I used to think my mother was joking about how much food my brother ate as a teenager. Being three years older, I was pretty much gone by the time he hit high school, so the stories of he and his friends polishing off a few pounds of cold cuts, a loaf of bread, and two gallons of milk for lunch seemed fabricated. I've learned better. Teenaged and pre-teenaged boys, at least in my house, have hollow legs and eat as if they were bears approaching four months' of winter hibernation.
The Oldest has never been a big eater. He’s on the swim team at our local Y and should eat more than he does, but has said to me and my mother on a number of occasions that he doesn’t want to be “fat like Dad” (yes, Hubby’s weight and the accompanying health concerns have definitely affected the Oldest’s view of the world!). He does, however, have no problem scarfing down half a pizza and fries after school with friends at the local hangout. Then there’s the Middle Child, who has no problem eating enough – his problem is eating too much. With a nut allergy, we’ve never been able to send him with a PB&J for lunch, but that doesn’t explain his belief that every meal should be a three-course adventure – he’s the only kid I know who took meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and green beans for lunch… at preschool. As the child I consider most likely to have future weight issues, so his snack options have been directed to more fruits and vegetables and less crackers and chips. The Baby is shaping up to be somewhere in between, but is big on banana bread, yogurt, and chicken, so he’s good.
With the rush of the school year ending and a packed calendar, grocery shopping didn't make the list this weekend. I usually have plenty on hand in the pantry and just need to grab milk, bread, and a few other things on a weekly basis, but with these two now home for the whole day, plus their assorted friends hanging around, I was woefully unprepared. So yesterday afternoon we all went to the market – me, the Baby, the Middle Child, and the Oldest. I was reminded rather quickly why I don’t bring them all with me – the two older ones wouldn’t stop egging one another on, the Baby wanted to get out of the carriage and play with them, and it took me twice as long to get through the store.
It was somehow worth it when we checked out. Despite a liberal helping of store brands and coupons, my short list of bread, milk, yogurt, and hummus had somehow expanded into an overflowing carriage totaling well over $200. As the cashier announced the final amount, I heard a gasp from the Oldest. “Mom, that’s a lot of money!” “Yes, it is.” “Mom, that’s enough to buy an iPod Touch!” “Yes, it is.” “Mom, we cost that much?!?!”
No, honey, that’s just the start of it. Welcome to Home Economics 101. Now wipe that horrified look off your face and help me get all these bags in the car.
So, how different is your weekly grocery bill in the summer than during the school year? Do your own kids, if they're old enough, grasp how much food costs these days? And how do you handle it if you're on a tight budget but find yourself feeding an army of neighborhood kids in addition to your own?