Feeding Teenagers — The Non-Consumer Advocate Way

by Katy on May 30, 2011 · 44 comments

If asked, my fifteen-year-old son would swear that I am starving him. That he is “always hungry,” and there is nothing to eat in the house except for “canned tomatoes.” Of course, this is not the case, but he has a tendency to wait to eat until he is starving, at which point even the 60 seconds it takes to reheat leftovers is an abomination. I decided last night to prepare some store-bought style food that he could just grab and go from the freezer. As in, without any adult help. (I know he should be able to assemble meals on his own, but that is simply not the case.)

Thinking I would make some chili, I had cooked up a large amount of black beans in the slow cooker but then changed my mind at the last minute. Add to this a bag of super cheap rice that I had grabbed from the grocery store, and I decided to prepare a mess of burritos. I already had a couple packs of tortillas in the freezer, as well as an embarrassingly hoarder-like stash of Tillamook cheese, ($3.99 for 2-pound loaves!) so I was ready to go into assembly line mode. The total hands-on time to make 13 burritos was around 45 minutes, including assembling all the ingredients and clean up.

I am not publishing this post as a recipe, as all I did was mix together black beans, cooked rice, cumin, salt and jarred salsa. If I were preparing these for an adult palate, I would have included caramelized onions and other fun ingredients, but such was not the case. A sprinkling of shredded cheese and a quick searing in a skillet and I was ready to freeze these little burros overnight before popping them into Ziploc bags.

So far, they are a hit, with both sons each preparing themselves a burrito, as well my husband bringing one to work. Sure they’ll still have to wait the two minutes it takes to cook these in the microwave, but there’s only so much I can do.

Do you have tricks to share about feeding teenagers without giving up home and hearth? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.


Assembled burritos, ready to go into the freezer.
Individually frozen burritos, in their “grab-and-go” form.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”


{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Jinger May 30, 2011 at 4:27 am

I have some chili in the freezer and cheese int he fridge begging to be eaten…just need tortillas and I’m off to make these wonders….am I right you sear the burrito after assembled in tortilla?

Thanks for this tip!


Jinger May 30, 2011 at 4:35 am

Also small individual pizzas with homemade dough or on pita bread, ready to be cooked.


T D Hollis May 30, 2011 at 4:28 am

Having raised 3 sons, let me assure you – they are ALWAYS hungry! By keeping real food prepped in single serving pouches, you are doing the best thing possible for your son. They can grab it and have it ready to eat in a matter of moments.
If you can, double whatever you prepare for dinner, store it in a single serving-size bag in the freezer – Voila´, teenagers fed!
Happy Dedication Day!


namastemama May 30, 2011 at 5:52 pm

When I was doing research for a nutritional program for preschoolers I was astonished to learn that moderately active teenage boys need 3000 calories a day! If he is an athlete he may need more. I recently read that they also need 11 cups of water a day, unlike everyone else that needs 8. My son is only 6 but already the babysitter comments on how much he eats.


Elena May 30, 2011 at 6:35 am

Katy, i love this idea, and reminder to do this more often. Even though i am not feeding any teenage boys, i do take my lunch everyday and come home cranky after work on some days and don’t feel like cooking. I am on a self imposed ban from the freezer section at Trader Joe’s and this has inspired me!


NMPatricia May 30, 2011 at 8:00 am

I understand the ban, but I will go to TJ and look for ideas to do on my own!


Bellen May 30, 2011 at 6:57 am

Having raised 3 boys, as did T D Hollis, I too can attest to the fact they are always hungry. I kept individual servings of their favorite homemade meals frozen or refrigerated – mac & cheese, pancakes, waffles, chili, tuna casserole, lasagna, spaghetti & meat sauce, BBQ chicken wings for example, plus boxes or containers of snack foods – labeled with a large S in red marker otherwise they’d eat all the ingredients for meals I’d planned – like crackers, homemade cookies, homemade granola & gorp, accompanied by PB, homemade jam, cheese, honey, and fruit – lots & lots of smallish apples that we picked. When the garden was in full swing they were encouraged to go out and pick and eat all the sugar snap peas, green beans, tomatoes and carrots they wanted.

Didn’t seem to make an impact until they went out on their own and called me in utter astonishment at how much food cost and did I know that? My response – see why I wouldn’t let you eat a box of cereal at breakfast??


Claire May 30, 2011 at 7:45 am

Rather that potato chips for snacks try home cooked popcorn bought in bulk – either made in a pot with oil or an air-popper (freecycle?). Great with a glass of milk.

