When summer ends and the time comes for your kids to return to school for another year, you probably have a lot to think about in terms of preparation. New clothes, school supplies, and that cool backpack your kid has his or her eye on all have to be included in the budget, along with food costs for bagged lunches. If packing healthy lunches for your kids without emptying your wallet is a high priority for you this school year, here are five ways to cut costs without skimping on nutrition.
1. Use Divided Lunchboxes
Wrapping your kid’s bagged food in tinfoil or using costly plastic zipper bags can add up, especially if you are packing multiple lunches. Even using a generic brand can take a considerable bite out of your budget over time, and the waste they cause is making some schools call for a change. To save money and help out the environment, consider buying a reusable thermal lunch bag with divided containers instead. These lunchboxes are typically easy to wipe clean and eliminate the need for individual baggies, cling wrap, or foil.
2. Avoid Waste By Preparing Food Ahead of Time
Sometimes, good intentions can lead to spoiled food and wasted money, so when it comes to packing your kids’ school lunches, planning ahead is important. After all, it will not do you or them any good when the lunch items you purchased sit in the fridge and go bad because you could not find time in the morning to pack them. To prevent wasting your food budget, take a few hours on Sunday evening to pack your kids’ lunches so they will be ready to grab the next morning.
You can make food prep fun as well as functional if you involve your kids in the process. Have them prepare their favorite selections; for example, if your son likes carrot sticks, teach him how to peel and section fresh carrots while you prepare other foods. Your younger children can wash produce, lay out bread, and assist with bringing you ingredients from the pantry.
3. Take Advantage of Leftovers
What your kids love to eat for supper can make a nutritious and tasty lunch as well. While not all leftovers are suitable for a bagged lunch, many selections can be sent along in reusable plastic containers for a unique noontime meal. For example, consider using last night’s roast beef dinner leftovers to make grab-and-go sandwiches or as part of a crisp and healthy salad. Not only will this help to keep your fridge clean, you can save on your food bill as well.
One way to make leftovers fun as well as a money-saving option is to have your kids use their imagination when it comes to making new lunch selections from them. For example, if you have some ingredients left over from taco night, set them out and ask your kids how they might use them to make tomorrow’s lunch. Even they might be surprised at what they come up with.
4. Seek Out New Recipes
If your kids get bored with what you pack in their lunches, they may toss it in the trash barrel and opt to share their friends’ food instead. Since this type of waste can have a negative effect on your food budget, you may want to invest some time in finding new lunchtime recipes your kids will enjoy. Recipes that include dairy-free, low-ingredient products from Hampton Creek can be found on the company’s Instagram page, from lettuce tofu cups to cookies made with their patented egg-free cookie dough.
5. Buck the Traditional Lunch
When you pack your kids’ lunches, do you tend to opt for traditional selections, such as sandwiches, bags of chips, and a dessert? If so, you may want to think about straying off the beaten path and offering your kids a mix-and-match lunch that allows them to browse rather than throwing away food because their time to eat is limited. Some schools offer no more than fifteen to twenty minutes per lunch period, and a smaller lunch that contains finger foods like vegetable sticks with hummus, hard-boiled eggs, and whole-wheat crackers may be more manageable.
Creating bagged lunches that are affordable, nutritious, and delicious can be a challenge, but when you prepare foods ahead of time and involve your kids in what you put in their lunch bags on a daily basis, they will be happier when the lunch bell rings and you will have the satisfaction of seeing your food budget thrive.
Colette is a busy mom of 2 kids focusing solely on being a mom. She hails from the Caribbean and now balances the full life of being a SAHM and dabbling in odd jobs to help around the home. She enjoys sharing her memories, hopes, food, travel, entertainment, and product experiences on her blog. Please read my disclosure