Buying lunch at school for kids can add up to a big expense, fast. But if you don’t plan a little bit they can be expensive and time consuming to prepare at home as well.
Here are some tips and ideas to make less expensive and easy school lunches for kids this year.
Buy your foods in quantity
- For the lowest price per serving buy some reusable containers and work with your kids to make sure they come home. Then, do things like buy your applesauce in a large jar and portion it out yourself instead of paying for the much pricier individual cups.
- Buy the parts on sale over a couple weeks. Items like meat and cheese do not always go on sale at the same time, but will easily stay fresh in their packages for a couple weeks until you have what you need to assemble your meals. Be sure to search the coupon database for any coupons that you can stack with a sale.
- Use your freezer. Sandwiches without condiments and juice pouches (that will double as an ice pack) freeze nicely for longer storage.
- If you just don’t want to make the portions yourself, check out club stores like Sam’s Club and Costco or buy cases of individually wrapped portions through Amazon.com and select the Subscribe & Save option to get regular shipments at a discount and no shipping cost.
- Stock up when items are on sale and will last without going bad until you can use them. Think carefully about how much of something your kids will actually eat before it reaches expiration, but then stock up when it’s on sale and use coupons to get great prices.
Basic tips for keeping it healthy
- Basic USDA guidelines for schools and daycare providers require 1 protein, 1 grain and 2 produce servings for lunch.
- Protein is usually easiest in the form of meat, cheese or nuts.
- Grains are easily added to lunchboxes in the form of bread or crackers.
- Fresh is considered best, but canned or frozen selections are less expensive, store better and still provide the nutrients your child needs.
Make it fun
- Let the kids pack their own lunches from your pre-portioned options, just give them guidelines or check their selections to keep it balanced.
- Let them play with their food. Finger foods, kabobs and more add some fun to the lunchbox.
- Check out Pinterest for ideas. See this Pinterest search for ideas that include using a Bento Box, making fun shapes (might we suggest some cookie cutters for saving time and mess?), go with a holiday theme or include notes and pictures for your kids.
And don’t beat yourself up for not having picture perfect lunchboxes every day, keep it easy to stay on track through the year.
Get more back to school tips and sale here.