By Rebecca Cline
Buying a school lunch may often seem cheap on a day-to-day basis, especially when the average school lunch only costs about $2.67. In the long run, though, these numbers can add up, especially for those with larger families. One way to start saving money without breaking the grocery budget is to pack the children’s lunches at home. These tips and tricks will make it easy to send your child to school with a nutritious meal without spending a ton of money.
Get a Lunch Box
By reusing a lunch box and durable plastic containers, money can be saved by foregoing the purchases of disposable Tupperware and brown paper bags. Also, consider purchasing a reusable water bottle instead of plastic bottles and juice boxes. The lunch boxes and reusable water bottles are also environmentally friendly, and the children can pick their own cool designs! Versatile lunch boxes are also able to hold either hot or cold food at correct temperatures to keep items out of the danger zone.
Buy Bulk Packages
Food items that come in larger packages tend to be the cheaper option, rather than something that has been pre-portioned and pre-packaged. Though individually-sized bags of pretzels and snacks can be a time-saver, they are more expensive due to their convenience. Create your own portion sizes by dividing the larger, less expensive package into Ziploc bags or reusable containers.
In order for that healthy aspect to come into play, it is important to remember the MyPlate diagram when packing lunches. Servings from all five food groups would be ideal, but also try to buy and pack what is in season and on sale! Again, products that come in packages are often more expensive (and unhealthy), so look for whole fruits and fresh vegetables in season to slice up for mealtime.
Extra tip: Hit the dairy, protein, and fruit groups by treating the child with a berry and Greek yogurt parfait for a nutritious dessert!
Pack Ahead of Time
Packing lunch last minute may lead to poor nutritional choices, so prep as much food as possible ahead of time. Preparing the night (or weekend) before will avoid the last-minute morning scramble of tossing random items into the lunch box. Planning ahead can save money while also allowing you to make healthy, conscious decisions. Don’t forget that your little helpers are extra hands for prepping!
What better way to avoid food waste than to already have an entrée or side prepared? Leftovers are perfect for quickly packing lunches. Store items in an airtight container in the refrigerator and they are already ready to go for the next day.
Check out four more tips for mastering the school lunch.