More $20/week shoppers

Our 17 year old son is almost done with his week of $20 meals. He’ll be guest-posting here soon to share his impressions of how the week went. Next up: our 16 year old daughter and one of our 13 year old sons. I spent yesterday afternoon toodling around to various stores with them. I NEVER go to that many stores in one day on my own, instead preferring to grab good prices here and there gradually. But they’d really been studying the ads, and I wanted to help them get the best deals for their shopping day.

Above you can see how our 13 year old son spent his $20. Lots of ramen, hot dogs, and processed cheese — probably more processed stuff than he usually eats in two months. But he did get some fruits and veggies in there. At the end he had a couple bucks extra which he promptly went back and spent on Sprite and root beer. And I have to hand it to him: he provided himself a huge number of calories for $19.80. Below I listed all the food he bought. Divided by 7 days, that’s 4800 calories per day. He won’t starve. I am guessing he will be my kid who gets most tired of cooking for himself, but he began very well. Today, all by himself, he made himself two absolutely lovely loaves of bread.

The other shopper was our 16 year old daughter. She definitely felt a little bogged down trying to figure quantities of various things for multiple meals. But she shopped carefully and ended up with a total expense of $18.60. The camera seems to have eaten the picture of her food, darn it anyway. But here’s the calorie breakdown of what she bought– again, plenty of food. These kids are not going to be hungry. She’s got some fairly ambitious plans, including potato soup, chicken calzones, and Spanish rice. And knowing her, she’ll do a great job at this week.

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  1. I think this is such an awesome experience fo your kids.

  2. Good to see your daughter got some carrots in there. I guess your kids are not big banana eaters? I would have thought those would be cheap fruit.

  3. What a great experiment! We spend a little bit less each week per person, but my kids are much younger also. I’m tucking this idea away for when they are older. May I ask your grading scale? I was surprised to see butter getting a lower score than Ramen. I’d be interested in hearing how you chose your grades.

  4. I’m smiling over the photo of your 13 yo with his soda. That is exactly what my 13 yo would have on his list, too, and probably be most happy about in such an experiment. I think it’s because it’s a treat at our home (and yours, too, I gather….) that makes it such a score. 🙂

  5. I am intrigued by this project – what a great idea – I am also astonished at the amount of food your daughter got for just $18.60! You are clearly blessed to live in an area with reasonable food prices. That same amount of food, in my area (greater Chicagoland), would be at least $30, if not more. Even *with* generics.

  6. I am curious to see how your 13yo feels after eating more processed food than normal. Btw, Brian and I are in love with this idea!

  7. I love the photo of your son holding the soda!!! I am sure you have mentioned it before, but what website are you using for the calorie tracker?

  8. Here’s the recipe analysis page I’ve been using
    And I totally disagree with their recipe scoring. White flour has way less nutritional value than butter, for just one example. But it is a simple way to at least count calories.

  9. So very cool! I love this experiment.

  10. I think this is such a great idea Mary! As an adult, I still struggle with food budgeting and wish I had gotten off to such an early start! I do have one question, though I haven’t read through the comments for all the posts in this series so please forgive me if it’s been asked and answered 🙂 I wonder how you are dealing with the “economies of scale” issue. I saw that 2 of the boys “split” gallons of milk and cooking oil, but it got me thinking about things like flour, rice, even meat, that you, as the cook for a large family, are able to buy in bulk at much cheaper per unit prices. By the way, I am very impressed that you feed each person for $80 per month! No wonder you wrote a book about this 😉

  11. I totally disagree with the ‘F’ for butter. Butter is good for you, in moderation. I think soda & candy should be an ‘F’; butter should be a ‘B’. 🙂

  12. This is such a good idea. My ex’s idea of meal money management was “my mom made all of my meals and I didn’t learn anything so I’ll just eat fast food unless someone cooks for me”. Needless to say, he had some money management problems. Thank you for teaching the men of tomorrow some basic life skills.

  13. I just read an article that made me think of your kids and their experiments. It’s from the Huffington Post and is called “What Happens In Your Body When You Eat Ramen and Gatorade.” Two subjects swallowed cameras which videotaped the digestion process. One of the subjects ate gatorade, ramen, and gummi bears, while the other subject ate whole foods. Fascinating stuff!

  14. You should post the receipts. I would LOVE to see how your food prices compare!


  1. […] RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!This week I had to cook all my meals by myself and I only got $20. [Here's what I bought]. It worked well to make my own bread because it was cheaper than buying it. I enjoyed eating […]

  2. […] If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!This story was written by my 16 year old daughter who came home from Ethiopia in 2007.   I knew she’d do a good job cooking, but I am just as proud of the time and effort she took to beautifully describe her cooking for you. (Here’s how she spent her $20) […]