Menu planning and food purchasing tips

The Foodland Ontario symbol.

  • Know your budget and use it to plan your menus and purchases.
  • Plan menus in advance and use the menu planning checklist. Offer a variety of foods every week.
  • Make a purchasing plan using the menus. Include food vendors that meet your budget. This planning can reduce the number of deliveries vendors need to make to your site (or trips to the local grocery store).
  • Make a list of the things you need to buy by taking an inventory of what you already have on hand.
  • Organize your purchases and buy in bulk as much as possible.
  • Use the online SNP centralized food purchasing system (if available in your region). It offers a variety of foods and beverages that meet the Student Nutrition Program (SNP) Guidelines, along with many other benefits (for example, delivery, traceability, recalls, safe transport and storage). Check with your local community development coordinator, food and logistics coordinator or lead agency for more information.
  • Check online and store flyers for sales, coupons and specials that will help reduce food costs. Use price matching if allowed at your grocery store.
  • Choose Ontario grown vegetables and fruits, and other Ontario-made products. Look for the Foodland Ontario symbol.
  • Choose fresh vegetables and fruits in season. Frozen and canned vegetables and fruits are also nutritious choices.
  • Choose local foods when possible. Some centralized food purchasing vendors feature local produce. Check with your local community development coordinator, food and logistics coordinator or lead agency for more information.
  • If you have an indoor or outdoor school garden and would like to serve these foods in your SNP, check with your lead agency and local public health unit to learn more about safe food handling practices specific to your situation.
  • Read food labels to compare products. When looking for sodium, use the percent daily value (% DV) on the nutrition facts table. The limit for sodium in the Guidelines is less than or equal to 10% DV per serving size. The limit for sugar for grain products is 8 grams per 30 gram serving and 11 grams per 100 gram serving of flavoured yogurt.
  • When shopping at a store, choose the lowest price options when possible. Store brand and name brands are just as nutritious.

How to know how much to buy

Check with your local community development coordinator, food and logistics coordinator or lead agency to see if they have tips for calculating how much food to buy for your program. Amounts will vary from program to program depending on the number of students, their ages, time of year and other factors specific to each school community.

Use the serving size from the food labels of protein foods and whole grain foods as a rough estimate of the amount to buy per student meal or snack. Then multiply by the number of student meals or snacks you will offer for the week.

For vegetables and fruits, use the charts below to estimate the weight of different vegetables and fruits to buy based on the number of student meals or snacks you offer.

Keep records of your food purchases and take an inventory each week of what is leftover. This will help you to know if you need to increase or decrease the amounts you buy.

Use these tips to help reduce food waste.


A guide to buying vegetables and fruits in quantity

Vegetables

Vegetable type and
suggested serving sizes
One pound =
(approximately)
10 students25 students50 students
Asparagus (fresh)
1 serving = ½ cup or 6 spears
1 bunch (16 - 20 spears) or 3 cups2 pounds4 pounds8 pounds
Green beans
1 serving = ½ cup
3 cups2 pounds4 pounds8 pounds
Broccoli
1 serving = ½ cup
1 bunch or 4 ½ cups1 ½ pounds3 pounds5 ½ pounds
Cabbage
1 serving = ½ cup
(1 large head = 4lbs)
4 ½ cups1 ½ pounds3 pounds5 ½ pounds
Carrots
1 serving = ½ cup or 1 medium
4 large or 3 cups2 pounds4 pounds8 pounds
Cauliflower
1 serving = ½ cup
(1 large head = 12 cups or 2.75 lbs)
2 ½ cups2 pounds5 pounds10 pounds
Celery
1 serving = ½ cup or 1 stalk
(1 bunch = 1.5lbs)
4 cups1 ½ pounds3 pounds6 ½ pounds
Frozen vegetables
1 serving = ½ cup
3 cups2 pounds4 pounds6 pounds
Leaf lettuce
1 serving = 1 cup
1 head or 8 - 11 cups1 pound2 - 3 pounds4 ½ - 6 ½ pounds
Mushrooms
1 serving = ½ cup
30 mushrooms or 6 cups sliced1 pound2 pounds4 pounds
Pepper
1 serving = ½ cup or ½ medium
3 medium or 3 cups1 ½ pounds3 -4 pounds6 ½ - 8 pounds
Potatoes
1 serving = ½ cup or ½ medium
3 potatoes or 3 cups2 pounds4 pounds8 pounds
Snap peas
1 serving = ½ cup
20 pods or 4 cups1 ½ pound3 pounds6 ½ pounds
Spinach
1 serving = 1 cup (fresh)
6 - 10 cups (fresh)1 - 2 pound2 ½ - 4 pound5 - 8 pounds
Tomatoes
1 serving = ½ cup
3 medium or 3 cups2 pounds4 pounds8 pounds
Turnip
1 serving = ½ cup
4 cups1 ½ pounds3 pounds6 ½ pounds
Zucchini
1 serving = ½ cup
3 small or 4 cups1 ½ pounds3 ½ pounds6 ½ pounds

