How do you beat the cost of school lunches? It seems like every year the costs of kid’s buying lunch at school goes up. Every time I turn around I’m adding more money to their lunch accounts. Not to mention the panic that ensues when you get an alert from their accounts saying there is only X amount in the account and the cost of lunch is more than that. Freak Out Mode Commences.
My kids lunches are over $2 dollars a day and I just have two kids so that raises the price to over $4. That is about $720 a year not including if they decide to eat breakfast that day as well. Can you believe the families that have even more children?
I challenge you to try packing your kids lunches this year to save some cash and so you know they are getting healthy and nutritious food.
Here are a few pointers to help save cash when packing lunches:
- Buy only what you need. Fresh fruit and produce spoil and that means you just wasted that precious cash you are trying to stretch.
- Buy fruit and produce that are in season.
- Think about the types of produce you are purchasing. What is its shelf life so to speak? My apples always last a lot longer than my bananas. Also how rough in tough is this produce and how rough in tough is this produce compared to your child? I have not had any luck with pears in lunch boxes. My daughter loves them and they are usually reasonably priced but they become a nightmare in the lunchbox. (my child refuse to eat any fruit not cut so this does add to the disintegration factor and this is even with a preservative like fruit fresh sprinkled on top of the fruit.)
- Leave the pre-portioned snacks on the shelves at the grocery store. There is no room if we are trying to save money for pre portioned snacks. They are cute and handy and save time but its usually way more cost effective to put in the elbow grease yourself. Put your little munchers to work packing those snacks in bulk or you can sit down to sit watch your favorite show and create a stash of snacks.
- Get some sturdy containers. Yes you will have more dishes, but they can be used time and time again. My kids lunch boxes and containers were ordered from Amazon. I love these containers because they have compartments that separate the food. They are also easy to open. Them being easy to open does mean they don’t shut air tight. No liquid foods or you will have a mess! I have had my first set of containers for 3 years and they are still going strong! I believe they are definitely worth the investment. The kids cups were a bit of a sticker shock at $10 a piece but they are the only ones I have found without a million hinky pieces to wash and no leaking. I had to purchase a new cup for my daughter this year after the lock mechanism on hers wore out. Her cup lasted about a year or year and a half.
- Investing in a couple of good quality thermos will give you even more lunchbox options and give your kids a hot lunch for a change of pace.
Some food for thought:
Are your kids even eating the lunches that the school gives them? I’m pretty sure my kids ate chicken rings and peaches everyday they ate at school. You might want to investigate to see if your kids are just throwing money in the trash at school with all of their uneaten food.
What kind of shopper are you? I look for deals and stock up on a good sale? However, I do know other people that go to the grocery store and end up spending $100 on one bag of groceries. Really think about how you shop before determining whether taking a lunch will save you money.
Do not spend your hard earned money on lunchables. They are full of junk and you can make them much healthier and filling on your own. Every time my little darlings talk me into getting them a lunchable I have to buy 2 for each kid and they are full of blah. You can add ham, turkey, chunks of chicken, cheese, some fruit and veggies and maybe some crackers or a wrap. My kids really like using tortillas with pizza sauce to make their own pizza lunchables.
Packing lunches will take a little planning and prep work but it can be totally worth it. My advice is plan everything out for your lunches and make a list of all the prep work you will need to do. Keep your list simple for the first few trips. Most kids are ok with not having a completely different lunch everyday and it will cut down on cost as well. My kids opt for carrots and celery as their veggies and apple slices for their fruit on most days. Start your prep list with the things that will take the longest and the things that can be cooking or baking in the background while you are focusing on other tasks like chopping veggies or mixing up a dip. Go grocery shopping. When you get home leave out all the items you will use right away so you aren’t grabbing them right back out of the fridge creating double work for yourself. For the items that need to go in the fridge just put them together on a shelf so they are easily accessible as soon as you are ready.
Making lunches for your kids and your family can definitely be a huge money saver with a little homework and pre-planning. How do you make sure your kids are getting healthy and nutritious lunches that they love? Share in the comments!