7 Ways to Get Wise with Food – “No Free Lunch” Won’t Relaunch the Boomerang Kid
A tongue-in-cheek article by Rona Benjamin published in Huffington Post says you’ll need to starve your boomerang kids if you want them to move out of your house. This was said in jest, of course, but the outpouring of opinions clearly showed the gravity of the issue. An increasing number of young adults are moving back in with their parents and there’s a general uneasiness about the whole situation.
Let’s assume that you’re caught in the same bind but you’ve accepted the fact that your kid(s) might be staying over for more than a weekend visit and you really want to help them get through this difficult period. Or, you might be the kid in question and you’d like the arrangement to be pain-free for your parents. How do parents survive this potentially explosive situation? Let’s revisit tried and tested practical tips and adjust them to the situation.
1. Avoid refrigerator wars. Because food is such an essential part of our daily lives, food presents the greatest opportunity for setting the tone of your “new” arrangement with the “comeback” kids. If you’ve been living in an empty nest for quite some time, the contents of your refrigerator will most likely reflect the choices and quantities you’ve been accustomed to, and your grocery habits will have been shaped by the needs of a one or two-person household. Do not feel pressured to change the contents overnight, or overreact when stuff from the shelves disappear. Post-Its with catty comments can stop being funny very quickly.
2. Plan to eat meals together. Just because you’ve decided that the boomeranger needs some semblance of independence doesn’t mean they’ll need to eat separately. If they’re not earning yet they’ll be pulling things out of your refrigerator, anyway. Shared meals are the best way to reduce the burden of an extra hungry mouth because all you’ll need to do is adjust portions. The kid grew up with you, survived your cooking, and will be familiar with how food from your kitchen tastes like. You don’t have to exert extra effort to feed everyone. Rather, the effort should be exerted in ensuring that meal times become integral to communication.
3. Plan your menu. This can’t be overemphasized. You’ll need to lay out a whole week’s worth of meals and snacks and make a list of the items you need to make these meals happen. Stick to the list when you’re in the grocery and don’t be tempted to toss this energy drink or that bag of chips into the cart. What you need to take into consideration, though, are special dietary requirements of everyone, if any. There are ways to accommodate all the allergies and intolerances without sacrificing everyone else’s eating pleasure.
4. Don’t shop with a cart. If you can and if your shopping list allows it, shop with a basket. The heavier your basket gets, the more you’ll realize how much you’ve already spent. This may not work for everyone but if some form of exercise is in your weekly schedule, this should be a breeze. Kids should seize this opportunity to be useful. If you have the time to drive your parents to the grocery and do the heavy lifting don’t even wait to be asked.
5. Stock up on staples. You’ll always need to have stuff like pasta, rice, beans, flour, spices and potatoes around. They form the foundation of meals. What you can whip up on short notice with these staples is only limited by your imagination. You might be pleasantly surprised at what your kids can do with them. Ready-to-use sauces, dressings, and dips are part of this category. Best if you make them in big batches yourself, but store-bought items can be dollar stretchers, as well.
6. Cut down on trips to the grocery. This will save you time and money for gasoline. Staples can be bought once a month, for example, and you can schedule quick trips to the grocery to replenish perishables as part of your other activities. Just make sure you’re sticking to a list and not picking from shelves on impulse. Children need to help make this happen by cooperating with grocery schedules and avoiding demands that will require extra trips to the store.
7. Brownbag meals. Eating out, even in cafeterias, can be expensive. It’s always worth the effort to prepare meals that family members can take with them. When your boomerang kid goes out to look for work or is starting on a new job, this is the one sure sign of support that will make them feel you do care. Coffee is one major expense item that can be prepared at home. You’ll be surprised at how much can be saved. If you’re the kid with a Starbucks habit, bringing a big jug of homemade coffee with you can be your biggest contribution to keeping household food expenses down.
Do you belong to the “starve them out” school of thought? Or, are you from the side that thinks multigenerational households are good for the economy? How should Baby Boomers with Boomerang Kids manage food within the household?