Menus, Budgeting and Calculating the Numbers
Crystal Miller
In order to calculate the cost of a meal you must first have a menu. I make a menu now that includes all 3 meals. After the menu is made then you must follow the menu. Sometimes it is a training session for you when you make a menu and realize as the week goes by that the menu is just not flowing well. Tweak it and learn from this and next week you will do better. Next, train your children to follow the menu too. I have older children who are quite capable in the kitchen. One of my daughters is often in charge of breakfast and she comes to the kitchen, glances at the menu and begins cooking. No time spent for her trying to figure out what to cook for everyone. Then there is lunch. What could happen (and has before!) is that everyday at lunch time each child does whatever he wants for lunch and they move on their way. Aside from the big mess they! leave behind I have no idea what they ate or how much food I just went through. In order to avoid this situation I plan lunches. It is just as easy for my kids to cook what is on the plan as it is for them to do whatever they want.
If you want to find out how much a day’s worth of food is costing first start with a menu that covers each meal for a day. Then break that meal down and do a little measuring and estimating. How much milk do you use in a mornings breakfast? How many cups of beans do you use to make soup? How many tablespoons of mayo do you use to make egg salad sandwiches? What is the cost per egg? What does a loaf of bread cost to make (or buy)? How many slices are in a loaf? Divide your cost by the number of slices and now you know what a slice of bread is costing. Yes this is a lot of tedious and meticulous work. But when you consider first how hard your husband works for the money that buys the food and then the fact that for most people the grocery expenses are only rivaled by the mortgage or rent payments, it makes it seem like my effort is really not that much effort at all. This is one area where we as conscientious homemakers can make serious changes.
I can spend a lot of time working out the costs of a menu. Sometimes I make mistakes. I had a lady email to let me know my mayo prices on my blog were off, unless of course I was paying $23.00 a gallon for my mayo!! ~smile~ Sometimes my numbers get a bit jumbled while I am at it!
I will give you a little math lesson in how to determine the costs of some foods, in case this has you confused a bit. This is good to know so you can figure out how much a pan of cornbread costs or a dozen muffins are costing you. After you have figured these amounts out then you can keep a log of this. You don’t need to refigure cornbread every time you serve it unless the price of your basic goods goes up.
Here is how you do the math to figure the price of common dry goods (like rice, flour, wheat, oats, beans, etc..):
I start determining how many ounces are in the bag of dry goods. I buy large quantities of most items so my weights are in pounds. I multiply the pounds by 16 so I can get the ounces per bag.
For example: a 50 lb. bag of hard white wheat x 16 (oz per pound) = 800 oz.
Now I find the weight of 1 cup of the dry ingredients (you will need a scale for this)
The wheat weighs 7oz. per cup
Now I divide my total ounces by the weight of 1 cup.
800/ 7 = 114.25
There are 114.25 cups of wheat in a 50# bag.
Now I take the cost per bag and divide this by the number of cups.
$14.30 (cost of 50# bag of wheat)/114.25 = 0.1251 and I round this to 12.5 cents per cup.
Lastly in this lesson I am going to post an 11 day menu that I recently used for my family. I feed 8 people everyday and this includes sending a lunch to work with Tobin. I also feed 3 teenagers and one preteen who can challenge a teenage appetite any day! All these meals averaged to be $15.00 or less per day. There were days that I was above that and days when I was below that. I am pleased with how this menu worked out for us and I am happy to know that I can actively do something in this day of rising fuel prices and grocery costs to really make an impact on how far our hard earned money will go.
Monday Breakfast Oatmeal & Toast Lunch Tuna Sandwiches Dinner Mashed potatoes & Gravy Salad

Tuesday Breakfast Oatmeal & Toast Lunch Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Dinner Bean & Bacon Chowder sliced cukes and tomatoes 
Wednesday Breakfast Waffles Scrambled Eggs Lunch Split Pea Soup Dinner Bean & Bacon Chowder Garlic Cheese Dinner Rolls Sautéed summer squash

Thursday Breakfast Oatmeal & Toast Lunch Split Pea Soup Dinner Cornbread Salad

Friday Breakfast Oatmeal & Toast Lunch Peanut butter and Jelly sans Dinner Chicken Noodle Soup

Saturday Breakfast Waffles, eggs and bacon Lunch Grilled cheese sandwiches Dinner Grilled pork chops Baked beans Salad

Sunday Breakfast Oatmeal & Toast Lunch Leftovers Dinner Chili bean soup

Monday Breakfast Oatmeal & toast Lunch Tuna sans Plums Dinner Garlic cheese dinner rolls Sautéed summer squash

Tuesday Breakfast Coffee cake & Scrambled eggs Lunch Fried egg sans Dinner Sausage gravy over biscuits salad from the garden

Wednesday Breakfast Oatmeal & toast Lunch Dinner with trimmings

Thursday Breakfast Oatmeal & Toast Lunch Open faced Cheese sans Leftover split pea soup Dinner Refried beans Hamburger tacos With trimmings 



