With back-to-school season just around the corner, I’m getting ready to pack lunches on the cheap for my sister. My tips also work for those who brown bag to work. Here’s how to create cheap and tasty brown bag lunches. Plus find out the pros and cons of lunch time options to save money.
Cash-strapped moms can save money on kids’ lunches with these tips.
1. Stock your fridge and pantry wisely. Nutritious food is the goal, but know what your kids will actually eat. I dislike nothing more than packing a lunch that comes back home untouched. It’s such a waste! Here are a couple of cheap and nutritious items in my fridge and pantry that help me whip up easy lunches:
- Proteins: Tuna, Roasted chicken, Boiled eggs
- Fruits & Veggies: Shop for fruits and veggies in season!
- Snacks: String cheese, yogurt, granola bars, chips
- Starches: Breads, crackers, wraps, brown rice, quinoa, couscous
2. Use reusable utensils. Keep plastic baggies, saran wrap, and foil out of the landfills by using reusable baggies and utensils. My sister has her own water bottle, bamboo utensils (including chop sticks), containers and lunch bag. My sister has never lost any of these items (knock on wood!), but you may want to write your kids name on their stuff if they’re young. Stock up on reusable items when you find them on sale. Your wallet will thank you.
3. Skip the single-serving bottled juices. Not only are they full of sugar, the cost adds up! Instead use a reusable water bottle and switch to water. If your kids will not drink water, purchase the family size bottled juices and dilute with water.
4. Make your own frozen food. My sister’s school allows kids to use the microwave to warm up food. If your kids’ school has a similar policy, you can make lunches ahead of time — like lasagna — and freeze it.
5. Buy snacks in bulk. Annie’s organic cheddar bunnies — an alternative to cheddar fish — are a hit in our home! I like to shop for them at Costco and portion them out into reusable baggies. It’s cheaper than buying single servings. The same can be done with other items like cookies, chips, and trail mix. Have kids pitch in during the weekend to separate into reusable baggies.
6. Prep on the weekends. To save money you must plan ahead. I usually have a game plan for the week so my sister knows what she’ll be taking to school every day. My menu plan gives me an idea of what needs to be prepped. This also gives her a chance to let me know if there’s anything special coming up during the week. Her school will sometimes have vendors at school — so I get a break. Woohoo!
7. Use leftovers. Make sure to plan your kids’ lunch menu along with your meal plans. Using leftovers like roasted chicken, pasta, and sides can help cut down on costs.