This is a guest post from Lea Schneider.
There was once the case of the missing cheese.
I started boiling pasta to make some homemade macaroni and cheese for dinner. Rummaging through the fridge, I could not find the block of cheese I had purchased for the sauce. I pulled nearly everything out of the refrigerator in frustration. I can’t remember for sure, but I think we ate sandwiches instead.
It wasn’t until the next day that I found the missing cheese. Or, I should say, I learned the fate of the missing cheese. It had been eaten by a good third of the high school basketball team. The boys had been looking for a snack.
The saying, "They'll eat you out of house and home" is a true one when it comes to growing kids. Tweens and teens eat a ton. Add in visiting friends and you'll find it hard to keep food in the house. As a mom, I know, because I’ve been there.
With a bit of fridge and cabinet organization, you can keep teens filled with healthy food and still have the ingredients on hand for meals. Here's how to do it.
1. Stock Up
Teens really do seem to have a hollow leg, as the joke goes. They can often devour a family-size box of cereal in one sitting. As the kids in your family grow, so does the need to bring home larger quantities.
Consider buying in bulk or shopping the sale ads in order to stock up at the best prices. A second refrigerator becomes a must-have item with teens and their friends in the house. It is needed in order to have the capacity to hold a week’s worth of groceries. You may also want to consider adding extra kitchen storage to house snacks and dry goods.
2. Buy Seasonal
Kids of all ages love fruit — they just want it to be easy. Keep bowls of apples on hand for them to grab, or cut up a huge watermelon and stash the wedges in the fridge.
3. Cook Extra
Cooking extra at dinnertime can be a great way to have some handy nutritional food ready. For example, make extra taco meat. Pack it in individual portions and store it in the freezer. It can easily be popped into the microwave and then be rolled in a tortilla with some lettuce.
Pack extra chili or homemade soup into microwave-safe mugs, then cover and freeze. Or, freeze a cup of extra pasta and sauce. Your teen only has to microwave and stir for a healthy snack. The rule of thumb is if they like it, make more of it than you normally would.
4. Choose Filling Snacks
Plenty of pre-made snacks are available, but they are often expensive and have empty calories. A short time later, your kid will be at the refrigerator door again.
Look for snacks that are filling, but nutritious. Dry snacks like nuts and granola bars keep well in cabinets, so you can easily stock up. Popcorn is an old standby that is great. Make it interesting again by introducing them to some more sophisticated toppings such as barbeque dry rub, taco seasoning, or Sriracha.
Find higher-fiber snacks that they like, such as carrots dipped in hummus or apple slices spread with a nut butter to keep them full.
If I knew a few team members were going to end up at my house after a game or practice, I’d make a bunch of sandwiches. It is nearly as fast to make a dozen sandwiches in an assembly line fashion as it is to make one. Pack them all in one container with a tight-fitting lid. When the kids say, “We’re hungry,” you hand them the container and they are happy.
5. Teach Cooking
By the time your kids are teens, they are ready to learn some cooking skills. Eggs are a nutritious and inexpensive protein. Teach them how to make a fried egg, tomato, and whole wheat sandwich, or how to create an omelet with their favorite veggies.
When they have a group of friends over, help them prepare by teaching them a few cooking tricks. Amp up the nutrition of nachos by mixing in pinto or black beans, whole kernel corn, and even diced, cooked chicken into the traditional cheese sauce. Or, buy whole wheat English muffins when they are on sale. Create a make-your-own-mini-pizza bar by laying out an array of diced veggies, mozzarella, pepperoni, and pizza sauce.
Smoothies are another filling idea. Easy-to-use smoothie makers mean adding yogurt, ice, and some fruit and blending for a yummy, good-for-you drink.
6. Set Boundaries
Teenagers are like the old joke about a “seafood” diet. They see food and they eat it. You can’t really be upset with them, as they can’t read your mind to know which food is off limits and which things they and their friends can dig into.
Make it clear by separating dinner ingredients and items not available for snacking from snack foods in the refrigerator and pantry. Mark the shelves so they know which foods are okay to eat and which are not. Or, better yet, add separate cabinets solely for the kids. Put the snacks that you bought for them into it and let them shop from it when hungry.
As a professional organization and storage expert, Lea Schneider brings her knowledge into the home to help parents manage their households and family life. Lea also draws on her own experience as a parent and writes on creative organizational approaches for The Home Depot. You can view a wide variety of picture galleries of kitchen storage pieces, including cabinets, on the Home Depot website.