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Tips for New Billet Parents: FOOD!

First, if you are thinking you can make money at billeting, you probably can’t.  Hockey players eat ridiculous amounts of food. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you mine eats 4 full blown meals a day or the equivalent during the season.  The meal he orders at our local Mexican restaurant comes on two full-sized plates, and he eats that plus the entire basket of chips, sometimes two baskets, and then when we get home, his head is in the fridge again looking for more to eat.  I call him my human garbage disposal, and he is not an anomaly.  They all do this day after day during the season.  If they aren’t on the ice or at a workout, chances are pretty good they are either eating or thinking about what they are going to eat next.  

You have to do this for the love of the game and to make a difference in someone’s life because you will.  They will remember you forever, even if the experience wasn’t so great.  You want it to be great, though, so I’ll give you a few tips to help make your experience a good one, at least in terms of feeding them.

A warehouse club is your friend.  Sam’s, Costco, BJ’s.  I don’t care.  Just trust me.  If you don’t have one, buy in bulk from your grocery store.  Many of them will order cases of things for you if you just ask, even if it’s something they don’t normally stock.  Keep an eye on those weekly ads, too, and take advantage.  Most things go on sale in 4-6 week cycles so buy enough on sale to get you to the next sale, and then you’ll always be paying the lowest prices.  Stick to what’s in season for produce and check your farmer’s markets if you have one.  Sometimes the prices are cheaper, sometimes they aren’t, but it can be worth it to at least check. 

Meal planning is also your friend.  Once this season gets rolling, it’s going to get crazy, so knowing what you plan to make for dinner can save you money on take out or at least avoid extra trips to the store.  The slow cooker or Instant Pot can also be your best friend.  There are a ton of great recipes on the internet, and many of them are budget friendly!  

Don’t be afraid to check out your local Asian market if you have one.  It’s a little crazy how much cheaper they are on some things like rice, noodles, sauces, condiments, veggies……seriously.  If you have one and you haven’t checked it out yet, I encourage you to do so.  You might need Google Translate for some of the labels, and there might be some hilariously translated English on some items, but I can promise you won’t be disappointed.  It’s also fun to try some new snacks.  We like shrimp crackers here. Oh, and don’t sleep on their frozen section.  Inexpensive seafood galore!

It may seem like these are young men too cool for most things, but they are still little boys at heart.  Mine called me excited one year because he found Teddy Grahams in the pantry at his new billet house.  I had to warn him they were probably for the six-year-old, so don’t eat the whole box, but they probably still have a soft spot for things like that. Expect them to raid the Halloween candy or the pudding cups you bought for the littles’ lunches.  This also means that the tricks you used on your kids to get them to try new foods also work on them.  Get them in the kitchen to help you with dinner.  They probably don’t know how to cook much, and you’re more likely to find out their likes and dislikes from the shy ones this way. 

I have also found that the “higher” the level of hockey, the healthier these boys will tend to eat. I used the same techniques on my teenager as I did when he was younger–as soon as I got home from the grocery store, all the fruit and veggies were washed and cut up and put into individual serving sized containers to grab and go. I would slice cheese and meats and package mini “Lunchables.” Now, when he was younger, I just wanted to encourage healthy snacks, but as he got older, it became a way to limit his consumption, as in not eat the entire 2 pound summer sausage in one sitting.

If you’re near the Canadian Border, Vector cereal is a thing, and I feel compelled to warn you that this is NOT available in the US, so if you are in the US and are getting a Canadian player, warn them as well. If you are Canadian heading to the US to play, bring some along with you. Kraft macaroni and cheese is known as Kraft Dinner in Canada. Ketchup chips are also a thing in Canada not widely available in the US. We have All Dressed and Dill Pickle, but those aren’t available in every state either. I have a cousin in Texas who buys several bags of Dill Pickle chips when she visits us in Minnesota to take back home.