Money Mondays- Back to School Lunches

As your children are heading back to school, your grocery bill might take a beating. There are two common types of school lunches: Homemade, and School-made. For those that prepare homemade lunches, let's take a look at what you prepare and how you can save money.

Most lunches contain a main course such as:
1. Sandwiches, pasta, pizza etc.
Buy what your children like. I have seen families cut back and buy cheap wheat bread only to learn that their children were trashing the sandwiches, trading them or bringing them back home.

Mix it up also. Soups go a long way. Make it in the slow cooker over night, divide in thermos' in the morning and offer toppings such as cheese. Stir fry over rice makes lunch special and filling for busy teens. Buy a whole head of lettuce for $2.99 (1 head of romaine lettuce can feed 4-6 people) rather than a bag of lettuce for $3.99 (which can feed 2-4 people). Add different dressings, and layer with protein, crunchy onions, fruit etc.

Then the lunchbox is filled with :
3. Chips
4. Juice
5. Fruit
6. The Often forgotten: Veggies

The side items can be packaged using bulk or family size items. Depending on your family size and amount that you eat, bulk buying would work. What ever you do, save your money and do not buy prepackaged items! I am shocked that these items have gone from one pound bag of mini carrots for $1.99 to four, 8oz bags for $4. Have you noticed that is less food for more money? Buy fresh large quantities, send the kids outside, cut up and separate your own food. Matter-of-fact, get the kids involve and let them bag up what they like. You can prepare a weeks worth in one evening.

*Tip: If your child only eats 4 mini celery, only send them to school with 4. It will save you money a headache knowing that your food isn't in the trash.

Wait, you can save even more money: 
Plastic bags add up especially if you have 3 children and each one take 3 bags to school daily. The dollar store sells #16 sandwich sized bags for $1.00. That will only get you through 1 1/2 school days. Well named sandwich bags will cost $7.00-$9.99 for #125 bags. That will last about 13 school days. You can fork out about $126-$180 over the next 9 months. Are you willing to reuse the same plastic bags to save money?

The latest trend is bento style lunches.
For those that followed this blog 5 years ago, you would have learned about my years spent in Japan. Bento box lunches derive from Japan and I ate plenty of them. Bento boxes provided a variety of foods to be served. The bottom tray is often filled with rice and the top compartments were filled with fermented veggies, sweet/salty snacks, fruit and a marinated protein such as meat or tofu. I often cook dinner bento style so carrying that into lunch was easy.

Bento lunch boxes range from $5.00 (BPA-free plastic container)-$50.00 (Stainless Steel with the bag). Don't get overwhelmed, just buy the compartmentalized containers, fill and make lunch simple for yourself. You will save hundreds over the next few years.


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