A note on Tobin’s Lunch: I send Tobin a pretty basic lunch, 2 sandwiches, some chips, a piece of fruit or some type of veggies, and usually a bit of something left from the dinner or lunch (that the kids and I ate) the day before. I also will make him things like coffee cake and cut this up and flash freeze it into individual servings. I figure it costs about $1.50 per day or less to feed him. And my food is so much more nutritional than anything the vending machines or nearby fast food restaurants have to offer.
A few things you might take notice of on this menu. First I have had a great garden this summer and we have been eating veggies out of it almost exclusively (meaning I have bought little to no fresh veggies from the store). So my recent grocery prices don’t reflect a cost for this.
I have my own milk supply. I don’t include the cost of the milk with my grocery costs. The cost for feeding the animals is something I list with my farm related business. I sell goat shares in order to help me cover the cost of my feed and this provides my milk as well as enough milk for others. I run that like a business so I don’t list the grocery costs for that here.
Another thing you might notice is that we eat a lot of soup and we eat the same soup two nights in a row. This is very economical and helps stretch the food. I only stretch meals that my family just loves, no first time recipes are tried and stretched for 2 nights in a row, just incase it is not popular!!
Last thing you may take notice of is that we eat simple basic foods and we don’t have a huge variety. I find this works well with children who like to know what they are eating and can be happier with simplicity than most adults! This also has helped refine my pantry and makes cooking and planning easy for me. Also I do serve orange and apple juice a few times a week with meals and I have not written that down on the menu. But I do calculate those costs into the overall monthly budget.
The recipes for many of the above menu are linked to my website so you can print these off if you would like.
Calculating the Numbers
I will take one day from this list and do the math for you to show you how I arrive at with my numbers.
Monday
Breakfast
Oatmeal & toast
Milk
Oatmeal costs me about .10 cents a cup. I use 4 cups per breakfast.. .40 cents
Toast: We go through 1 loaf of bread for breakfast. I figured the cost of a loaf of bread to be .60 cents
Butter for toast, 1 cube, approx. .65 cents
Breakfast total would be: $1.65
Lunch
Tuna sans
Plums
Tuna, 3 cans @ .44 cents a can= $1.32 cents
bread: 1 loaf: .65
Mayo, .24 cents
Plums came from a friend at my husbands work who had a plum tree and was giving them away
Total for Lunch: $2.21
Dinner
Chili bean soup
Garlic cheese dinner rolls
Sautéed summer squash
Chili Bean Soup: 4 cups dry red beans: $1.00 (at .25 cents a cup)
Rotel Tomatoes: 1 can $1.00 (this is high as I usually find them or the Walmart generic brand for .65 to .75 cents)
Hamburger: 1 pound @ $2.29 per pound for extra lean
Total for soup: $4.29 (this will make plenty of soup for 1 dinner with some leftover)
Garlic Cheese Dinner Rolls:
3 T butter .25
6T cane juice crystals .20
Gluten flour .40
5 cups wheat: .63
Butter: .65
Parmesan Cheese: .25
Total for 48 dinner rolls is $2.38
The squash was from my garden
Total for Dinner: $6.67
Tobin’s Lunch:
2 Turkey Sandwiches: $1.00
How I come up with that price: Bread at .65 cents a loaf and we typically cut it into 16 slices that would make it .04 cents a slice.
Turkey lunch meat was about $2.00 per pound. I have figured a pound of lunch meat lasts me for 5 days worth of sandwiches (that would be 10 sandwiches). That would make it .40 cents per day (for 2 sandwiches).
Mayo: .02 cents a tablespoon, I use about 1 to 2T per sandwich for a cost of .08 cents (for 2 sandwiches).
Tomato and lettuce are from my garden. I put a few slices of onion on them, but a whole large onion would last me a couple of weeks. So I average up the price of each sandwich to adjust for that and since I don’t measure mayo I am sure there are times when I use more than this. Also sometimes I put a little bbq sauce on a turkey sandwich. So all in all I just figure about .50 cents a sandwich.
1 sandwich costs: .04 + .04 + .20 +.04 = .32 cents (I round them up to 50 cents for reasons stated above)
Potato chips: I buy one large bag (20 oz) of chips at Costco for $2.99 No one else eats them except him. This bag will last me 2 weeks. So I divide the $2.99 by 10 (days worth of lunches) and this comes out to: .30 per day for chips.
Extras: this can vary from day to day. Some days I give him a little of last night’s dinner, maybe some soup or today he got a couple pieces of pizza. I will also make things like a large coffee cake and then cut it up and flash freeze it into individual pieces that I can just grab out of the freezer when I am packing his lunch. Today he also got some leftover birthday cake and the last of the potato salad that I made on Monday. So there is not too much to calculate for this. He had some plums in his lunch and has been bringing plums home to us from someone at work who has a plum tree and is sharing with the guys at work. So there is not cost to this for us.
For this day his lunch cost: $1.30
Cost to feed my family of 8 for this day was: $11.83
The cost would be higher if not for having my own source of milk, veggies from my garden and the addition of fruit from a friend. However as the garden veggies come to an end and I add the cost of fruit into my budget I am still hoping to keep the expenses to $15.00 per day, but with the rising cost of everything it may go a bit higher than this. Which makes all the effort I put into this task even more valuable!
Now it is your turn to work on the numbers and reign in that grocery budget!! I hope you found this article helpful in your effort to save money in the kitchen!
Back To:
Homemaking
HOME
© Crystal Miller, 2007 All Rights Reserved
Do Not Copy from any page of this website
without permission from the owner
Clipart by Lisa's Country Clipart www.countryclipart.com & Graphic Garden