Our 17 year old was the first one to shop for his week of food.  Since he can drive, he did the shopping solo.  We decided to let him share a few items with a sibling to be able to pay decent prices.  Those items were: a gallon of milk, a pound of butter and a 24 ounce bottle of vegetable oil.  He’ll use only half of each. (Note the Sharpie lines down the middle of these items! 🙂  )

Since some of our own grocery savings comes from our garden, we also decided to let each teen pick one pint and one quart of home-canned food from our pantry.  He chose a quart of tomatoes and a pint of grape jelly.  His food total ended up being $20.88, which displeased him a bit.  (The ground beef ended up costing more than he realized.)  But I think he did pretty well for his first solo shopping trip ever.

When he got home, the other kids spent quite a few minutes looking over his items and asking him what he’d paid for each.  It was fun to listen to the conversation.

I plugged his food items into a cool calorie counting website and discovered he’d bought enough food to eat 4,000 calories per day.  I think that should be adequate, even on the days he exercises for an hour. The site gave his food list a B+ in nutrition overall.  In the screen shot you can see that I listed the week’s worth of ingredients and then divided it into 7 servings to get an average calorie count per day.  Here’s the breakdown, and a picture of his receipts. I think he did a great job.


His dinner last night was a huge plateful of french fries, which all the kids looked at longingly while they ate their pork and veggie stir-fry.  His initial plan had been split peas and rice, but he didn’t start cooking in time for that to work, so he had to fall back on french fries since that was quicker.

The week will definitely be an eye-opener for all the kids when it comes to meal planning and the amount of prep it takes to get food on the table in a timely manner.  This morning his breakfast was oatmeal.  I made oatmeal for the rest of us too, to be companionable.  And this morning he’s already made two loaves of french bread to eat throughout the week.  I’d say he’s well on his way to making this work!


What’s this challenge all about?


  1. Smart kid!

  2. Very impressed! If more 17 year old guys were able to make food choices that well, we would have a healthier population for years to come!

  3. I forgot to ask the other day…what about tolietries and paper goods, like TP? Do you include those in your food budget, or keep them separate? Do the kids need to budget for that as well? Nothing says real life like forgetting to budget for toliet paper.

  4. Amber Howard-McGinnis says:

    😀 Much better than I would have done at 17yrs! (That’s awesome that he made bread instead of buying it!)

  5. It is so much fun to get to live vicariously through what you are doing. Storing this one in the memory bank for later.

  6. He MADE bread? Whoa! That’s amazing for a teen! Most adults don’t even do that! 🙂

  7. Completely impressive! I noticed that when faced with a budget and providing for the whole week, the choices did not include Mountain Dew and other junk food. It’s great that your kids can see how much those items can really eat (pun intended) into a budget. I’m filing this in my memory for when my kids become teens. I currently have a 6 yr old sitting next to me whining about the dessert I provided for her. I thought I was being super nice buying ice cream sandwiches as a treat. Sheesh!

  8. I would love to hear his take on all of this. I hope you’ll have him write a post or two about his adventure this week!

    • I also would love to hear what he has taken away from this adventure.
      Maybe a post from the other kids about what they did differently from this ‘first’ try and why.

  9. I love this idea and am enjoying seeing how this is panning out. Looks like your boy has made some sensible choices and you’ve equipped him with the skills necessary (shopping wisely, cooking, etc.) to be successful at this. I was wondering what all the oil was for but, french fries, now I get it. 🙂 This is something I would love to try with my own son in a few years. Of course, he’d need to learn to cook between now and then…….LOL.

  10. What a cool idea, especially before the kids go to college and really have to learn to live on a budget! I must say that $20/week sounds low to me also, although looking at the prices on the receipt, food costs seem lower in your region. Totally agree with the time management comment too- one of the things that I noticed when I moved out and started handling my own food was how much cooking is involved in sticking to the type of budget my natural cheapness could tolerate!

    Looking at your son’s very practical bare-bones grocery plan was also a good prompt to be more mindful of the “extras” that have crept into my own grocery shopping in the 3 years since college- coffee, some fresh veggies, frozen bean burritos for those hectic days when there is no time to cook before rushing out the door. Looking forward to hearing more about the meals your kids come up with for this challenge!

  11. This is a great idea. I will definitely do something similar when my children are teens.

  12. Kaycee Fisher says:

    Seriously? The web-site calculator thingy gave butter an “F”???? Yet vegetable oil got a “C-“?? :-/

    • Yes, I also thought it was exceedingly stupid that white flour got an A. Hopefully it is better at counting calories than judging nutrition.

  13. He did great. A friend and I are thinking of doing this over the summer with our 2 teenagers. one boy and one girl. This should be interesting and eye-opening for them as well.

  14. Oh my goodness, I LOVE this idea! How great is it? I can’t wait to do this with my kids when they get a bit older. My oldest will be 14 this summer and that might be a good time to do it with him – except he can’t cook really. Did I just say that out loud? I think I have some work to do!

  15. Oh my heck! I am totally in love with this challenge! I have been thinking and acting in small ways to simplify, but this is a great inspiration. And I am in love with the concept of truly training teenagers for the real world. I see so many kids who are floated around on pink puffery, and I wonder,”Would Laura Ingalls punch you in the face?” LOL! Thanks for being you.


  1. […] you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!Our 17 year old son is almost done with his week of $20 meals. He’ll be guest-posting here soon to share his […]

  2. […] what worked and what didn’t work, and what they might do differently another time.  Here is the list of food he bought and here is his […]