Are you looking for ways to make menu shopping simpler each week? Check out this CACFP food buying guide and make your life a whole lot easier

CACFP Food Buying Guide

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Are you looking for ways to make menu shopping simpler each week? Check out this CACFP food buying guide and make your life a whole lot easier. If you’re wondering about the child and adult care food program for daycare providers, check this out.

food program paperwork and a grocery cart in the store

There are so many ways you can make shopping for the daycare menu easier. Even planning out a menu can be a daunting task, but once you have it planned, how do you get all the food you need for the child nutrition program in order and ready? It takes a little planning, but you can streamline your shopping for the kid’s meals in your daycare if you just do a little organizing.

First, take your meal pattern guides and use this menu planning post to help you plan out the menu you want. You can use the whole wheat guide with printable shopping list by name brand, and the meat and meat alternate one as well as fruits and vegetables. The meat and meat alternate post has a printable yogurt list by name brand to help you as well.

Next, write a list of every food that is on your menu. For instance, start with fluid milk and write down how many times you have that served. Probably 10. Then, add how many times you’ll need it for a recipe. Are you serving a gravy or pasta sauce? What about any bread recipes you have that call for milk? Then go to the next food on the menu, maybe it’s cheerios? Check how many times you plan to serve cheerios and mark that on your list.

Check out this daycare food menu meal planning guide for more ideas on how to plan out your menus well. These resources are going to be a great help to you! And if you want to buy menus already planned out, check out Daycare Time Solutions for monthly menu plans, click on shop all and menu plans for menus that meet food program requirements. Or if you want a sheet with a sample week and shopping list to get you started, check out this planning pack.

Food buying guide calculator

Continue this until every food on your meal pattern in on the list with how many times you’ll serve it. Now you know how many servings you need. If you’re serving milk 15 times in a week and you have 7 kids, you’ll need 120 servings of milk for that week.

When I calculate my shopping list, I use the serving sizes for the 3-5 age since most of my kids are in that range and I eat about the same amount they do. You can find that serving size list here.  Also, I count myself in the count as a kid because I have to eat too and I eat the same serving sizes. You can figure this how ever it works for you. This is what works for me.

grocery store receipts in a drawer

Buying list for daycare food

Now that I know about how much food I need; I divide the servings by how many are in the container. I know that milk has 16 cups in a gallon and kids 3-5 need 6 ounces of milk for breakfast and lunch. I serve water for snack, so I never do the 4-ounce milk servings. So, 16 cups at 8 ounces per cup is 128 ounces or 21 servings of milk for the food program requirements. I need 120 servings for drinking and cooking, so I need about 5 gallons per week. I usually buy 4-5 so that’s accurate!

Child nutrition programs were created to help kids get adequate nutrition so its important that we abide by the rules and regulations the food program puts out. Any time we try to cut corners, we may be cheating kids out of nutrition they need to grow. It does seem like a lot of trouble, time and expense, but kids are worth it. There are many ways to cut down on food waste with kids, so check those out to help you save money too.

Take each item on the list of foods you are serving and calculate them out like that until the list is complete. I organize my list in order that it’s placed in the store with the number of cans, bags, jars etc. of each one I need for a week. I usually do my shopping every other week, so I just double it when I put it on my list for shopping day.

Food buying guide interactive tool (web based)

The USDA has a food buying guide interactive tool for you to use on their website. There is one for computers and a mobile app as well. You have to make an account to use it and then it’s available to you for using to plan your shopping trips for your meal components.

USDA food buying guide app (mobile app)

You can also use the USDA food buying guide app for mobile use. It’s an app that goes right on your phone to take shopping with you. If you’re like me, you function better when the list is already organized before you get to the store, but if you can plan right there in the moment, go ahead and use the mobile app. You can at least download it to use for last minute questions even if you have a list already planned out. Check the food buying guides from USDA out here.

Here are 2 one-week sample menus with CACFP food buying shopping lists. Basic things like oil, salt and pepper are not included on the list. The highlighted text links you to the recipe you could use for that dish. At the end, there’s also a printable pdf for you to use if you’d like. I hope this is a super helpful tool for you!

CACFP cycle menu sheet

Sample menus and shopping lists-blog excel

My hope is that this CACFP Food Buying Guide will help you learn how to save time and money on your CACFP food buying for daycare meals. 

For more tips to make running your home daycare easier, click here. And keep these 5 minute daycare lunches on hand for when you’re in a pinch! And for more inspiration for daycare meals that will save you money too, check out these dirt cheap meals for daycare.

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