Feeding children in your child care program can be expensive. With careful planning, serving healthy, well-balanced meals and snacks that meet children’s nutritional needs does not need to break your child care budget. Here are some money-saving food tips for child care providers.
- Spend food money wisely. If you plan carefully and buy food on sale and in season, you can serve children nutritious meals with less cost. Participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program can lower your expenses for food.
- Plan menus at least one week at a time. Having weekly menus makes your program less stressful, because the cooks don’t have to decide what to prepare at the last minute. Menus also can help you save money by helping you buy only what you need. Having preplanned menus also makes it easier to let families know what foods you are serving to their children.
- Choose healthy foods children enjoy. Avoid serving foods children will not eat.
- Limit purchases of sweets, fats and salty foods. Do not buy expensive snacks such as potato chips or cookies.
- Buy necessary food items on sale whenever possible. Most stores advertise sales in newspapers and online. Many stores and companies offer coupons online as well. Consider buying staples in bulk at warehouse stores and storing them until needed.
- Use bulk cheese in main dishes such as casseroles. Cheese can be served for breakfast as well as for snacks and lunch.
- Use eggs. They are economical. Creamed, scrambled, baked, poached, deviled and hard- boiled eggs can be served for snacks and lunch, as well as breakfast. Remember that egg whites should not be served to children under a year old.
- Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season. Purchasing food such as apples in the fall when they are seasonally available can save you a great deal of money. Many foods are available in markets year around, but out of season foods are shipped in from distant areas, often from other countries, and can be quite expensive.
- Buy locally. Buying foods locally can sometimes save you money and will help you stay with seasonal foods. Local farmers’ markets often offer many items.
- Limit purchases of perishable foods to amounts that you will use. Buy large quantities of nonperishable foods on sale if you use them frequently.
- Buy whole grain or enriched breads and cereals. Buy bulk rice, pastas, and bulgur wheat.
- Check prices to see if day-old bread is economical. Your community may have an outlet where day-old bakery goods are sold. Just remember that day-old baked goods need to be used quickly.
- Compare store or generic brands. They are usually a few cents cheaper and cost less per serving than comparable nationally-advertised products.
- Double your recipe. Cook soups and spaghetti sauce in large amounts, and freeze meal-size portions for use later.
For More Information
To learn more about serving healthy foods to children in your child care facility, check out the following eXtension Alliance for Better child Care articles: