I love it when my philosophy of education “Life is School” meshes so well with actual life as it does with this lesson. In fact, we have done this lesson 3 times now, and I think it’s something we are going to tweak and work with the rest of the school year. They are just that interested!
What Is This Magical Math Lesson?
No magic, just math…well, maybe a little magic
Every mom knows they have to stick to a food budget. But how overwhelming would it be to be dropped into adulthood without ever having budgeted a single meal? I know, it would be really overwhelming. In fact there would be a huge learning curve and budgeting would take years to figure out, or it did for me anyways.
I want something better for my children. So, I am taking the really big job of budgeting meals, and paring it down to their level.
Working through the lesson also had this wonderful side effect, lunch is now independently made by my children (except the 3 and 1 year old) and every month I don’t have to think of a lunch menu. My children do it for me.
What This Lesson Looks Like
Before going grocery shopping, I sit down and write a list of foods I am willing to buy. If I am not willing to buy it, it doesn’t go on the list. That includes off-season fruits and vegetables. I have a running list that I look through to decide what will go on this week’s list.
To make things a little easier to think about, I use three categories: fruit, vegetables, and protein. I make sure there are at least 3 choices in each category but most of the time there are 4 or 5. Right now, I am keeping things really simple, later, I hope to teach them some simple recipes that they can make themselves if they want to.
Here is a chart to give you an idea of what is on our list:
Once I have the list finished, I have to figure out the cost for each item. To do that, I go to Walmart Grocery and type in the brand and type of food I plan on buying. When you click on it, it gives you the price and nutrition information (hopefully, but not all items are always listed).
I charge one serving for each food. To figure out how much one serving costs, divide the total price by the number of servings in the container. Typically, the number of servings is on the back with the nutrition information.
Then I go back and add my costs to each item.
Introducing Budgeting Lunch to Children
Now comes the fun part. I gathered my unsuspecting children around and let them know the plan.
“This week, you are going to plan your own lunches. But there’s a catch. You must pick one thing from each of the three categories and it must be under $7.70. There’s one more fun tidbit. Any leftover money over 50 cents can be spent on a non-sugar treat”
My son immediately figured out what was the cheapest items and scheduled them for the week. I was able to convince him to at least change Saturday and Sunday so that he would have a little bit of variety. His total ended up being $6.30 which gave him $1.40 to spend at the grocery store. He saved up several weeks worth and bought granola bars.
My eldest hates peanut butter which is how my son got such a cheap week of food. So her plan ended up costing $7.60, barely in the limit. But in the limit none-the-less.
My kindergartner is really easy and accepts whatever I suggest. I did make sure she could have enough money to buy special yogurt we don’t normally buy.
Tools and Tips to Help Practice Budgeting
Some kind of manipulative is a must. You could use real money or play money, or an app (that’s my preference…less messy). As they get older and more experienced they wouldn’t need the manipulatives.
They need some place to write their plan: a master list you keep track of, a list on the fridge, or a planner. We use a bullet journal to keep track of each students menu plan.
I let my students have the left over money to mirror real life. If I budget $100 for the power bill and it only comes out to $84, that leftover money becomes money I can use somewhere else, maybe even for something fun.
You don’t have to shop at Walmart. I use the grocery website to decide how much to charge things and I don’t really worry about if it’s different than the store I end up buying it from. If you wanted to be really real about this, you could use the Walmart Grocery website for your budget and then figure out the actual cost after you bring the items home.
Are You Willing to Give it a Try?
Try budgeting your lunches and see if there isn’t some magic in this lesson. Maybe you’ll even join me in using this lesson all year!
Check out the similar lesson I created for Math Geek Mama–no prep required.