The other evening on a date John and I got talking about ways to prepare our teens for the future. In the process of our chat, we had an idea for a really fun economics project. We decided to give each kid a shot at shopping for and preparing their own food for one week.
At one time or another, they’ve all campaigned for different food than I usually buy; Mountain Dew and American cheese and take-out pizza are a few examples. Most of the time I refuse saying it’s not healthy or it’s too expensive. But for this experiment we’re going to let the money be the police, not me.
I currently spend about $80/month/person. So for this experiment we’re going to hand each kid a $20 bill, have them investigate prices and make a menu for a week, then go to the store and shop for themselves. Once home, each kid will cook for himself/herself for the week. At the end they’ll fill out a little survey describing how the week went, what worked well, and what they’d do differently in the future.
We haven’t figured out all the parameters, but obviously they’ll be free to use our fully equipped kitchen to prepare their meals. They can freely use our spices and basic condiments such as ketchup, yeast and soy sauce. They need to buy at least one vegetable and one fruit for the week. No skipping meals: they need to sit down and eat something with us at every meal. I’ll be willing to answer their questions as they menu plan, but once they get to the store, the choices will be their own. (Yes, even if that involves a cart full of ramen noodles and Mountain Dew.)
If they run out before the end of the week, we obviously won’t starve them, but they may need to do yard work or something along those lines for each meal we provide. To minimize the chances of failure we’ll do the challenge one or two kids at a time, oldest to youngest, so that younger kids can watch and learn. And for now we’re limiting this challenge to teenagers only.
We put this challenge to the kids last night and were amazed at how the idea intrigued them. We ended up sitting up half an hour past bedtime listening to them brainstorm and answering their questions. Some were immediately scheming to buy sugary cereal and pop and ramen for every day. Kids had the newspaper ads out, looking over prices and hunting for coupons. Our 16 year old daughter was quiet for a few minutes, asked me for prices of things like flour and rice, then confidently told us she knew what to buy. Since she has the strongest cooking skills in the bunch and a lot of sense about putting things together, I’m guessing this challenge will be a cake-walk for her. Others? I’m not so sure. But everyone was engaged, everyone was thinking. It was exciting to hear them.
I’ll be posting more about the great $20 experiment as we get deeper into it. Today kids are starting their menu planning, and the first one to shop will be our 17 year old son. Stay tuned!
What The Kids Thought of This Project