If you’ve read my long enough you know that I do small grocery shops multiple times a week. I have little storage, and prefer as little food waste as possible (just give a gander at how food waste effects the environment). This is how my daughter has watched me shop over the years, and how she has learned to shop.

My daughter’s university has this thing called ABP, which is alternative break program. These are things one can do over spring break that are sort of learning experiences. My daughter participated in one during her Freshman year, and had the privilege of running one this year.

When you lead a program like this, you are responsible for everything: you are given a budget, and you need to make care of learning and enrichment experiences, transportation and food for all participants on the trip.

My daughter had no problem with reaching out to partner organizations and filling up their time with the learning portion. As she is something of a mass transit savant, the transportation portion fell in line rather quickly. But then there was the food…

They would have one day to buy the food needed to feed fifteen people for six days, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. She knew what her budget was. She had ideas as to what they would serve. But she had absolutely no idea how to decide how much of each thing to buy…, and all those other questions one asks when buying food that is supposed to last for a week.

So I got a panic call the day before the program started.

Would lettuce and tomatoes last a week? (They should if stored correctly)

Are frozen vegetables besides corn and peas OK to eat? (Yes. Check the labels though to make sure nothing is added- FYI- corn and peas are the only frozen veggies that I buy)

How much cheese do I need? Making sandwiches, quesadillas and tacos… (ummmmm….I have no idea how much cheese to buy. I think you would need X amount but I’m not sure)

Bread? (Is anyone gluten free? If not one loaf of two different types.)

And this went on and on.

Frankly, many of her questions stumped me. How do people buy groceries for multiply people a week at a time? I’ve learned to shop for how I live- it’s not easy to rethink how you’ve thought for years. I know there was a time in my life when I worked sixty hour weeks and did shop for a week at a time- but those were also the days I ate a lot of salad and grilled chicken…and ate breakfast and lunch at work…

In the end, my daughter’s particular program was the one where the kids were fed (complaints from other groups were things like cereal for three meals a day) The only thing she miscalculated on the too little side was lunch meats, and she overbought pasta. Unopened food went to the food bank, and kids took home the odds and ends that were left over.

After the program was over, my daughter stated that running this program was the greatest learning experience she has had at college. She said that hands on application of practical knowledge was needed, and this was clearly when she had to apply everything she has learned in her entire life to make this go smoothly. Reaching out to corporations and non profits to set up learning experiences, figuring out which experiences will be most beneficial, learning to budget, learning to deal with different personalities, making sure everything is treated fairly and equally, making sure everyone eats…

Sometimes you really do learn things at college.

56 thoughts on “My Daughter and the Grocery Store

  1. I grew up entirely without witnessing the shopping process. My parents lived overseas where we had servants who did the food shopping, and my mother simply oversaw the meal planning. This was how she spent her entire life until she was in her mid-40s, and she’s never really learned how to plan or shop effectively.

    As a 20-year old, I learned how to cook and shop for myself once I moved to London, where I lived in a shared flat, so shopped as you do now. But since then (and before Himself moved in) I became used to shopping once a week because I work, and it’s the most efficient use of my time. My meals were planned out for the week before I shop, with a degree of flexibility to allow for any good deals/availability of ingredients. Himself plans on the fly as we go round the grocery store. Our food waste is largely peelings. My mother’s food waste on the other hand is one of many areas of dispute.

    It’s a skill that’s well worth learning – so good job to your daughter & her college for the programme. When I first lived alone and wasn’t sure how I’d cope on a single wage, I made myself shop on a tiny weekly budget for ages. It was such a helpful learning experience.

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    1. My daughters real superpower is your organizational abilities…she’s really good at looking at the big picture and figuring out what’s needed. She just didn’t know how many slices of bread come in a loaf until she googled it

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  2. Such wildly different experiences from one place to another… There are ranchers in the Sandhills here who come into the city in the fall and buy basic supplies for the winter, because if the weather is bad for a while, there is no guarantee that they can get to a grocery store, which might be an hour or more away. And then I do what you do and make a few trips a week for odds and ends.

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    1. I know! I can’t imagine not being able to pick up things here and there. But you do get used to what works for your lifestyle

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  3. You’ve shown a great example of how we are strongly influenced by and experience learning from social environments. Plus human adaptation skills when needed! Personally I try to go shopping only once per week mostly because if I get into a store for one or two things I’ll inevitably come out with ten.

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  4. What a fabulous experience for your daughter! In fact, I’m amazed that she did so well with budgeting enough food for so many kids. That to me, would have been challenging! A big shout out to her for crushing it! And to you for giving her your practical advice.

    I too am used to shopping multiple times a week. I started doing that after I retired. Come to think of it, shopping for food depending on the number of people in the household changes over the years . As often of the cost of food. Lol And that always takes time to adjust to.

    I used to have two sons at home. Growing boys eat monstrous amounts of food. I mean It’s crazy. I remember having to cut my food amounts when son # 1 went to college, then son #2 and then when my husband passed. With each change I’d be left with too much food. Now that I live alone I run out of food quickly because I never want anything to spoil. So it takes a while to readjust and not overbuy.

