In the early days of our country, most people grew their own food. In the 1700s, farmers represented the overwhelming majority of the labor force and today farmers seem to be few and far between. Today, most people are cut off from the sources of their food supply. When children helped their parents to hoe, plant, weed, prune and harvest, as well as peel, chop, pickle, boil and bake, it's a safe bet they didn't waste their meals. They knew firsthand exactly how much effort went into every bite! On the other hand, if they grow up thinking milk comes from the grocery store, and lettuce is the green stuff sticking out from under the hamburger, they're less likely to appreciate what's put in front of them.
To help your child learn about the real cost of food and how to get good value for dollars spent, try one or more of these activities:
- For one week, keep track of all your food expenditures. Include grocery shopping, convenience store purchases, school lunches and snacks, and restaurant meals. Add them all up to see what your family spends per week on food. Multiply that weekly total by 52 to get an estimate of what your yearly food budget might be. Then divide the weekly total by 21 to see what the cost of each meal was for that week.
- Do a blind taste test. Compare a store brand product, such as peanut butter, with a higher-priced name brand. Or compare a homemade product with an already-prepared version. With eyes closed, can you tell the difference? Which is better?
- Point out the ways in which advertisers try to get people, especially children, to buy their products. Bright colors, fun shapes, cartoon characters, and small toys are some of the gimmicks used. Explain that these foods may be overpriced or unhealthful despite their appeal. Make a game of trying to be the first to spot such gimmicks on television, in ads, on menus, and on product packaging.
- Read labels. Grab a bag or box from your refrigerator, your cabinets, or the grocery store shelf and read the ingredients. By law, ingredients must be listed in order of predominance, with the ingredients used in the greatest amount first. Some ingredients will be easy to identify, like flour or sugar. But do you know what casein is? Lactic acid? Polysorbate 80? Point out to kids that ingredient names can be confusing or even misleading. Fructose, glucose, corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, malt syrup, and agave nectar are all different kinds of sugar, for example.
- Try a new food. Take kids to a farmer's market, the produce aisle of a grocery store, or wherever plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables are available. Choose one unfamiliar item to prepare at home. Use recipes found in cookbooks or online. Salespeople at farmer's markets are usually a great source of information about the foods they sell. You could also research a new item first, one that sounds delicious or intriguing. Have you ever tried star fruit? Ugli fruit? Blood oranges? Fresh artichokes? Find a simple recipe for preparing your new food. Then go to the store and look for the item, as well as any other ingredients you need for your recipe. Take it home, prepare it, and then discuss what you've made. Is this a food you'd like to try again?
Taking the First Step
Today is a great day to start to gain control and begin preparing for the future. To learn more or access helpful materials, speak with me or visit https://www.massmutual.com/for/family-finance.
Provided by Thomas C. Block a financial representative with Asset Management Group, Inc. courtesy of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). Thomas Block AAMS, AWMA, CRPC is a registered representative of and offers securities and investment advisory services through MML Investors Services, LLC, Member SIPC, 3975 Fair Ridge Drive, Suite 315N, Fairfax, VA 22033, Tel: (703) 218-6765
Local sales agencies are not subsidiaries of MassMutual or its affiliated companies.
© 2015 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, MA 01111-0001 CRN201612-188976 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics – Consumer Expenditures 2013, released September 2014