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#ParentHack: Show Teens How to Do A Food Budget

I love having my teenagers home all day in the summer (yes really), but those kids can eat! Their zesty appetites have always tested my budget, but my biggest frustration has been that some of the foods that they have me purchase will disappear in a day while others will go completely untouched.

Two summers ago, I came up with a solution for this problem while also teaching my teens the crucial life skill of budgeting.

Give Teens a Budget and Choice

Now when we go food shopping together, each of my three kids will get a $20 budget to spend on breakfasts and lunches for the entire week. Fifteen dollars of that allowance goes toward food that will be fair game for the entire family to enjoy, while $5 can be spent on personal food that they don’t have to share. (Those sardines are all you, buddy.)

It was a spur-of-the-moment idea that turned into a winning system. Since I’ve started giving them a budget, my kids have learned that budgets stretch further when you buy ingredients instead of packaged foods. They’ve also realized that teamwork makes the dream work, with one buying the breakfast sausage that they will share while another buys biscuits. And they now pace themselves so they don’t eat all the best stuff on the first day.

I call this strategy a win-win: the kids love to make their own choices, and I love staying within our family’s food budget.


Want to read about other parenting hacks from clever parents? We love them, too! Read some of our other hacks for enforcing curfew, sharing custody as a divorced dad, creative ways to use your kids’ phones, how to listen in on car conversations in the backseat, or how to get your teenagers going in the morning in an upbeat, happy mood.

Dana K. White

Dana K. White is a mother of three and the author of Decluttering at the Speed of Life.