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Using the Food Buying Guide to Create Grocery Lists

Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN)

September 21, 2023

FBG Tools_4x3

Do you ever wish you could snap your fingers and the next week’s shopping list would appear? The Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs offers tools to help you do that with a mouse click or tap of the finger. The Institute of Child Nutrition’s Mealtime Memo describes the three versions of the Food Buying Guide that will help CACFP operators know how much food to purchase and prepare.

What is the Food Buying Guide (FBG)?

The FBG is a USDA resource that helps you plan how much food to buy and prepare based on the minimum meal pattern serving sizes. It exists in the following formats:

  • PDF with download and print options
  • Interactive Web-Based Tool
  • Mobile App for use on the go with smartphones and tablet devices

Each format has one section for the five meal components in the CACFP meal pattern. Each section shows food item details for these four areas:

  • Food As Purchased, AP (ex., fresh, frozen, canned, or dried)
  • Purchase Unit (ex., pounds, ounces, #10 can)
  • Servings per Purchase Unit, edible portion, EP
  • Serving Size Per Meal Component

Putting the Food Buying Guide Into Practice

Let’s see how to use the FBG with an example menu item, acorn squash, a fall food favorite. Below are images from the Food Buying Guide PDF, Interactive Web-Based Tool, and Mobile App for acorn squash. Notice all three images provide the same information in a slightly different format for cooked, drained, pared, and mashed acorn squash.

Let’s determine how much acorn squash you need to purchase if your program serves 100 3–5-year-old children at lunch.

The menu calls for cooked, drained, pared, mashed acorn squash at lunch, so you’ll need 100 ¼-cup servings. (Per the CACFP Meal Pattern, ¼ cup is the minimum serving size of vegetables for 3–5-year-olds). How much fresh acorn squash do you need to purchase?

Use the Servings per Purchase Unit, EP, to know how much a pound provides.

  • 1 pound provides 4.70 ¼ cup servings

Since you need 100 servings, divide the total servings (100) by the servings/pound (4.70) to get how many pounds of acorn squash to purchase.

  • 100 servings ÷ 4.70 servings/pound = 21.27 pounds (round up to 21.30 pounds)
    So, you need to purchase 21.3 pounds of fresh acorn squash to provide 100 ¼-cup servings.

Let’s do a calculation if you only need 75 servings.

  • 75 servings ÷ 4.70 servings/pound = 15.95 pounds (round up to 16 pounds)

So, you need to purchase 16 pounds of fresh acorn squash to provide 75 ¼-cup servings.

FBG Calculator

You can determine the amounts to purchase yourself (as explained in the examples above). Or with a mouse click or tap on a screen, the FBG Calculator will do the math for you!

The Interactive Web-Based Tool and Mobile App feature the FBG Calculator. On the Web-Based Tool, the FBG Calculator is on the Welcome page and on the Tools pull-down list. On the Mobile App, use the menu on the top right corner to open up tools and locate the FBG Calculator. Below are screen images of each tool using our 75 ¼-cup serving example.

In the FBG Calculator, you create a shopping list and add the food item(s). In our example, fresh acorn squash is cooked, drained, pared, and mashed. Enter the following information into the FBG Calculator:

  • SERVING SIZE: ¼ cup is selected
  • # OF SERVINGS: 75 is entered

The FBG Calculator updates to show that you must purchase 16 pounds of fresh acorn squash to provide 75 ¼-cup servings.

Adjust for On-Hand Inventory

The FBG Calculator has an extra feature. You can enter the number of purchase units you have on hand, and the FBG Calculator shows how much more you need to buy.

In the screen image from the Mobile App, you can see that if 3 pounds of fresh acorn squash is on hand, then you must purchase 13 more pounds.



For more information, read ICN’s September 2023 Mealtime Memo and watch Navigating the Food Buying Guide Calculator by USDA Team Nutrition.