Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Home Economics 101

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?


zephra said...

Try sending your kids to their friend's house for a while. That usually saves some money. I had weight loss surgery 2 weeks ago today so my food needs have changed quite a bit and our eat out costs are almost $0 but I still find myself spending at the store. We used to spend sometimes $800 a month on food at the store. I am very curious to see how it changes now.

When I ran a daycare I had several kids who were in 4th and 5th grade. I sat them all down one day and had a "How much does the world really cost" class. That was really enlightening for them.

Mom et al said...

My kid are still young so we aren't there yet, but my two little ones can certainly hold their own. We save by watching for sales and not being adverse to making trips to more than one store. All told we still spend several hundred a week. What bothers me most is how expensive it can be to eat healthy. Produce is one of our high ticket items.

Two Normal Moms said...

I hide the "good" chips from my son's friends when they show up and make popcorn or buy a $5 Little Cesar's pizza. Also, I stopped buying bottled water and now fill up an old Tupperware pitcher with ice water for them and leave it on the porch.
-Lela PS Do your sons' friends also leave your bathroom looking and smelling worse than a filthy rest stop?

Mary @ The Writer's Block said...

Mine are still little but already cost us a small inheritance in groceries each week. I find it so hard to juggle the aspects of convenience, cost, nutrition, and what they will actually eat. It's maddening!!!

This winter, I registered my daughter for a small basketball cheer squad. The fee was $100. When she heard that amount, she was all, "Mom! That's a LOT of money!" "Yes and that's why Mommy and Daddy work!"

Thanks for stopping by my blog. ;)

Heather said...

My kids aren't home all day - two oldest are in camp. We do still end up spending more in food, though. I have to make their lunches, and then of course because they are so active all day they eat like there is no tomorrow when they come home! And then of course there are their friends!