Fruit

Fruit type and suggested serving sizesOne pound =
(approximately)
How many pounds do I need for 10 studentsHow many pounds do I need for 25 studentsHow many pounds do I need for 50 students

Apples
1 serving = 1 small or ½ cup

3 medium or 3 cups

3 ½ pounds

8 ½ pounds

17 pounds

Apricots (dried)
1 serving = ½ cup

3 cups

1 pound

2 pounds

4 pounds

Apricots (fresh)
1 serving = 3 apricots

5 to 8 medium

4 - 6 pounds

9 ½ - 15 pounds

19 - 30 pounds

Bananas
1 serving = 1 medium

3 medium or 2 cups (sliced)

3 ½ pounds

8 ½ pounds

17 pounds

Berries (except strawberries)
1 serving = ½ cup

2 cups

2 ½ pounds

6 ½ pounds

12 ½ pounds

Cantaloupe
1 serving = ½ cup
(1 cantaloupe = 3lbs or 7 cups)

1/3 medium or 2 ½ cups

2 pounds

5 pounds

10 pounds

Cherries
1 serving = 20 cherries

60 - 80 cherries or 3 cups

2 ½ pounds

6 ½ pounds

12 ½ - 17 pounds

Grapes seedless
1 serving = 20 grapes

40 grapes or 3 cups

5 pounds

12 ½ pounds

25 pounds

Honeydew melon
1 serving = ½ cup
(1 honeydew = 5 ½ lbs or 12 cups)

1/4 medium or 3 cups

1 ½ pounds

4 pounds

8 pounds

Mandarins
1 serving = 1 mandarin

3 - 4 mandarins or 2 - 3 cups

2 ½ - 3 ½ pounds

6 ½ - 8 ½ pounds

12 ½ - 17 pounds

Oranges
1 serving = 1 medium

2 - 3 oranges or 2 - 3 cups

3 ½ - 5 pounds

8 ½ - 12 ½ pounds

17 - 25 pounds

Peaches (canned, sliced)
1 serving = ½ cup

2 cups or 16 oz can

2 ½ pounds

6 ½ pounds

12 ½ pounds

Peaches (fresh)
1 serving = 1 medium

3 medium or 2 cups

3 ½ pounds

8 ½ pounds

17 pounds

Pears
1 serving = 1 medium

3 medium or 2 cups

3 ½ pounds

8 ½ pounds

17 pounds

Pineapple
1 serving = ½ cup
(1 pineapple= 3lbs or 5 cups)

1/3 pineapple or 2 ½ cups

2 pounds

5 pounds

10 pounds

Plums
1 serving = 1 plum

5 medium or 2 ½ cups

2 pounds

5 pounds

10 pounds

Note: 1 pound = 2.2 kilograms