School season is here which means it is time to pack brown paper lunches! We have 10 great ways to save money on school lunches to help you save!
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Back to School season is here. You may have noticed how the costs of new clothes and school supplies quickly add up. And now you need to pack lunches five days a week, maybe even for multiple children. You want to send your child to lunch with a healthy lunch, but you do not want to spend a ton of money. What if I told you that there was a way to do both, pack a healthy lunch, but also save money on School Lunches!
Here are 10 Easy Ways to Pack Healthy Food AND Save Money on School Lunches
1. Divide Food Into Single Servings Yourself
Having chips, crackers, fruits, or veggies already prepared in single-serving packages is extremely convenient. If you’re looking to save time? Yup, toss those in the lunch bags. But you’re going to pay a pretty penny–even double–for that convenience.
So if you’re instead looking to lower your grocery bill and save money on school lunches, then skip the individually packaged items and buy a large quantity instead.
This includes things like:
slices of cheese and meat
veggies and hummus
It takes a little extra time, but if you’re willing to throw items in individual baggies and do some slicing and dicing yourself, you can save your family a lot of money over the school year.
2. Involve Your Child in Packing School Lunches
Looking for someone to help you with the above process?
Your child is the perfect person to help you divide yogurt and applesauce into smaller containers, put crackers in individual baggies, and sort out the chopped fruits and veggies for the week.
Getting your child involved in the packing of his lunches teaches responsibility, and it’ll be some extra bonding time for the two of you, in addition to saving money and packing healthier lunches. Talk about a win-win-win-win!
3. Invest in Reusable Containers
Instead of buying box after box of Ziploc sandwich bags, you can invest in a few reusable snack bags at the beginning of the year. You can use these few bags throughout the entire year. Not only is this better for the planet, but it’s also better for your wallet too.
Likewise, reusable lunch bags or reusable containers like Bento boxes can save you money on school lunches in the long run. No need to buy a $25 lunch bag either. Branded lunch bags are given away free at some events or sold super cheap at rummage sales or secondhand shops. Investing in reusable containers is much less expensive than buying bags that just get thrown in the trash every day.
4. Buy Meat in Bulk
Meat is usually the most costly part of a meal. So I’ve discovered ways to buy meat in bulk to save lots of money. I recently was introduced to Zaycon Fresh, where you can order bulk meat like turkey, ham, chicken, beef, or seafood 1-3 months in advance. The Zaycon team delivers fresh meat from the farm to a public pickup location. By cutting out the middleman (grocery store), you’re able to buy fresh meat at a discounted price.
If your child loves ham sandwiches, buying ham in bulk and slicing your own meat for sandwiches will be much cheaper than purchasing deli ham.
The deal that I’ve taken advantage of most is fresh, skinless, boneless chicken breast for just $0.99/lb. Ordering from Zaycon is a little different than your usual shopping trip, so here’s a full guide to ordering with Zaycon and the latest Zaycon promo code for more details on how to order healthy meat at bargain prices. (As of this post date, Zaycon has suspended orders. Please check back soon to see if they start accepting bulk orders again).
5. Let Your Child Pick
The biggest waste of money is to buy healthy foods for your child’s school lunch only to have them throw it away at school. As someone who worked in a school for five years, it made me cringe to see all the food kids threw in the trash can without a second thought.
The best way to get your child to eat the food you pack is to offer a few healthy options, then let your child decide which one she wants.
You can give choices like:
When given some say in the decision, your child is more likely to eat the food that’s packed and less likely to throw it away.
6. Meal Prep on Sundays
The most common reason for blowing our monthly grocery budget is not being prepared. We need something to feed our hangry framily like 20 minutes ago, so we grab something convenient–and pricy.
The solution? Meal planning.
For my family, part of our routine is to meal prep on Sundays. Meal planning is one of my many tried-and-true frugal living tips. It saves us a ton of money on groceries and stress throughout the week because we always know the answer to “What to eat?”
Not sure how to get started? Check this out for a beginner’s guide on how to start meal planning (free meal planning printable included!).
7. Pack a Water Bottle
Skipping the bottled drinks and juice boxes is an easy way to pack a healthier lunch and save money on school lunches.
Instead, pack a reusable water bottle filled with fresh, filtered water. Your child will be more hydrated, consume less sugar, and you’ll save money too.
8. Model Healthy Eating
We as parents are our children’s biggest influence. They absorb everything we do and say–including how we feel about our bodies and our eating habits.
It didn’t take long for my toddler to pick up on the differences between my meals and hers. I quickly learned if I wanted her to eat cucumbers for snacks, I had to eat cucumbers for a snack too (or face a battle). And if I didn’t want her to eat chocolate…I had to eat it after she went to bed.
So while you’re eating meals together and even packing your lunches together, model healthy choices. You’ll be in for an uphill battle if you pack your child’s lunch full of broccoli and hummus, but yours has cookies and chips.
9. Go Meatless
Dedicating 1-2 days per week as meatless is another way to save money on lunches.
So what can you eat for lunch if there’s no meat?
Here are a few Meatless Monday ideas for you (or your child) to choose from:
veggie sandwich or lettuce wrap
baked potato with toppings
tomato, hummus, and avocado toast
salad with greens and veggies
black bean quesadilla
stuffed sweet potatoes
Basically, include things with veggies, lentils, beans, and grains to replace a meat meal. Of course, if these are better served warm, using an insulated container will do the trick.
10. Send Leftovers in a Thermos
If you use a Thermos (I recently saw two at my local thrift store), you can send warm leftovers as a cheap lunch. Things like lasagna, chicken noodle soup, spaghetti, or veggie mac-n-cheese can be prepared on Sunday or double a recipe you cook for dinner during the week.
You see, packing healthy school lunches doesn’t have to cost a ton of money. Try these ten tips for packing healthy yet cheap school lunches instead.
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Val Breit was a school counselor turned stay-at-home mom. She crushed over $42,000 in student loans in less than 3 years on a teacher’s salary with her intentional, simple, and frugal lifestyle. Now she’s on a mission to show moms how to make money while pregnant or as a stay-at-home mom, as well as sharing easy ways your family can save money.