For most modern American families, food costs remain one of the largest dents in income.
Subsequently, getting your child to understand the financial aspects of their meals can turn out to make a tremendous difference on their monetary stability later on. You don’t have to go over these lessons right as you fork over their serving of Some Scrumptious Dinner, but you should introduce them as early as you can.
Calculate the cost per serving.
Parents tend to be good about getting kids to check the total cost of a meal. For example, they’ll have their kids note that an entire pizza would cost the family X dollars. They are less consistent about getting their kids to figure out the cost per serving. This matters because two people aren’t necessarily going to have the same food costs. For example, your baby might eat just a handful of mashed peas, while your linebacker teen could eat a whole can. Once your child knows the serving price, he can do the math and figure out not only what foods are most economical, but also the percentage of the meal cost each family member has.
Calculate who is most expensive to feed.
Once your child is a pro at getting a per serving cost, he can keep track of the amount of money it took to feed each family member for the day, week or even the month. If you find that one person consistently costs more, talk about why there is a discrepancy and whether it is acceptable—you might find that dietary changes are in order.
Present the Bill
When parents pay the grocery bill all the time, it’s easy for a kid to think of food as free. After figuring out the per serving cost, determine the total cost for your child’s meal. Then have him “pay” for one meal a day or week through his allowance. Make the meal he pays for predictable so he can work with you to plan that meal and keep costs low—your child quickly will learn to look for filling, healthy and cheap foods during your grocery trips if he knows he’s paying for at least some of what goes into his belly. If money is tight and you can’t afford to give your child an allowance, payment can come through an extra chore or two, or you can provide your child with some play money to exchange.
Look at Take Out
Every family eats out once in a while, and that’s not necessarily wrong. Overall, though, eating out is significantly more expensive than making your own meals. Plan a few meals with your child and shop with him to get the ingredients—make sure to compare prices to get the lowest cost for the best nutrition. Then have him figure out how much the same food would have cost from a restaurant and calculate what you saved. Feeling generous? Give him the savings so he really can see how eating in adds up.
Check the Budget
Food requires a regular place on the family budget. Each time you go grocery shopping, tell your child the spending limit you have. Do your best to make a list and stay under this limit. When you get home, have your child look at the budget and the grocery receipts to see if you are on track. During the process, let your child calculate the percentage of the budget that went to food. Although you might have a cap set on paper, spending from week to week can fluctuate, so getting the percentages consistently will give your child a better picture of whether the allotment is enough. You also can talk with your child about how to reallocate any food money that you didn’t spend for the month.