budget talk

Packing a Budget Friendly School Lunchbox

Back to school not only means getting back to a regular routine, but also thinking about what to put in the school lunchbox every day. Food prices might be on the increase, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice taste and nutrition.

Get the Children Involved
One sure way to waste money is to pack a lunch that goes uneaten. An easy way to avoid this is to get children involved in planning what they want to eat. Younger children can help pack their box while older ones can even help put together things like trail mixes and sandwiches. If children feel they have some control over a situation and can pick and choose, they’re less likely to put up a fight about eating certain foods.

Bulk Bins
If you’ve never shopped the bulk bins at your local supermarket or co-op before, make it a back to school resolution to do so. You’ll find some healthful choices there and you can sometimes shave off a few dollars from your grocery bill. Take a browse through the bulk bin section and you’ll find lots of organic items, nuts, dried fruits, etc. A couple of recipes I make using these items are trail mix and energy bars. Cheaper than buying them already made and the trail mix can be put into small plastic containers and replenished each day.

Don’t Buy Individual Containers
You’ve seen the individual containers of Jell-O, applesauce, rice pudding, etc. And now I’m even seeing containers of peanut butter. They’re a waste of money and just more plastic that ends up in the landfill. Once again invest in small plastic containers and fill them up each morning.

For some reason, pre-sliced cheese is a big hit in my household. However, I have one rule. If I’m going to buy it, it has to be on sale before it goes into the shopping cart. When I see a deal like two packages for $4, I’ll stock up and store them in the freezer. Other times, I’ll buy a block of cheese and cube it, or make cheese ‘fingers’ that looks like string cheese.

The Food Groups
Try to add something from each food group to the lunchbox and definitely don’t forget the fruits and veggies. Baby carrots, strawberries, sliced kiwis. Even a container of dried fruits like pears or apricots.

Don’t rely on bottled water or soda. Buy a water container and fill it up each morning. Water is probably the best choice but if you hear too much protesting, add half 100% fruit juice and half water.

A few years ago I interviewed Amy Hammert, president and co-owner of Laptop Lunches which sell American Style bento boxes. Laptop Lunches produces one of the best monthly newsletters I’ve seen and I highly recommend you sign up for it. It’s full of great ideas for snacks and meals to include in the daily lunchbox. And while you’re on the site, click on Lunch Ideas, if you can’t find something there to put in the lunchbox, you never will. www.laptoplunches.com

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