Thursday, April 12, 2012

"Hey, you gonna finish that?"

An awe-struck single Dad witnesses the horror of three bottomless food pits known as adolescent and teenage boys. Oh the humanity!

I should post a sign over my dinning room table that reads "Abandon all hope, ye who dine here." Our home supplies regular meals to an infantry brigade of one 14-year-old and two 12-year-old boys. At dinner time, one must watch one's hands and fingers, if one is to retain them.

While no stranger to food consumption myself, my daughter and I often sit wide-eyed and bewildered at the sheer carnage of food-letting at my nightly dinner table. Ever see those National Geographic shows where they chronicle the hunt, take down and carnage of the lion pride shredding a wildebeest or zebra in the Savannah?

That comes close.

I have long believed that there is no such thing as too much food in my freezer. Twin 12-year-old boys and a 14-year old man-child can dent ANY stockpile of food. One of the twins, Antonio, shreds his way through burgers and pizza and chicken and pasta and vegetables like they are the last on Earth. And then he looks to my plate or his brother and asks; ".. hey, are you gonna finish that?" Because the first three helpings weren't enough.

"Hey Dad, we're out of Ketchup..."
Now don't get me wrong, I can chow down with the best of them, but I have recently embarked on a personal slimming down initiative and just don't eat what and how much I used to. I also try to have a balance of foods that both fulfill and nourish this ravenous army of three. However, with the cost of today's food, eating healthy (and continuously) is a tall order. What to do a fun exercise?

There are essentially (for all intents and purposes anyway) five adults that need to eat three times a day. That's 35 meals a week. Not including snacks and desserts and, well, more snacks.

In all fairness, I do split this food bill with the children's Mom. But the tally stands. And even though I have a food bill that could rival the GDP of most small nations, I have some tips I would like to share for any parent interested in cutting corners at the checkout counter:

1. The Dollar Store is Your Friend!
I find many parents are too proud/particular/prude to truly shop at the local Dollar General. They have all your brand-name staples; ketchup, relish, aluminum foil, toothpaste, Cup-o-noodle soups, soda, boxed rice, cans of vegetables and so on. It's a treasure chest of necessities. Lose the pride and save a bundle.

2. The Incredible Bulk. I LOVE Costco, with all my heart. Especially since all my boys are carnivores, the deals on meats are unbeaten–so buy in bulk. Meats, cereals, dairy like Milk, butter and cheese. You pay more once but save tremendously over the long haul. Remember, shop for quantity.

3. Mr. Freeze. Invest in second, stand alone chest freezer. Buying foods in bulk is great  but you will need someplace to put it. A second Freezer (or refrigerator) makes all the sense in the world. A definite must for any family of three or more. You can pick them up new for between $150 to –  $200 – worth every penny!

4. Plan to eat—then eat according to plan.
I try my best to stick to a balanced eating plan. Some meat or fish, some veggies, some fruits, grains or breads couple with pastas. The variations come via  spices, flavoring and different ways to look at things. Children are a certified pain the royal sit down when it comes to eating diversity. I try to plan each meal with a variety that appeases everyone.

5. No food left behind.
There is no greater waste of money and time than tossing out unused, uneaten leftovers. After a decade and a half of this, I know my kid's intake volume and likes. Any leftovers are tomorrow's lunches or after-school snacks. Period.

Eating is an important part of life and having a good, healthy (and effective!) plan is the best way to instill a healthy relationship with food for your kids.

But until the day comes when they either move out, or the near pandemic levels of food consumption end, I will be sitting silently in the corner in awestruck disbelief... with an empty wallet.

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