Providing kids with nutritious meals is an important part of any childcare program. After all, the nutrients found in food helps children grow properly and maintain their overall health. Unfortunately, with the price of food steadily rising, many childcare providers are feeling the burn on their wallets.
In an effort to balance the rising food costs and still keep childcare prices affordable for parents, childcare professionals may opt to add more processed meats, canned goods, white bread products and sugary foods like Pop Tarts and cookies to their menu.
While serving these types of foods is okay from time to time, they are not very nutritious. Whenever you can, make improvements to your menu by incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, poultry and beans. Here’s how to do it without going broke.
Shop at Local Farmers Markets
Buying most of your fruits and vegetables from the local farmers market will save you a bundle of cash. Locally grown produce sold at farmers markets can be up to 50 percent cheaper than produce at the grocery store. Why? Because there are no additional costs tacked on for packaging, shipping or store overhead.
Don’t Buy Out of Season Fruits and Vegetables
In season fruits and vegetables grow in abundance, so they’re less expensive than produce that’s out of season. If you buy strawberries in the wintertime, you’re going to pay big bucks. Buy fruits and vegetables only when they’re in season. Your wallet will thank you.
Buy Whole Wheat Bread at an Outlet Bakery
You can buy whole wheat bread 30 to 50 percent cheaper at a bakery outlet store. This is because the bakery outlet sells either bread the company produced too much of, or bread that may be close to its expiration date.
Usually if the bread is about to expire, it is marked down by 50 percent. If you find whole wheat bread on sale, take advantage of it and grab several loaves. You can keep them fresh by popping them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.
Buy Meat on Sale and in Bulk
Buying poultry and lean meat in bulk will save you money over the long haul. When you buy in bulk, freeze whatever you don’t use so that it stays fresh. You can find excellent sales on meat by scouring daily newspapers. Sure, this can be a little time consuming, but it is well worth the money you’ll save in the end.
Serve More Dry Beans
Beans are cheap, easy to prepare and full of protein and iron. You can serve beans as an alternative to meat or you can add them in soup, chili and salads. When you serve beans instead of meat, you can save a bundle. Change up the kind of beans you serve to keep kids from being bored.
Reduce the Amount of Sugar in Breakfast Foods
When you buy cereal and Pop Tarts, get the kind without the sugar coating. You can add sliced bananas or other types of fruit to the cereal to sweeten it. When you serve kids oatmeal, sweeten it with raisins or applesauce instead of sugar.
If you shop smart, buy local produce and reduce sugary foods, you can improve your menu without going broke. If buying healthier food is a serious struggle, you may need to boost your childcare prices just a bit.
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