Are School Lunches Costing You an Arm and a Leg?

If school lunches are killing your budget, use these tips and save money

Yes, I know. Even when it comes to school lunches, there is peer pressure. Your kids want to have lunches like everybody else. They don’t want to be the weird kid who brings a boring lunch to school — with kids; even lunches have to be cool.

If you’ve found yourself in this situation, instead of arguing with the kids, use these school lunch ideas, pack cool lunches, and save a cool fortune.

Tip #1 — Cut cost with munchies

You probably already know this, but let me tell you anyway — those little sacks of pre-packaged munchies are costing you a bundle. The average cost of those convenient little bags averages $2.00 per lunch per child. At this rate, those munchies are costing you $310.00 per year for one child, $720.00 per year for two children, $930.00 per year for three…you get the picture.

‘But they’re so convenient!’ Yes, they are, but we’re talking about saving money. Here’s what you do. Buy the large size bags of munchies during your weekly grocery trip. On the weekend, take 30 minutes and pre-package your own snacks for lunches.

On school mornings, all you have to do is grab the amount you need for each school lunch. You haven’t spent any more time on a busy school morning, but you’ve saved a lot of money.

Tip #2 — Make your own pre-made lunch kits

When you buy groceries and see all those school lunch kits that come pre-packaged you know it will save you time. But…have you ever taken the time the figure up what you’re paying for that little bit of yucky, unhealthy food your kids think is cool? A bundle.

The solution is, of course, make your own. You can easily make your own pizza kits. For the pizza base, you have several options; use 1/2 of a sub, toast bread and use a circle cutter for the shape of a pizza, buy mini-pizza dough already baked, or make your own pizza dough and make mini-pizzas that are ready to use.

Put spaghetti sauce in a small container, a baggie of pepperoni, some mozzarella cheese and you’re set. Quickly do this on the weekend too so you’ll be ready with fast lunches on school days.

Tip #3 — Save on drinks

Kids love slushies so…fill a Thermos half full with their favorite juice at night and freeze. In the morning, all you have to do is get it out, finish filling it and at lunchtime, they have a slushy drink and — much healthier than soda.

Tip #4 — Save restaurant goodies

I know you’re following my advice about eating healthy and saving money by eating at home, but on those rare occasions when you must eat at fast food restaurants, be sure and save your goodies — napkins, plastic utensils, mustard, ketchup, and salt and pepper packets. By using these things, save a lot of money and you get convenient condiments to put in those lunches.

Tip #5 — Pack healthy goodies

Sneak some healthy food into your child’s lunch cut veggies into sticks and bite-sized pieces — add a small container of dressing for dipping. Instead of buying expensive cheese snacks, buy cheese in 8-ounce blocks and cut into cute little cubes or other shapes they enjoy snacking on.

Tip #6 — Make it fun

You want to save money and you want your kids to eat healthy, but add a little fun too or this whole idea of homemade lunches tanks. To do this, whip up a batch of brownies. Instead of baking them in the traditional 9×13 dish, use a mini-muffin tin and make brownie bites.

Use this same idea with muffin mixes and cup cakes. Make mini-cup cakes and put a little icing in a small container for dipping — this adds the ‘cool factor’ and other kids will be impressed that your child gets cupcakes for lunch.

Make fruit cups by mixing up a batch of sugar-free Jell-O and adding fruit. You can buy the very small plastic containers with lids and you’ll have a healthy snack that’s ready to go. Do the same with sugar-free pudding and add some healthy chopped walnuts to get some omega-3 into your child’s diet.

Now, at first, these ideas may seem overwhelming to you. Take a deep breath, decide which ideas you are going to use and put the ingredients on your weekly shopping list. The next weekend, have a school lunch preparation time.

One word of warning — hide the food. Put the pudding, Jell-O, prepackaged chopped veggies, and cheese in your vegetable drawer in the fridge (the kids and husband are sure not to look in there). Hide the prepackaged munchies somewhere besides the snack shelf in the pantry. Otherwise, all your work disappears before school starts!

Your first time or two takes you a bit longer, but once you’ve done this a couple of times, you’ll get organized and be whipping out healthy and inexpensive school lunches in no time.