Anecdotal evidence from parents abounds, but now actual research has verified what we all knew: teenage boys can literally eat you out of house and home. According to the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, boys in their mid-teens can eat an average of 2,000 calories for lunch alone when given the opportunity! To put that in perspective, the recommended daily caloric intake for your average grown woman is around that same amount for the entire day.
If your grocery budget is limited, you may begin to have very real concerns about whether you're capable of ever having enough food for your boys. You grocery shop and within a day or two, most of the food is gone. At my house, the hours after school are the most shocking to behold. A virtual feeding frenzy occurs as the fridge is ransacked and cabinets are emptied. As a child, my mother would warn me not to spoil my appetite before supper, but this problem doesn't seem to exist for boys. After they've finished their homework along with enough food for a banquet, they're soon circling the dinner table asking when we're going to eat.
I've embraced the fact that my boys are growing and need more food than they did before, but my food budget hasn't grown along with them, and that's a problem. Over time, I've learned through trial and error which foods are pointless to buy because they aren't filling enough, and which foods will truly put a dent in their hunger while still being affordable and nutritious. If your boys are getting to that age, here are nine affordable, nutritious foods you may want to start buying in bulk.
Eggs Hard boil a dozen and keep them at the ready in the fridge, or you can even pickle them. Teach your boys how to cook up their own eggs—fried, scrambled, or in omelet form. Along with some toast or wrapped in a tortilla, it's a satisfying meal which provides choline, omega-3s, zinc and lutein.
Oatmeal Make a big batch, which your sons can transfer to bowls and reheat in the microwave along with nuts and berries or slices of apple and a sprinkle of cinnamon. A stick-to-your-ribs bowl of oatmeal provides plenty of protein and fiber to hold them over until dinner.
Fresh fruit Buy whatever's in season and let your child pick his favorites from the produce section so he's more likely to eat it. Apples and bananas are both popular at my house, as well as the occasional mango.
Fresh vegetables Are baby carrots as tasty as potato chips? Perhaps not, but they're healthier, and providing healthy foods instead of favorite snacks helps me gauge true hunger. If your child turns down fresh carrots, celery, raw broccoli, cauliflower, and cherry tomatoes, with a little light dressing or guacamole for dipping, chances are they aren't really hungry. Again, keep these washed and ready in a container in the refrigerator.
Peanut butter Go for all-natural, no sugar added peanut butter since it's still a great bargain compared to the price of regular peanut butter. Your boys can whip up a peanut butter sandwich or two when needed, or dip apple slices and celery sticks into it. Peanut butter is high in iron, which is a component of hemoglobin in the blood and contributes to energy levels in the body.
Popcorn Popcorn is a great alternative to popular snacks because it provides the same satisfying crunch and you can eat a large volume of it without overeating. Let your son demolish a whole bag of popcorn (whole-grain, light butter, no salt added) and be assured he's getting fiber and other nutritional benefits. While microwave popcorn is convenient, consider popping your own kernels the old-fashioned way or with an air-popper if possible to avoid unnecessary additives and also keep the per serving cost down.
Tuna Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the greatest things to feed a growing brain, and tuna is one of the most affordable sources. A batch of tuna salad with a little mayonnaise, chopped celery, salt and pepper can be eaten straight or makes easy and delicious sandwiches any time teenage tummies rumble. Look for "canned light" tuna if you're concerned about mercury, as it has less than other types of tuna.
Spaghetti Most kids love pasta, and thankfully it's super affordable. Boil up a pot of spaghetti and pair it with a healthy jarred or homemade tomato sauce which can be kept in the fridge for a filling, healthy after-school, pre-dinner meal they can serve themselves.
Cereal Breakfast cereal is a big favorite with kids of all ages and teenage boys can eat several bowls in one sitting. Along with 1% milk (or almond milk, if you prefer), cereal can provide plenty of necessary vitamins so it's one packaged food I always keep stocked. Though they cost a little more, opt for cereals that are low in sugar and high in protein and fiber.