    I also recall how amounts of food intake differs by sex. My sister has two daughters. Her petite teenage girls ate like birds compared to my tall teen sons. She’d be surprised when at Thanksgiving I’d bring my gang and they’d eat so much. So yeah, usually young men eat a lot more than girls. I know there were always charts come holiday time about how big a turkey you needed to buy for x amount of people. I’d always add to size figuring how much my growing boys ate. And my boys were always skinny! They were just tall! There was a cute movie a few years ago where Mathew Perry goes back in time and. Zac Efron plays his teenage self in the past and all he does is eat! I think it was called “Seventeen Again”. Anyhow, the actors are hysterical because it has some great scenes showing how teenage boys eat anything and everything. Lol And in my experience that’s very true!

    Since the pandemic and cancer treatment I mostly have a shopper buy my groceries for me. ( I can’t lift the cases of water anymore). I buy a lot more frozen vegetables these days than I ever did before. But, I have a great shopper who now knows what kind of red leaf lettuce I want and what kind of fish etc. But I only get a small amount of lunch meat. That was an adjustment. I only need a little compared to what we ate as a family.

    Anyhow, I’m really impressed that your daughter handled everything so well! I don’t think I would have been as successful. Bravo to her!

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    1. I remember in middle school my daughter had friends over, 2 girls one boy. I invited them for dinner as I was making Mac and cheese…I made a huge casserole pan. The three girls had a scoop. The boy pretty much finished the pan. I couldn’t beLieve how much he ate, and he was slim!! Just amazing the different calorie burn

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      1. Ha! I know! It’s like teenage boys have an empty leg. They burn calories a mile a minute and they are always hungry. So planning for boys is different. My daughter in law found that out with my grandson. She has two girls and a boy. My son and grandson eat more in one meal than the girls eat in a week. And they are all thin. I used to tell my sister that but until she a grandson she didn’t get it. Anyway, I learned to buy double the amount of food for the boys. It’s important to know.

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  5. That sounds like an amazing learning experience. You must be so proud your daughter handled the challenge so well. I struggle when we host my son’s girlfriends family. There are 7 siblings ages 20 to 33. Five are in crew and they work out all the time. I buy a huge amount of food at Costco and planned out meals. But every single day I was back at the grocery store for 32 honey crisp apples and assorted charcuterie items. Unbelievable.

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    1. That’s the biggest issue…you don’t know how much people eat…what’s a perfect portion for one person could be too much or too little for someone else

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      1. My kids were swimmers and had big appetites, but shopping for a family of four is entirely different than shopping for a gathering of 13 for a week! I cooked an entire prime rib and thought we’d have left overs for French Dips the next day. Ha!

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    1. I admit that I sort of go through life thinking that there’s an experience in everything, be it educational, personal growth, human nature or just a good story. I think there’s very little in life without a story to go along with it

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  6. My husband is excellent at management of food and resources. His first job prior to being an Intelligence Analyst with the Army was as a cook and he was trained, including training on how to cook for large groups and even with James Beard. He won a few awards. He had a hard time with my skills as I had spend several years living in NYC buying small quantities of food as storage was a problem. Over the years, we picked up the best parts from one another as we mix, match, and shop.

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  7. Not only was this a great learning experience for your daughter, but more importantly, she recognized the value of it rather than fumbling through and saying “oh, well” when things didn’t go exactly as planned.

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  8. A lesson well learnt, I know a lot of young people who don’t have a clue.
    I plan all our meals on a Sunday, check cupboards/freezer for what we have and then write a list to shop with. We are lucky that we have a pantry that we can keep dried foods i.e. pasta/beans/rice/flour/tinned goods/homemade jams/pickles in. We also have room for a good sized freezer which we keep veg/meat and fish in. I buy meat and fish when it is on deals. I have always done this, it was something my granddad taught me, first pay you rent and bills then fill your cupboard with food you can keep, that way when money is short or you are ill and can’t get out there’s always a meal at hand. He was also a dab-hand at using up leftovers, something else I got from him.

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      1. I think it must come from being hungry as a child or the doing without in the war. I have noticed from people I know it does seem to be a working class thing.

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  9. As far as shopping goes…we’re pretty simple. I have been doing delivery since 2019, but lately either food is unavailable or damaged. Decided to start shopping on different day for different things. But wow you’re daughter, definitely AMAZING. 👍😁

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  10. You could have asked me, I buy tons of food at a time, but sounds like y’all did fine! Hands-on learning is so much more effective. Good for her for recognizing that. She’s smart like her mama.

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  11. I like the idea of shopping in small batches, but life is hectic enough and we are meal planners. Hence, we’ll shop for groceries once a week (though there always seems to be a couple of mid-week runs for things we either ran out of or forgot).

    Your daughter is smart to ask all those questions.

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    1. They were legitimate real life questions, and she knew that she was responsible for feeding kids as there was no dining on campus because if break. She said she felt horrible for the kids in other programs who weren’t fed…and she wondered what they did with their budget

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  12. If done correctly, and if given the right opportunities, one learns so much more in college but outside the classroom about navigating one’s way through real life and real situations. I know many people, especially young women, including myself and my own daughters, who would testify to this, like your daughter. She’ll appreciate this experience and the lessons learned for the rest of her life.

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