Collegians are back, and they're hungry

Summer means higher food bills

July 20, 2005|By Nichole Wright | Nichole Wright,SUN STAFF

Summer is the season for light foods and low grocery bills - unless you have a college student home on break.

"There's a huge difference in my grocery bill when my boys come home," said Carol Mason, a librarian from Annapolis who has two sons, Cary Feldmann, 25, and Chet Feldmann, 20, who attend the University of Maryland, College Park. "It at least triples."

College students often see their return home as a time to enjoy home-cooked meals and snack on foods that their college budgets would not allow. And usually, parents are willing to comply.

"It's an emotional thing - coming home and making sure their favorite foods are all there," said Doug Nelson, the events production coordinator at the Peabody Institute. Nelson has two college-age sons: Clarke, a 20-year-old sophomore at Vanderbilt University, and J.D., a recent graduate of Cornell University.

Nelson said that when his two sons come home, he buys foods he knows they'll like. For instance, one son prefers a specific type of cheese and tortilla bread for cheese quesadillas, while the other son likes ice cream, pink grapefruit juice and spicy Doritos. "I've learned that what they like hasn't changed that much since high school," he said.

Meanwhile, parents must readapt to having their children home, sometimes passing up a dinner for two at a restaurant to make dinner at home for everyone.

Although the Grocery Manufacturers of America in Washington doesn't track how food purchases rise when collegians come home, representative Stephanie Childs says, "It makes logical sense. If you're shopping for more people, you will see a bump in your grocery bill."

Nelson agrees. "When my two sons come home, we're going from three people to five. They're 20- and 22-year-olds, and they tend to eat a lot, especially at night," Nelson said. He estimated that when his college-age sons are home, the family spends $70 to $75 more a week for groceries.

That can translate to more shopping at the warehouse stores. "When they're home," Mason said, "I spend a lot more time at Sam's [Club]."

Nelson said he also goes to Sam's Club to stock up on frozen pizzas and Hot Pockets when his older sons come home. "It doesn't make sense to go to Sam's and stock up on these things when just my 15-year-old is home," he said.

But for most parents, the rise in bills and the treks to the warehouse stores are temporary.

In another month, students will be heading back to college and parents can look forward to putting the money they save on groceries toward the phone bills.

Cox News Service contributed to this article.

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