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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Menu planning and budgeting

Yesterday, Grandma sent some money for treats.  So I told them we'd have to all work together to pick our favorites and spend the money from Grandma. :)  Jones piped up that it would be great to lasagna for Valentine's, after all candy isn't good for us.  Surprisingly everyone agreed.  So I decide to challenge the four older ones. 

The challenge was this: Make a meal for Valentine's Day for $20.  Obviously this transpired yesterday  and so the meal won't be on Valentine's Day, but our family has always been flexible about these things. There must be 5 things in this meal: Beverage, Main Dish, Salad, Bread and Dessert. 

I must add a funny note that some of you may have seen on Facebook.  Tank asked if he could find a special plate to use.  I said yes and continued making plans with the older four.  He was frantically rummaging through the cupboards until "Aha!" up he came with my grandmother's platter, "Here is my main dish!" he says.  It was very hard not to laugh while we explained to him that main dishes are something you eat, not what you serve it on. :)

Each child (now Tank was included because I couldn't bear to turn him away) was to take a cookbook and some writing paper to quiet time and individually and somewhat secretly make out their proposal for a meal. 

After quiet time, they brought their proposals to me and I estimated what I thought each would cost, as I looked up the recipes they had chosen and used my knowledge of current prices to write a total at the bottom of their menu.  OOOPS!  All of them were over, though one only by 25 cents. 

Since I had written by each dish/beverage the total for that particular item and even an amount next to each ingredient.  I gave each one back their menus and told them to work them over so that it would fit within the budget.  We had fun doing this, as each decided what they did or didn't need under such conditions.  And no, x-ing off a whole category was quickly nixed.

After they brought them back for approval, I typed up a ballot.  All were to vote even those too little to make up their own menu.  So we had five menus and nine voters.  But instead of just having them vote on the menus, I decided to have two pages - one with menus and one with each category.  So they would have to choose the overall menu they liked best and the beverage, the main dish, the salad, the bread and the dessert they liked best.  So much more fun than watching TV and Dad even had fun as they bombarded him with his ballot the minute he walked in the door.  He had to ask what some things even were.

It was fun and we had to vote on some ties.   There were some tears over not being chosen  the most, but we worked through that.  After all everyone can't be picked, but it turned out that each of the four older ones were a favorite in something, but poor Tank didn't have any top things. 

Consolation prize is making monkey bread with Mom today. :)

Then I added up the favorite categories, turns out it's a cheaper meal than the menu chosen.  So I think we might do that.  Then I'll have different helpers make the categories they won in.   Sharpie will be making Pepsi Burgers; Jones - garlic bread and ice cream cake; Waterman - Sparkling Kool-aid and Bugaboo - Macaroni Salad.  And surprisingly it's a great combination.  Lasagne never even entered the picture in anyone's menu, though that was the meal that started it all.

I'm also going to bring out these menus and their prices today and talk with the children about why these aren't some of our normal choices.  Our budget says we spend $10 a day on meals.  So how do we make some of our favorites work?  Jones wanted a store-bought ice cream cake, but when he found out that he could probably make it for half, he decided to go with that.

Our next step is for me to take the four oldest shopping.  I haven't decided yet how I'll do it.  We may all work together to see if we can make it under the $20 or I may divide it out and give each one their portion and have them see if they can do it.  I'm leaning toward the second idea.

To build on this for a more long-term teaching idea, I think I'll sit down with the older ones and have them help me decide what they will cook when it's their turn on the schedule.  They will also have to submit proposals and try to keep it within budget.  Problem: They don't cook for a whole day, so it's hard to figure out $10/day, but I may just let them plan one day's worth of meals.  Not sure yet.

I really want my children to fully understand running a home.  Yes, even the boys.  Can you imagine if they understand the difficulty of planning meals on a budget?  They will be helpful to their wives and more understanding through the process.   I am definitely not perfect at it, but I love working at it. :)

So thank-you, Grandma, for the gift and to the Lord for giving us brains to work up some ideas to train our children in the way they should go. Oh and by the way, there's still some leftover for those conversation hearts, the only thing they could think of to get on Valentine's Day.  We may be finding some on the icecream cake. ;)


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