If you’re feeling adventurous prawn crackers and poppadoms can both be bought raw and cooked in the microwave (if you have one). No oil needed, just zap on high for 45 seconds and serve with sweet chili sauce or raita. Very cheap and very yum.


Jill; May 30, 2011 at 7:47 am

I have a teenage daughter that is home from school a few hours before I get home from work. She likes to graze and never wants anything too heavy. I always have some kind of fruit or veggies cut and ready for her. She likes crackers and cheese. Also frozen pretzels to microwave. Cottage cheese is also a favorite. If she is really hungry and cant wait for me – she will cook pasta.


NMPatricia May 30, 2011 at 8:02 am

I know this is a bit off topic, but do you know that when those wonderful to-die-for 2 lb Tillamook cheese bricks go on sale down her in New Mexico, they are $8.99! I have tried other cheddar cheeses, but have decided I would rather eat less, but eat well.


Katy May 30, 2011 at 8:07 am

When I lived in New Mexico, I bought Tillamook cheese at Costco.



Beth May 30, 2011 at 8:36 am

Costco is where I buy ours (in the SF Bay area). I can get a 2.5-lb block there for the same price as a 2-lb block at Safeway.


Mindy May 30, 2011 at 8:06 am

This is such a great idea. My kids are still little, but this would also work for lunches or those nights you just don’t feel like cooking.

Just came across your blog the other day on The Oregonian website and now I’m hooked.


Lisa May 30, 2011 at 9:13 am

It’s been a long time since my son was a teenager. But back in the day, I always had a house filled with starving boys. I swear that my son collected every stray kid in the neighborhood and brought them home with him! Any who, somebody had given me a sandwich maker and in those days bread was dirt cheap. When I had leftovers I used them to make homemade hot pockets. The favorite was pizza pockets, but just about anything can be used. Chicken/vegetable, leftover bbq, chili cheese pockets, spaghetti, beef stew, eggs with bacon, even leftover fruit can be used in dessert pockets. Just be sure to label them because once cooked they all look alike!


Tina (Tightwad Mom) May 30, 2011 at 10:35 am

In the same boat. My kid’s last day of school is Wednesday. Two teenagers, one tween, and one almost tween are going to eat me out of house and home! I am going to put together and freeze my own versions of bagel bite pizza (http://tightwadmomsfrugalforum.blogspot.com/2010/06/homemade-bagel-bite-pizza.html), frozen burritos, french toast sticks, waffles, and pancakes (for days I am at work). If only I could figure out how to make home made frozen corn dogs! 😉 I am also stocking up on fruit and veggies for snacking. I am investing in some clean canteens for every one in the family, too. I am hoping that will cut down on washing a bazillion glasses this summer!


Katy May 30, 2011 at 10:49 am

One thing I do to cut down on dirty glasses is to assign everyone their own rubber band color, which I then snap around the glass. Simple, but works.



Tina (Tightwad Mom) May 30, 2011 at 11:54 am

That’s a fabulous idea (and much cheaper)!!!!!


Katrina July 24, 2016 at 9:03 pm

When I was in college my apartment was “the it spot”. I got tired of washing dozens of cups. We took everyone to the thrift store. We all picked out unique cups. Everyone took care or their own cups.


Melissa July 25, 2016 at 9:44 am

I read a thing on Facebook about how you can make a corn bread muffin recipe and then just add pieces of hot dogs to make quick, easy corn dogs. I haven’t tried it, but plan to. Hope this helps. 🙂


Amy May 30, 2011 at 3:55 pm

I have a 16 yo DD who has voluntarily joined my quest for eating less processed food. She packs a lunch for school each day. On nights when there are leftovers, instead of packing them individually in the fridge, I maker her a lunch to microwave the next day at school.


Denise May 30, 2011 at 4:11 pm

First, as the daughter of a Tillamook dairy farmer, I want to say thank-you to all of you for your loyalty to our product. It really is super and the cows grazing in their summer pastures are beautiful to behold.
Now, on to the topic at hand:
Another easy thing to do is purchase English muffins, slice them open, put a slice of Tillamook Cheddar and some lunch meat, wrap and freeze. They can be toasted in a toaster oven or microwaved for a quick breakfast or after-school snack. I like tomatoes on mine, but alas, my children don’t.


Tina (Tightwad Mom) May 31, 2011 at 7:23 am

Tillamook cheese, rocks!!! Love the english muffin idea, my kid’s would love those!


