Starvation Week

Here are some $20/week thoughts from our other 13 year old son, who just finished his cooking experiment today.  (See his shopping trip here.)  And be reassured:  despite the title, I don’t think he spent any of the week hungry.


These last seven days, I planned and cooked all my meals by myself. The shopping went well. I went a little under, about eighteen cents. The first meal I cooked was French fries. They were O.K. but I burned them a little. I liked having canned ravioli.  Next time I would get lots more ravioli.

The ramen stir fry was also pretty good. It had noodles, onions, tomatoes, and a little bit of oil.  One of the hardest things to do was when everyone else got to eat something wonderful and I had to eat boringness like ramen again.  But I did like not having to eat oatmeal.

Making donuts was really fun. The first time I just mixed some sugar and cinnamon together then right after I took them out of the pot, plopped them in the sugar mix, they were really good. The next time I made some glaze for the donuts.  It had sugar cinnamon and milk in it. They were definitely not my favorite– wayyy to much cinnamon.

The best meal I made was deviled eggs.  They were much easier than I thought they would be. I would make those more often if I did it again.

Overall it was hard, fun, and frustrating each at different meals. I learned a lot about how much work it takes to feed yourself on a reasonable amount of money, while not eating rice and beans all the time. I am just glad that I don’t have to feed the whole family. Thank you mom!


  1. Nice job! (Especially this part: “Thank you mom!”)

  2. Very nicely done!! I have greatly enjoyed their reflections.

  3. First I think it is funny that all your kids were very excited not to have to eat oatmeal for breakfast. Did you know they didn’t like it that much? Second, I love how creative they each were with there money and their menu. Who would have thought that french fries would be a meal? But really it is like eating a potato for dinner, which we had last night.

    Do you think they ate a well balanced diet of foods? Do you think they got enough of each food group? Dairy is the only thing I noticed there wasn’t much of. How hard was it for you to bite your tongue on their choices?

    I am totally doing this with my 13 year old this summer. My goal between now and then is to have him help me in the kitchen more so he will be able to cook things for himself. I think i will have the hardest time sharing the kitchen with someone trying to make a complete meal for themselves at the same time and in the same space as me.

    • Jennifer, Yes, I knew they don’t like oatmeal, but they get to eat it a couple times a week anyway. I think all the kids bought either milk or cheese, and they all bought fruits/veggies too, per my request. However I found I had to remind them to actually get the fruits/veggies out of the fridge and EAT them. And where I most had to bite my tongue was with the processed food. Ramen, hot dogs, fish sticks, ‘fake’ cheese, and and pop are things we serve once or twice a month, MAYBE. So I was definitely wincing inwardly as they ate those things day after day. We had some talks about possible health issues with eating those things ALLLL the time as adults. A couple times I even stuck an extra fruit on a kid’s plate as I served everyone else, just because I was concerned about nutrition and didn’t think they’d quite gotten their vitamins for the day. And yes, it WAS very challenging to share the kitchen– especially the fridge space– with two people besides me cooking. But overall I think it was a great experiment.

      • Yes, the sharing of the kitchen is very difficult for me. I grew up in a house with Dad, and Sisters, and often Grandma, with ideas about the kitchen. Mom doesn’t like to do much in the kitchen, so she tended to let the rest of us have our squabbles.
        So, when I got married and had my own kitchen in our small, married-student-housing apartment, I thought I had found a small piece of heaven on Earth. My husband doesn’t like to do much in the kitchen, and eats just about any food put in front of him.
        Then our 3 sons started growing big enough to have lessons, and sometimes be good company. But I still arranged what went on a shelf, and put labels in the fridge, and instructions which were mostly followed, thru their teen years.
        About the time the kids went out to live with college roomies, they were quite used to the sharing of the kitchen, and I got mine back again.
        Sometimes now, I find weird stuff in the fridge, which I did not purchase. Hhhmmmm, maybe Husband is having a mid-life interest in more healthy foods…

      • So did you talk to them about how their bodies felt after a week of eating so much processed foods? I wonder if they noticed anything since they eat such a healthy diet normally. I’m just curious. I thought they did a great job cooking from scratch in a lot of ways. I can’t wait to try this and it will involve a lot of tongue biting for me as well.

  4. He said Thank you mom! I need to know your donut recipe….it seems your kids love it!

  5. Great job again. I think the oatmeal thing is hilarious. I would have the hardest time with the processed foods as well – I don’t want anyone to be seduced by the convenience. But they learned some amazing lessons!

  6. I think it’s cute that he made deviled eggs. Any boiled eggs here don’t get fussed with so much, most of the time end up as egg salad. It has the same ingredients, but none of that “refill the hole” work.

  7. Yes, good for him for liking deviled eggs and I thought it was cute that he pointed out he still had 18 cents.

  8. I now have an urge for deviled eggs. Maybe, my son and I will make them tomorrow. I love this experiment and can’t wait until my son gets older to have him do it. Thanks for sharing your children’s experiences.

  9. I’m just amazed that all your kids know how to cook so well (and not just “normal” stuff too- deviled eggs? donuts?? bread??- I’ve never made any of those, and I’ve been cooking for myself for a long time now!).

    I was wondering how to taught them to cook- do they help in the kitchen as one of their chores? When do/did they get the opportunity to make a complete dish (ex, loaf of bread) by themselves (prior to this experiment)? I know you mentioned in a earlier post that the whole family peels potatoes on Sundays.. would love a post on how you’ve taught your children to be self-sufficient in their cooking skills. Again… amazing!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  10. I’ve really enjoyed reading all your kids’ accounts of their experiment. They’re great writers as well as budding cooks! Well done to all of you!

  11. I think there were great lessons learned this past week Mary!

  12. I’ve really been enjoying these posts. Thanks a lot! 🙂

    I love the idea too. It’s something I’d love to do with my kids a little later (they’re 18 months and 2 1/2 months, so not for awhile :)).

    Just wondering, did you require them to make at least one thing during the week like this time with the deviled eggs? With all the packaged foods, the deviled eggs seemed a little out of place. 🙂

  13. I loved this – especially the last line. 😉

  14. WOW, great job! I love deviled eggs too although I dislike eggs in general. Loved his parting comment…

  15. I wish my mom had done this with me at some point in my life. She was open to me helping in the kitchen if I wanted to, but she NEVER required it, and lots of the food was processed or pre-prepared anyways. She DID include me in a lot of grocery shopping, so I did have a handle on that. Luckily for me, I had a meal plan all four years of college but live in an apartment so had the option to cook. One of my roommates had cooked frequently with her mom, and we figured out all sorts of things in the kitchen together. If I hadn’t done it for fun in college, I would have been in BIG trouble when I graduated and had to cook for myself AND my husband all of a sudden. Still, the learning curve was steep.
    Bravo to you! And to your kids for taking the challenge!