September 2023 – Tools for Determining Amounts of Food to Purchase

September 2023 – Tools for Determining Amounts of Food to Purchase

FBG Brochure Image 1 01

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.

This Mealtime Memo describes the three versions of the Food Buying Guide that will help Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) operators know how much food to purchase and prepare.

What Is the Food Buying Guide?

The Food Buying Guide for Child Nutrition Programs (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

You can find the three options on the FBG website.

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

Training on the Food Buying Guide

A variety of eLearning training modules and webinars are available to assist in understanding and using the FBG and all its features. Access all of these training resources and more at the Food Buying Guide: Training Resources web page.

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.

Food Buying Guide Example

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.

Food Buying Guide PDF

FBG Example

Food Buying Guide Interactive Web Tool

FBG Mobile App

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.

FBG Mobile App

Squash Winter Fresh Image

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.

FBG Interactive Web Tool

Food Item Description

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.

FBG Mobile App Inventory

Calculate for Multiple Serving Sizes

Both versions of the FBG Calculator allow you to input multiple serving sizes if you want to calculate amounts for different age groups. The example below uses acorn squash for lunch. You need to know the number of children you will serve per age group and the minimum serving sizes per age group from the CACFP Meal Pattern. Use the information from the table to input into the FBG Calculator.

Age Groups Number of Children CACFP Meal Pattern Minimum Serving Sizes
1-2 year-olds 25 1/8 cup
3-5 year-olds 50 1/4 cup
6-12 year-olds 60 1/2 cup
  1. Add each serving size (⅛ cup, ¼ cup, ½ cup)
  2. Type in the number of children to serve for each serving size (25, 50, 60)
  3. Include any inventory on hand (5 pounds)

The FBG Calculator does the math for you. The amount to purchase is 34 pounds for this menu example.

Calculate For Multiple Serving Sizes Image

The Food Buying Guide helps take the guesswork out of food purchasing decisions. The FBG Calculator makes quick work of calculations with just a couple clicks of your computer mouse or taps on your smart device. Put these helpful tools to work for your program!

Menu Ideas

The following menu ideas provide a variety of foods, colors, and textures appropriate for young children. Some recipes contain multiple meal components listed in parentheses after the recipe.


"Scrambled eggs on a white plate, and toasted baguette in the background. More breakfasts:-"

Scrambled Eggs
Roasted Potatoes
1% Milk


Barbecue Beef Sliders
(Meat, Grain)
Mashed Acorn Squash
Sliced Kiwi
1% Milk


Baked Tofu Bites Ages6 18 2

Baked Tofu Bites
Pineapple Tidbits

Recipes Clipart 800x533



Institute of Child Nutrition. (n.d.). Baked tofu bites for ages 3–5.

Institute of Child Nutrition. (n.d.). Barbecue beef sliders for ages 3–5.

Institute of Child Nutrition. (n.d.). Child nutrition recipe box.

Institute of Child Nutrition. (n.d.). New CACFP lunch/supper recipes. Child Nutrition Recipe Box.

Institute of Child Nutrition. (n.d.). Food buying guide series. iLearn

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (2022, March 01). Food buying guide for child nutrition programs: Training resources.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. (2022, July 11). Food buying guide for child nutrition programs.

Previous 2023 Mealtime Memos


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