Sara May 30, 2011 at 4:45 pm

No kids, but I battle with my husband to get him to eat breakfast, and not just dry frosted shredded wheat at work all the time. He won’t eat until he gets to work and needs something he can just grab. My solution is I make a dozen muffins for him every couple weeks, wrap them individually in plastic wrap, and store them in the freezer. He just grabs one and throws it in his bag on the way out then microwaves and eats it at work when he gets hungry. I vary the flavors and make them high calorie (since that’s all he eats until lunch) but healthy with things like nuts, canola oil, dried fruit, whole wheat, etc.


Jennifer May 30, 2011 at 6:04 pm

My oldest just became a teenager 2 weeks ago. yet the eating began months ago. I don’t think he stops eating in the late afternoon and evenings. Thanks for the ideas!


B'om May 30, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Freeze leftovers (stew, meatloaf, chilli) in a muffin tin. After they freeze, pop out and store in a freezer bag. Easy to take out one “muffin” and pop in microwave. It takes less packaging and takes less time to prepare for freezer.


Barb @ 1 Sentence Diary June 1, 2011 at 5:32 am

This is what I do, too. I learned it from my mom, who also had to deal with lots of hungry teenagers in the house. I even make the meatloaf in muffin tins — it cooks faster and freezes beautifully.


Katy June 1, 2011 at 5:34 am

Why didn’t you suggest this yesterday?! I JUST assembled to loaf pan turkey meatloaves last night for tonight’s dinner!



Her from @6degreeslove June 1, 2011 at 6:22 am

OMG, this is brilliance!!!


Kris May 30, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Oh my, this is soooo timely! My husband and I went grocery shopping last Friday. When my almost 17yo son came home from work he descended on the kitchen like a locust….ready to pick the fridge and cabinets clean. I am literally still putting groceries away and he says “there is nothing to eat” AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

I like the burrito idea. My daughter usually eats lunch at home on the days she works, but she only has 30 mins so a quick to heat burrito would be wonderful for her.

I have come to accept that it is genetically impossible for my son to have his hunger sated while awake for any longer than 1 hour. Not 1 hour and 10mins. One hour on the dot. After that he starts the food hunt..lol

I would really love to learn how to make homemade pizza rolls, but I haven’t figured out how to do so yet.


Nancy from Mass May 31, 2011 at 4:28 am

My son is 11 (12 in August) and he has been eating like a 16 yo for the last year. There’s “Never anything to eat in this house” even though the cupboards and freezer are full. PRoblem is: I buy ingredients to make things, not pre-made things. His favorite thing to heat and eat though are frozen meatballs (I make sure I always have those on hand) he takes a couple and micros them for 2 minutes and he’s happy with his snack.
I like the rubber band idea…he always takes new glasses out because he cant remember which one is his. I’ll have to start using that.


Her from @6degreeslove June 1, 2011 at 6:21 am

I have learned with my six kids that unless I want to be washing glasses all day long, I have to mark them each. I started by using a dry erase marker (good on glass) but they seemed to just wipe it off (especially the littlest ones) so caved and now I just permanent marker their cups. They all use plastic anyway, but even if I had glass, I’d go buy some just for this purpose. Otherwise, we go through a million a day!


hmbalison May 31, 2011 at 10:38 am

My husband and I made the burritos you suggested last night for our always hungry 16 yr old. I had to buy the ingredients but even still much healthier and cheaper than buying frozen burritos at the store. Next time, I will plan ahead and stock up when stuff is on sale.


pat May 31, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Katie – please can I have your burrito recipe? I make soups, stews, meatloaf, etc for my kids to reheat in the microwave (which are gobbled up quickly). One new item would really please them! I generally set aside one weekend where I do marathon cooking just for the freezer. This has been a great family pleaser on those days when I’m working late and they are hungry.


Barb @ 1 Sentence Diary June 1, 2011 at 5:37 am

I also make breakfast burritos for the freezer. My teenager hates to take time for breakfast, but wants to eat “on the way to school” in the morning. Breakfast burritos are portable and nutritious.


Her from @6degreeslove June 1, 2011 at 6:14 am

You all are freaking me out!!! As the mother of a 12-going-on-13-year-old-boy, with four more boys to follow (and of course my one pixie girl), I can’t imagine what the next 13 years has in store for me in regarding food consumption by these five boys!

I feel dizzy.

Please help–give more ideas!!!!


Tracy July 24, 2016 at 9:26 pm

My sister has five boys. Her grocery bill gives me heart palpitations. Cooking from scratch and good hearty ingredients should help. Good luck.


Bets June 1, 2011 at 6:47 am

My son is still young enough that we battle over him not eating but I know that tide will turn.

I do have a suggestion for a fairly inexpensive, yet protein packed, freezer food. Egg cups!

