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Menu and budget for college guys in an apartment

I like to think he's "spoiled", so there's that. By spoiled I mean I made home cooked meals several days a week, usually from "scratch". Also, he grew up with a Costco card, near San Francisco and Napa, most recently near LA, and thinks that's normal. We do Crafts when we visit.

We have a Costco card, but he doesn't.. One of his roomies does. I would get him a card in a minute, if I thought it made sense. I am supposed to be watching my texts for the next Costco trip.

I'm thinking costo roasted chickens, sandwich fare, individually frozen chicken breasts, frozen legs and thighs, maybe frozen shrimp, maybe with a pre packaged spice rub. I have several.

For breakfast some "real" oatmeal or frittata. He has my pans.

A simple fried rice?

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  1. Not sure what your question is? Do you want us to tell you how much he should spend and what he should eat? Do you want recipes? menu plans? Did you teach him to cook? Does he own kitchenware? Color me confused.

    8 Replies
    1. re: foodieX2

      Sorry. I guess I mean how to shop for simple menu ideas. He knows how to cook simple things (including his favorite short ribs.) He has about five pots and pans, pretty good knife and a cutting board. And sesame oil (?).

      The he is my son, and the other kids don't seem to need a budget. I would like him to learn how to budget, and he's asking for my help.

      1. re: Shrinkrap

        Late getting back to this thread.

        Bottom line is how interested is *he* in menu planning, shopping, etc? If he is the one who has expressed interest then the best thing you can do it give him the tools he need to shop and cook smart. By that I mean:

        -work with him to develop simple meals that can be put together quickly and easily based on what he already knows how to cook. Assorted pastas, roast chicken, burgers, sausages etc. If he really interested in learning get him a couple cook books. My nephew swore by the first Rachel Ray "30 minute meals". Easy, approachable and foods college kids like

        -come up with a standard/generic shopping list that he can use each week. Make it on the computer and print out a pad for him. Include all the basics needed to put together the simple meals. You can even add a pantry checklist so he;s not buying stuff he already has on hand

        -based on the above come up with realistic food and household budget. You can decide to provide it for him weekly, monthly, etc. You can also consider prepaid grocery store gift cards in conjunction with his weekly/monthly budget. If you are feeling generous hit BJ's or Costco and start the guys out right with a case of TP, paper towels, plastic wrap, foil, cleaning supplies, etc

        -Finally, walk away and let him figure it out. You have given him the tools he needs, he already knows how to cook and has the kitchen stuff to do so. He won't starve.

        If this is all coming from you, meaning he hasn't come to you asking for meal planning help etc then just give him a monthly budget and let him figure it out. He's in college, give him room. If the budget doesn't work ask him to put together one that does and make a proposal. I did that with dad when I realized that my budget didn't cover everything. I tracked it for 2 months and showed him the deficits and we were able to come up with one that worked.

        In terms of the room roommates that is not for you to worry about. You son needs to figure that out with them. Some of them may have unlimited funds, others may not. *You* cant worry about your son "keeping up with Jones" or funding the ones with less. As roommates they will need to figure how to supply the common stuff (TP, paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc) as well as how they want handle communal meals, snacks, etc.

        1. re: foodieX2

          He's not trying to keep up with the Joneses (which, by the way, is my maiden name !). I mention the roomies because someone said he should do what the other kids do. But he seems to feel that's not going to work for his budget or diet. I can't disagree with that.

          By the way, we use groceryiq. Great little app. He could work out a list with that.

          But I will follow his lead,and not meddle.

          1. re: foodieX2

            A colleague of mine went from being the take-out queen, to a home cook because of watching/ reading Raechel Ray. We would walk over to the cafeteria together every day, and one day, instead of getting on the cafeteria line, she joined me on the leftovers/microwave line with a leftover pork chop. I can't pick on RR after seeing a home cook born before my eyes because of her instruction.

            1. re: EM23

              I am not a fan myself. I find her way to cutsie on TV and I watched the filming of her $40 a day show at friends restaurant. Lets just say she is not a nice person.

