The school year is well underway now and the chaotic dust of a new schedule has settled. Instead of opting for the illusion of convenience, you can save a lot of money and provide healthier lunches for your students by taking a few extra moments to prepare them at home. It takes a little effort and planning on your part, but your budget and your child’s health are worth it.
Avoid single-use packages and invest in some washable/reusable containers instead. Using plastic baggies and paper lunch sacks to pack each part of the lunch separately mean you are literally throwing away money each and every day. Instead, buy containers in a variety of sizes to meet your portion needs and fit nicely in your lunch box or bag.
Step away from ‘convenient’ single serving foods and buy in bulk. While it may seem easier to grab the 4-pack of pudding or the snack sized chip package, these items are far more expensive per unit than you might realize. Not to mention, the amount of garbage waste they provide. Put those reusable containers to use by buying items in bulk and separating them into individual portions. Make a box of pudding or gelatin and make your own 4oz packages. A large bag of baby carrots is much cheaper per volume than the little packages, so divide it into smaller containers to save both time and money.
Explore new foods and stay away from luncheon meats. Sandwiches are often the school lunchtime staple. But with peanut allergies on the rise, peanut butter is not allowed in many schools cutting that option. And lunch meat can cost a small fortune when you compare its price per pound to fresh meat. Send a chilled pasta salad made with some cooked pasta, a little dressing, and some vegetables. Leftovers make a great lunch. If you have a thermos, heat it with boiling water in the morning for a few minutes. Then add piping hot food and it will be nice and warm once lunch time rolls around. If you want to make a sandwich or wrap with some meat, buy an uncooked chicken or turkey breast and cook it at home (just throw it in the oven while you’re cooking dinner). You won’t be getting all the additives and other nonsense in your meat.
Make your child’s lunch look fun. If your kid is a picky eater, it might be challenging to get him or her to try new foods. But if you take an extra moment to cut things into cute, interesting shapes, lunchtime becomes much more fun to enjoy. Everything tastes better on a stick, so place a rainbow of fruits or veggies on a skewer and pack a sauce for dipping. Use cookie cutters to cut a sandwich into a dinosaur or princess crown or metal fondant cutters to create flowers or stars made of cucumbers or carrots.
Prepare lunch each night before bed, instead of in the morning when you’re rushed. The hour or two before heading off to school and/or work each the morning is often pure insanity. Give yourself a bit of a break by packing lunches before heading to bed each night and keep from getting a headache in the morning.
What tips do you have for cutting costs and providing healthy lunches for kids?