In our childminding provision, we want to continue to provide children with quality food while they are with us and we don’t want to compromise on that quality, nutritional value or our healthy eating ethos because there is less money in the pot to pay for the food bills.
There isn’t ‘one way to save money’ because we all work differently. However, there are ways to ensure value for money and cost effective food provision...
- Write your menu – a 3 or 4 week rolling menu usually works best but keep it flexible - more information to follow.
- Write your shopping list to detail ingredients – the recipe can be shared with parents and you can note allergens at the same time, saving time later.
- Check portion sizes on the Little People’s Plates website.
- Cost out your menu – what is the cost per head for each child?
You only need to do this once for each season – then, when you change your menus for next season, check again to make sure food prices have not gone up.
It is important to get nutrition right – you need to balance children’s food through the day, offering food from the major food groups appropriate for the children’s ages. Look at what you are providing across the week and aim for a balance –
- Monday – meat + noodles + mixed veg
- Tuesday – fish + pasta + roast veg
- Wednesday – shepherd’s pie – lamb + mashed potatoes + mixed veg etc…
Note - if parents of funded children choose to send pre-prepared or pre-cooked food for their child, you need to discuss what will happen if the food is not healthy or if their child refuses to eat or is still hungry.
Being flexible with food provision
If your menu says ‘chicken pie’ then you have to provide chicken pie, regardless of whether chicken or beef or perhaps lamb was on special offer at the butcher’s shop that week. Similarly, if you say ‘beef roast dinner’ then you are delivering an expectation to parents that their child will eat beef – when chicken or turkey might have been on special offer in the supermarket.
You also need to be flexible because, if children do not like the food you offer them and there is a lot of wastage for a certain meal, you need to immediately replace it… for example, if fish pie doesn’t go down well, offer fishcakes and mashed potatoes with mixed vegetables next time – you are using the same ingredients but presenting them in a different way which might be more appealing to your children.
Getting portion sizes right
I have already mentioned the Little People’s Plates website – it is essential for recognising whether you are offering the children too much food (overeating is dangerous and over-offering food might lead to wastage) or too little food (you do not want hungry children).
It is also important to get your portion sizes right from a cost efficiency point of view – how many bags of mince or packs of chicken will you need to buy? Think about the ages of the children – a 12 year old will probably have an adult portion but a 2 year old only needs a small percentage of that portion.
Is the supermarket the best place to buy your food? You don’t want to be trekking round 3 or 4 different shops every week, but if you feed a lot of children it might be worthwhile seeing if local suppliers can offer you a discount. You cannot, of course, do this without going through the steps above first (menu – shopping list – portion sizes) so you know how much food you are ordering each week.
The fruit and vegetable stall at your local market might also be a good source of slightly cheaper food. It is important to do your research – check prices online for the supermarket and then go out and talk to your local suppliers.
Local businesses might be happy to offer reciprocal advertising arrangement in return for a small discount – especially if parents start doing some shopping there as well. It is always worth asking – you will not lose anything by asking! If you have a good relationship with a local nursery, you could piggyback their ordering as well – again, nothing ventured nothing gained.
If you do use a supermarket, budget fruit and vegetables are just as nutritious as any others and you could try supermarket own label foods – but make sure you compare contents, especially for allergens and if the children don’t eat the cheaper brands it will be a false economy so keep an eye on wastage.
There are advantages and disadvantages to having shopping delivered – mostly that you don’t have control over use-by dates or substitutions which might not suit the children – so this option is not for everyone.
Keeping food provision cost effective
When delivering the 30 funded hours (or part of the 30 hours) providers are advised against creating an ‘artificial break’ in the middle of the day and charging parents for lunch (see the Operational Guidance – pages 25 and 31). This means that lunch is either part of the funded day or parents send their child with a lunch box. You can ask parents to pay for food – this is a private arrangement between you and might work if they are happy to pay – but the 30 hours Operational Guidance states that they have to be given the option to send food (see Operational Guidance – page 30).
I hope you have found some ideas for making your food provision more sustainable. If you would like further advice about how we keep food costs down without compromising on quality in our childminding provision, please ask.
Sarah | Knutsford Childminding