Basically you make mini-quiches (with or without crust*) in your muffin tin. Pop them out when cool & freeze. Since they are relatively small, they reheat in about a minute in the microwave. Great for breakfasts on the go & snacks. Plus, you can customize the add-ins to match your family’s tastes. Meat & cheese, meat & veg, all veg, all cheese, etc… Some that we like are sausage & cheese with a little red bell pepper, mild green chilis (canned), cilantro & cheese, spinach & bacon…the sky is the limit with flavor combos.
*I make mine crustless (one less step) & it only takes about 4-5 large eggs to make 1 dozen egg cups which means you get quite a bit of bang for your buck.
Hope that helps!


Robyn Wright of RobynsOnlineWorld.com June 1, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Love this idea! I have a 16 year old son who also is ALWAYS starving and always says “there is no food in this house”. I’m going to ask him if he would like this recipe and some of the other ideas in the comments – otherwise it is going to be a VERY LONG SUMMER!


dh June 2, 2011 at 4:06 am

After the last band picnic there were a ton of leftovers, more than you can imagine. The parents who worked to grill and set things up took the leftovers home, but there were tons of hotdogs and hamburgers. I took them – in their buns and froze them that way. For a month when the kids wanted a snack, they grabbed the bunned hamburger or hotdog, microwaved them. They were so much better than I thought they would be.


Green Bean June 3, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant!!! I’ve been struggling with how to feed my growing boys in a greener way.


Anna November 24, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Hi from Australia Katy, I’m really enjoying browsing your blog. Re: Your tortillas – this is a bit time consuming in the rolling out, but I use a chapati recipe for any wraps we eat and my oldest son, my fussiest one, swears he loves it much more than shop-bought wraps. In case anyone would like to try it:

3 x cups of flour (I mix and match depending on what I have, it works)
1 x cup lukewarm water
tbsp ghee (optional, but I always add it)
Salt to taste

Knead well and divide into desired portions, roll into balls and let rest.

Recipe states that they longer they rest the lighter they will be. In a hot, dry pan cook on each side until brown bubbles appear.

I always make these in my bread maker on a knead setting. I freeze leftover dough in balls on a tray and store in a bag.


Kelly July 25, 2016 at 2:48 am

Love all of these ideas! I’ll add one more to the mix. My kids tend to devour lots of cereal, both morning and after school. I buy bulk but still, with 5 teenagers at home, it gets expensive.

Using tortillas again, I scramble a dozen or two eggs, put them in tortillas and top with cheese. Roll and freeze. My kids love those. Doctor them up to your liking. This is also a great way to use up small bits of leftover meat and veggies.


Betty Winslow July 25, 2016 at 10:50 am

Some of what my sons and I make to grab and eat: homemade chicken nuggets, frozen burger patties, chili, mac & cheese, prepped raw veggies and dip, hummus and crackers or pretzels, cheese slices or cubes, healthy crackers and spread (one son can’t have PB….), cream cheese roll-ups (tortillas spread with cream cheese and sprinkled with chopped veggies or meat or whatever, rolled and cut into chunks). Both my boys are grown men who have worked as chefs off and on for years and STILL tell me there’s nothing in the house to eat. What they mean is, no shrimp, no steak, no goat cheese or expensive deli meats….. ha!! If they had their way, the grocery bill would rival the house payment….


Mitzi July 26, 2016 at 8:35 am

Yes! The burritos have always been a hit in our home. I won’t buy the frozen ones due to all the oddball ingredients. My son loves the burritos and these are a treat for him. They are also quite filling.

The thing that has saved my pocketbook as my son of 14 has now shot up (14W shoe and growing) is a great discounted little market that has produce fresh from our farms and dry goods in the store (Kettle organic chips that are 1 week expired still taste great – especially at $1 / bag)! I also am obsessed with Grocery Outlet and know the days they get shipments. I know the days they freeze and greatly reduce the meats too. I can stock up on snack food items for my growing teen and I don’t have to spend every moment cooking. He loves Cheeze-its but I won’t buy that junk. At $1 box for the Annie’s cheese crackers he is a happy dude.

I also have a GF and dairy free teen so my shopping combo is a mix of Costco, my odd little fruit stand/expired dry goods store, Grocery Outlet, Trader Joe’s and Big Lots (their dried food section is awesome).

Somehow we are making ends meet while eating clean. When I go to Winco I am offended at how much they are charging for the items I get for 1/4 of the price at Grocery Outlet or my other sources.

Thank you for your blog. You motivate me and keep me going.


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