My daughter's task was to plan a family meal for under $20, while incorporating fruits/vegetables, a meat, and dairy into the meal to make it a balanced meal all around. She loved this task and did come in a few pennies under budget. While this was a "pretend" assignment, not requiring us to actually purchase anything, I think it's a valuable lesson for her to do and I plan to take her back to the grocery store sometime this summer to plan and purchase the fixings for dinner. She did learn that store brand was cheaper and foregoing ice cream kept her under budget!
Here's the game plan:
- Grab the grocery ad and show her meats, veggies, condiments, etc. that are on sale that week. I'll discuss portion size so that she can get an idea of how much meat she needs to buy.
- Remind her of food preferences (for instance, her brother is not a fan of green beans) and encourage her to buy fresh veggies versus frozen ones to maximize on the nutrition offered by the vegetable.
- Have her scan the Sunday paper/Coupons.com for coupons that may be useful at the store.
- Give her cash only! It's easier to spend more when you use a debit card. The finite $20 bill means that's all she can spend and there's no going over.
- Have her prepare as much of the meal as she can safely do.