If it feels like your teens are costing you a small fortune in groceries every week, it’s probably because they are.
How much? That varies. But a study released by snack-food provider Farm Rich says that parents spend an average of $51,790 to feed a teen from ages 13 through 19. This means that the average teen costs parents $142 per week to feed.
So, if keeping your teen fed feels like a struggle, rest assured that you’re far from alone.
“Feeding teenagers can sometimes be a mental and financial challenge,” said Shannon Gilreath, director of marketing with Farm Rich in a written statement. “It’s no wonder parents can feel frustrated, with tensions rising at times.”
Planning Meals Is Work, Too
Not only are parents spending plenty of money on feeding their teens, but they’re also spending plenty of time on them.
The Farm Rich study said that parents average one hour and 33 minutes each week on planning, buying and preparing meals. This figure jumps by as much as 25% during the summer months when teens are home from school.
Feeding teens also requires plenty of trips to the grocery store. Parents told Farm Rich that they average three trips to the grocery store each week to keep their teens fed.
Numbers from the Government
The federal government seems to agree that feeding teens is a costly proposition. The U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2015 reported that parents with teens spend more money on food for their families than do any other U.S. adults.
According to the USDA, the annual average cost to feed a 15- to 17-year-old was $2,790 in 2015. That is significantly higher than the cost to feed younger children, which was reported as 22% higher than the annual cost of feeding children from the ages of 6 – 8.
How can you reduce these costs? The problem is your teens aren’t suddenly going to want to eat less. But there are ways to reduce the amount of money you spend on food for them each week.
The author of the Department of Agriculture report recommended buying in bulk, especially for families with more than one child. Buying bulk items and stocking up on food so that it’s readily available for hungry teens can help reduce a family’s overall grocery bill.
“There are significant economies of scale, with regards to children, sometimes referred to as the ‘cheaper by the dozen effect,’” said Mark Lino, an economist with the Department of Agriculture, in a written statement included with the department’s study results. “As families increase in size, children may share a bedroom, clothing and toys can be reused, and food can be purchased in larger, more economical packages.”
It helps, too, to buy the right food. Pre-packaged foods such as pizza rolls, frozen pizzas and hot dogs, tend to cost more. But fruits, vegetables and other produce tend to be cheaper. At the same time, such produce is also healthier for teens. Snacks such as baby carrots, apples and oranges, then, might be better ones to purchase in larger quantities.
Sarah Young, a reporter with Consumer Affairs who has also worked in early childhood education, wrote about the Farm Rich study when it was released.
In an interview with Zing, Young said that certain aspects of the report surprised her more than others. She said she was particularly surprised that parents were averaging three trips to the grocery store every week.
Young recommended that parents work with their teens to get them to be more mindful of what they are eating. Doing so could help reduce the money parents spend on feeding them, she said.
“To keep teens from scarfing down food with reckless abandon, consider getting them involved in the shopping and meal preparation process,” she said. “Realizing how much food costs and how much effort goes into preparing it may prevent them from mindlessly snacking.”
The Farm Rich survey also mentioned that nearly two-thirds of parents considered their teens to be “bottomless pits” when it came to eating. Young said that parents can fight against this by letting their teens know that there isn’t an unlimited supply of food in the home.
“While your teen may be a bottomless pit, your weekly grocery haul probably isn’t,” Young said. “Make sure your kids know that once the food for the week is gone, it’s gone. No second trips to the grocery store.”
Parents, though, should be reasonable. If important food items – such as fruits or vegetables – run out, parents can make exceptions.
“While it’s important to help teens realize the cost of food and why we shouldn’t waste it, it’s just as important to make sure kids know they’re not going to go hungry,” Young said.
How do you budget for growing teens in your household? Share your tips with fellow readers below!
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