              That said I whole heartedly agree with you. My nephew did the same and is now a fairly accomplished home cook. He has moved on from RR but it got him interested and her books spoke his language at the time. You gotta give her credit for that!

              Kind of like the "Captain Underpants" books. If gets a kid to read who cares, at least he's reading. Eventually they will move on to better stuff.

              1. re: foodieX2

                That cutsie style coupled with the "30 Minute Meals" concept is magic - it appeals to so many. But she drives me...nevermind! I will not RR bash. I will not RR bash.

        2. re: foodieX2

          When my son was in college he had great success with a slow-cooker. The first thing he made was chili, then he went on to BBQ beef. He & pals took the slow cooker on ski trips to get around high resort meal prices. They would set it up (chili again, I think on a daily basis) before they left for the slopes in the morning and would be very happy to come home to hot chili waiting (use canned kidney beans and the chili will be ready in 4 hours). I recommend a slow cooker, the largest one you can get.

        3. I'm a bit confused too... is the "he" your son? Why not have him do what most college kids do? Whatever they want. If your son is college age, it's time to let go. Maybe give him a food allowance, but what he does with that is up to him. He'll probably quickly learn that a limited budget doesn't go very far buying a lot of prepackaged and fast food. If he wants to cook, he'll figure it out...that's part of what becoming an adult is, figuring out stuff on your own without your parents doing it for you.

          1 Reply
          1. I would always stock up on lean ground beef then portion it off into hamburgers in ziploc bags. And I would buy big bags of frozen fries. When I was too lazy to make anything else, I could at least throw both of those in the oven and have a burger and fries within about 30 min. I would also grab some breaded fish fillets for fish and chips for a change of pace.

            I've always kept a lot of cans of crushed tomatoes, and different types of pasta around.

            Breakfast was usually whole grain toast with natural peanut butter and grape jam, along with some black coffee. Either that or eggs and toast in some form - usually a spinach, tomato and swiss omelette.

            For lunch, I would stock up on a variety of lean cuisine lunches, and/or lean pockets, since all we had was a microwave at work.

            1. Well, if your son has never cooked before, rather than plain legs and thighs, he could get the precooked pieces that have been grilled, or have teriyaki sauce or something like that. I hung out with a lot of college age boys when I was in college, and most of them, in spite of being in engineering fields, couldn't figure out how to cook chicken thoroughly. At least at the beginning, I'd steer him towards reheating precooked food, then work on teaching him some basic cooking during college breaks. Costco roast chickens are delicious, but they take up a lot of room in the fridge, so they should be for immediate consumption, unless he is good at boning chickens.

              Shrimp seems a bit expensive on a college budget, especially since if he has it, his buddies will want to come over to eat. It'd be gone in no time. I'd recommend some ground beef in the freezer instead.

              There are plenty of staples that can be bought at Costco in bulk: pasta, rice, beans, oatmeal, tortillas, spaghetti sauce, peanut butter (if he'll still eat it), and the like. Plus the sandwich supplies.

              For vegetables, they have a lot of nice frozen veggies, cut small enough they could be used for stir fries, or steamed pretty quickly. They also have frozen fruit that could be turned into quick smoothies with a blender or defrosted and served with oatmeal.

              1. A lot will depend upon what sort of kitchen is available in the apartment. Especially the fridge/freezer bit. Some apartments have micro-fridges, which makes any sort of bulk buying impractical.
                When my daughter lived in a campus apartment, she shared with 3 other women. Her space in the shared fridge was very small, and so she only purchase fresh veg and meat that she could use in 3 or 4 days.

                1 Reply
                1. re: KarenDW

                  When I was in college, we had a normal sized fridge and freezer for our apartment. I used to rent a car once a semester, go up to Costco, and stock up on heavy stuff, soda, chicken (which I then froze) so I'd only have to walk to get fresh fruit and veggies. Problem is, I took up most of the freezer. One of my roommates complained.

                  So I went out and bought an upright freezer, which I put in the kitchen, and then removed all my things from the common freezer. The roommate who had complained put one frozen Lean Cuisine in there, and nothing else, and it sat there, untouched, for more than a year. She then complained about how much room the additional freezer was taking up in the kitchen.