of ramen and re-shopped for better choices.
I have sons who are 14 and 16 and a daughter who is 12. And it’s summer.
I love summer so much, and I love having my kids home. But they want to eat. Like, three times every single day.
Over the years, I’ve tried different ways of dealing with this people-want-food issue. Today, I’m sharing what we did last year that worked so well we’re doing it again.
For years, breakfasts and lunches in the summer have been fend-for-yourself affairs. I tell myself this is preparing them to be able to feed themselves once they leave home. While they occasionally attempt gourmet creations, I’m happy they all know how to scramble eggs, cook sausage, pour cereal, butter toast, boil pasta, and make grilled cheese or fried egg sandwiches.
But last year, I took this YOYO (you’re on your own) concept another step.
After taking the kids out for pizza on the last day of school in May of ’17, I headed to the grocery store with my kids. I’d explained my new plan while we ate.
I told them they each had a $20 budget to buy breakfast and lunch groceries that should last the next two weeks. I chose that amount of time because we were going to be leaving on our vacation after two weeks.
$15 of their budget would be shareable items, and $5 of their budget could be spent on things they could mark with their own name, not to be eaten by siblings. I would provide basics like bread, milk, eggs, cheese and fruit, so those things didn’t need to be included in their budgets.
There was definitely a learning curve, but this system worked so well for us all summer.
Other than the first round when one kid met me at the front of the store with six 12-packs of ramen noodles (actual photo seen above), I almost never had to send anyone back to redo their trip. They learned pretty quickly that successful grocery shopping does require some thought and planning.
Things My Kids Learned from Doing Their Own Grocery Shopping
Over time, they learned to budget so they could be sure to get enough to last them the two weeks. (I had the ultra-basics on hand for when they didn’t.)
They learned that buying ingredients is SO much cheaper than buying pre-made stuff from the freezer aisle, and it tastes better. For example, breakfast sandwiches. They look amazing on the box, but aren’t usually so amazing once they’re microwaved. For the much-lower cost of sausage patties and frozen biscuits, you can make dozens of better-tasting versions on your own.
My kids learned to work together, both on the shopping and the cooking, to make money and time go further. This mama loves seeing her kids work together.
They learned to make do when it got to the end of the two weeks and the best stuff had already been eaten.
One learned to eat the food he bought “for everyone” first (and fast) and then eat his personal stash later so he basically got to eat it all.
The other two learned to eat that one’s food asap so he couldn’t do this.
These are LIFE SKILLS, people.
Two of my kids told me recently that they’d been thinking how they’re going to budget their $20 this summer. They’re already planning things out.
Another note: Be sure to explain the “marked food can’t be shared” thing to Dad. The marked stuff generally is the tastiest, so he needs to know what’s going on. Maybe this summer I’ll offer to let him put in an order of stuff he can mark with his own name.
We shopped at Walmart because it was convenient, but you could let your kids peruse the sales flyers for other stores if you wanted to also teach them bargain hunting skills.
To help them get started, I made a list of suggestions and costs (found in the Walmart Grocery app).
Examples of foods with prices on my list:
Great Value pre-cooked sausage patties (big bag, enough for all of you for the whole two weeks) – 5.14
Frozen buttermilk biscuits, 20 count – 3.82
Package of hot dogs – 2.74
Package of hot dog buns – .87
Can of Chili – 1.88
Cereal – $3-$5
Hot Pockets, 5 pack – 4.78
Pizza Rolls, 120 count – 7.64
Rotini pasta – .82
Already cooked grilled chicken, 19 oz – 6.62 (I also told them they could cook the chicken I have in the freezer and it wouldn’t count as part of their budget.)
Turkey lunchmeat – 3.48
Can of tuna – .77
Can of ravioli – .88
Poptarts, 8 count – 1.94
Flour tortillas (for quesadillas with the cheese I always have on hand) – 2.28
Bean burritos, 8 count – 3.42
Can of refried beans – 1.32