Stop the madness of your teens eating you out of house and home! We've got some great tips on food for teenagers comin' atcha that will make meal planning a breeze and won't break the budget. Get excited!

Three young ladies cooking food for teenagers, from Shelf Cooking

It's no joke that teens are ravenous! Sometimes it feels like they literally don't stop eating. Like, ever. Do they have hollow legs or something?!? And when they have friends over, you can forget about having any food left in the fridge, freezer, and pantry

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…Or so you thought! Feeding your teenager doesn't have to be stressful or super expensive! Start meal planning and stick to our go-to food for teenagers, and you'll really see some major differences in your grocery budget. But before we get to those, let's first go over…


Teenage girl chopping herbs on a cutting board, from Shelf Cooking

Because you're already feeding your teenager, you might as well involve them in the kitchen! Meal planning and cooking are important life skills every functioning adult needs to know. Whether your teen is going to be out on their own soon or they've still got a few more years at home, it's always a good idea for them to help out.

Meal planning with your teen is also a great way to spend some quality time together. Uninterrupted time, away from phones, tv, and technology? Yes, please! We also fully believe that meal planning and cooking together is a team effort. It shouldn't all rest on just one person's shoulders. Everybody has to eat, after all.

One of the biggest reasons you should teach your teen how to meal plan? It trains them to eat healthier food at home versus going out to eat. The sooner they learn how to cook, how to meal prep, how to plan in advance for meals all on a budget, the better! We're not just talking dinner, either. This goes for breakfast and lunch as well!


This is a great tip for everybody, not just teens! Most people don't drink enough water during the day. Surprisingly enough, your body may actually be thirsty when you think it's telling you it's hungry! So, when the hunger pangs strike, drink some water before reaching for the food.

And if they're still starving? No problem. At least they got some much-needed water in them before they fill up on food!


Two families sitting around a table eating dinner, from Shelf Cooking

Yes, there is such a thing! Not only are these some great ideas to feed those ravenous teens, but they're also a good idea for any time you've got a lot of people to feed. We're all about sticking to that grocery budget, after all!


Make meat a sidekick, not the main show stopper! Instead of serving everybody an entire chicken breast, you can chop it up and make it into a casserole where it's mixed in with other filling ingredients, such as rice, cheese, and veggies. You can do this with pretty much any meat that you have! Rice bowls, quesadillas, enchiladas, pasta dishes, and soups are all great ways to do incorporate proteins.


When your teens reach for a snack, make sure they're grabbing something that'll actually fill them up. Sure, those fruit leathers or candy bars are tasty, but the second they're done with them, they'll want more. The same goes for meals! We love cereal in our house, but it's a snack, not a breakfast.

Here are some of our favorite ways to stretch a meal and satisfy those ever hungry teens:

Teach teens about healthy, cheap, and filling foods, and have them start by eating those first. We're definitely not anti-sweet treats in our house! But they know which foods for teenagers to reach for when they're starving.


Macaroni and cheese in a bowl, from Shelf Cooking

Sure, the boxed or frozen foods from the store are easy to grab and whip up in a snap at home. But they're crazy expensive! Teach kids how to make their own and they'll really benefit from it in the long run. Not only will they save money, but it'll be healthier since you can choose the ingredients they're using.

Here are just a few of our favorite homemade food for teenagers:

These are all so easy to make! Do your teens have favorites? If so, they can make food ahead on the weekends. This way they can grab and go during the week when they're busy.


Extracurricular activities make dinnertime challenging, especially if you have multiple teens and kids who all need to be in different places on different days. However, feeding them doesn't have to be hard! Try out these ideas and be amazed at how much easier it is to feed your busy kids. It's also much cheaper to skip the drive-through!

  • Make Your Own Convenience Foods – Walk through the convenience items freezer section at the store. If you see it, then it can be made at home and frozen for a quick and easy bite! Note the ingredients they use, so there's no guessing what you'll need. Pinterest is also a wealth of knowledge!
  • Use Those Appliances – Anything that preheats and cooks quickly helps get your teens out the door with a warm, home-cooked meal. The Instant Pot, air fryer, and toaster oven are all great ideas!
  • Send a Lunchbox – Who says lunchboxes are only for lunch? If teens plan to be gone during a meal, a lunchbox is the way to go. They can pack it with what they need and save some major moolah while they're at it.
  • Use a Food Thermos – Are teens taking warm foods? If so, a thermos is a great way to keep a meal at the right temperature until they're ready to eat. As long as it'll fit, you can put basically any type of food in one! Meat, veggies, soup, leftovers, you name it. Just remember to preheat the thermos by adding boiling water to it for about 10 minutes. Pour it out, dry it, add the warmed food to it, and it'll stay warm for hours!

Pro Tip: If you're sending food in a thermos that you don't want to get soggy, like chicken nuggets, then add a paper towel to the bottom before adding the food in. This should soak up any wetness that accumulates and will keep the food nice and ready to go.

Whew, well there you have it! Our top food for teenagers to help fill them up while keeping the grocery budget down. We hope this helps you out! What's your teen's favorite foods that don't break the budget? Share them in the comments so we can all get some great ideas!

Image with text that reads "feeding teens on the cheap" from Shelf Cooking

Looking for more great ideas?

Have fun, and keep raising those capable kids/teens!