Tips on Managing Your Senior Dining Food Budget

vegetables on a wooden table top surrounding a planner, implying menu planning

There are so many moving parts when it comes to managing a senior dining program food budget, we get it! Because Crandall cares about your success, we're excited to share some expert tips to help make your budgeting process more manageable.


Accounting Tips:

  • Know your monthly raw food budget and budgeted PRD. Make appropriate adjustments as census fluctuates from the monthly budgeted census. For example, if the monthly food budget dollars are set for 100 residents and actual occupancy is at 75 residents, monthly food budget dollars need to be adjusted accordingly. Consistently assess and adjust as needed throughout the month.
  • Establish a routine weekly meeting between the Administrator and Dining Service Director to review food costs and spend down sheets. Confirm invoices are being processed in a timely manner to avoid out-of-period invoices or inaccuracy on spend down tracking.
  • Keep the spend down sheet up to date and always review prior to placing orders to determine remaining spending allowance and remaining number of orders for the month.

    work meeting reviewing metrics

Food Purchasing Tips:

  • Reduce or eliminate provisions that are premade, pre-packaged, or pre-portioned. Not only do they cost more, but these foods tend to be higher in sodium, fat, and sugar. Incorporate scratch cooking as much as possible.
  • Identify average monthly cost for staple ingredients and routine purchases (e.g., milk, juice, coffee, sugar packets, etc.) and automatically deduct the amount from the monthly spend down. Adjust accordingly as purchases are made through the month to account for actual expense.
  • Utilize Purchase Order Guides to manage inventory, control over or under purchasing, and to ensure correct items are being purchased for the next delivery.

person writing on a spreadsheet clipped to a clipboard

Tips for Menu Planning, Production & Service:

  • Maintain a good cost balance when planning the menu. For example, plan higher cost entrées on peak days such as Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday; then offset with popular cost-effective entrées Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
  • Track the number of leftovers and daily meal tallies on production sheets to increase accuracy in future forecasting, production, and to help reduce food waste.
  • Portion control is key! Ensure correct portions are being served, correct portion utensils are available and utilized. When possible, purchase in bulk and pre-portion, or pre-plate items. For example:
    • Purchase milk in gallons and portion into individual glasses.
    • Buy condiments such as ketchup in bulk and portion into individual portion cups.
    • Pre-plate properly portioned food items such as starter salads to help eliminate waste, reduce food costs, and expedite service.

pureed orange squash in a brown rustic mug, placed on a yellow linen placemat on a table

Therapeutic Diets & Supplements Tips:

  • Liberalize diets where possible. A good goal is to maintain the number of therapeutic diets to ≤ 5% of the census. Liberalizing diets also aligns with the dining practice standards that promotes quality of life and nutritional status of residents in long term care settings.
  • Refer residents who have a texture modified and/or thickened liquid consistency diet order to be reevaluated regularly to identify if the diet order is still appropriate.
  • When needed, use fortified foods first versus supplements such as Boost or Ensure to help meet a resident's nutritional needs. If possible, reallocate the expense for these items to the supplements budget.


Tips for Snacks, Nourishment Rooms & Hydration Stations: 

  • Manage unnecessary and unrequested use of items such as milk, juice and/or snacks. Offer water, iced tea, and lemonade for snacks, in the nourishment room(s), and hydrations carts or stations.
  • Food in these areas should be for resident consumption versus for employees. If snacks are provided for employees, this should be accounted for and cost reallocated to the correct department.
  • Establish a process to restock snacks, set par levels for staple items needed, and be diligent about monitoring food waste in these areas.

snack cart in congregate area

In conclusion, not only does Crandall Menus online software help to streamline an operating budget, but we have specialists on hand to advise end-users on best practices in budgeting if needed. We take pride in helping our clients succeed!

Have questions about Crandall Menus? We'd love to answer them. Connect with us now!

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