It’s no secret that the cost of raising a child these days is expensive. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a middle-income family can expect to spend over $270,000 on their child by the time they reach age 18. That number only increases if you factor in things like college tuition.
So how do you manage to provide for your child when money is tight? One way is to save on school lunches.
Take advantage of school lunches if your school lunch menu is any good (some are better than others), and you qualify for free or reduced lunches based on your income. If not, check out these ideas.
Here are 20 money-saving tips to help you do just that:
Pack A Lunch
Perhaps the easiest way to save money on school lunches is to pack your own. Packing your child’s lunch doesn’t have to be a boring PB&J either. Get creative with your child’s lunch by including healthy and tasty items like fruits, vegetables, whole grain bread, yogurt, and nuts.
Another great way to save money is using leftovers from dinner the night before. Package them in a reusable container and send them off with your child the next day.
Skip Prepackaged Foods
While prepackaged foods may be convenient, they’re also typically more expensive than their unpackaged counterparts. So next time you’re at the grocery store, skip the individually wrapped items, opt for bulk items instead, and pack your goldfish in small plastic containers.
Pack Plenty Of Snacks
If your child is anything like mine, they always ask for snacks. To save money (and keep those little tummies full), pack some healthy snacks like fruits, veggies, or whole grain crackers. Please remind your child to bring home any uneaten snacks to eat later or (send them the next day) to reduce food waste.
Purchase In Bulk
One way to save money on lunches (and snacks) is to purchase items in bulk. Buying in bulk is beneficial if you have more than one child in school. Buying in bulk often leads to significant savings, which you can use to purchase other necessary school supplies.
If your child loves those prepackaged Lunchables, you can easily make your own at home. Purchase some deli meat, cheese, crackers, and fruit and put them together in a reusable container. Voila! You’ve saved yourself some money (and avoided all those preservatives).
Invest In Quality Supplies
If you’re packing your child’s lunch daily, it’s worth investing in a good-quality lunch box or bag. That will help keep food fresh and prevent accidental spills or leaks.
Also, consider reusable lunch containers. These will save you from spending money on wraps and baggies.
Whenever possible, use coupons to purchase lunchtime items. You can often find great deals on bread, peanut butter, and prepackaged snacks. Only buy prepackaged if it is a great deal. Otherwise, it’s too expensive.
One of the best ways to save money is by planning. That applies to school lunches as well. If you know what you’ll be packing for lunch ahead of time, you can often take advantage of sales and discounts. Planning the week and setting out the lunches the night before are the best meal prep tips any mama needs.
Shop Discount Stores
If you’re on a tight budget, consider shopping at discount stores for lunchtime items. Often, you can find the same products for less money. Consider Aldi, Price Rite, or even dollar stores for great deals.
Consider Frozen Fruit and Veggies
Frozen fruit is a fun way to keep costs down and buy out of season. Both fruits and vegetables are flash-frozen at the peak of ripeness, so they are packed with vitamins and taste great.
Save Money On Drinks
In addition to packing a nutritious lunch, don’t forget to include a healthy drink. Water is always the best option, but you can pack juice or milk also. Grab a reusable thermos or refillable water bottle instead of buying individual bottles.
Skip The Sandwich
Some kids would rather have a bunch of finger foods than a traditional lunch. If there are plenty of healthy options and some protein, feel free to get creative.
Pack Leftovers From Breakfast
If you have leftover pancakes, waffles, or eggs from breakfast, consider sending them with your child for lunch. These items can easily be kept warm in a thermos and make a great addition to any lunchtime meal.
Make Healthy Snacks
Granola bars are an excellent option for a quick and easy snack. And the best part is, you can easily make them at home. Mix some oats, honey, peanut butter, and chocolate chips and bake them in the oven.
Once they’re cooled, cut them into bars and pack them up for your child’s lunch. Other healthy options are cookies and muffins that you can sneak in fruits and veggies.
Your children will think they’re getting a sweet treat and won’t even notice the carrots or zucchini.
Plan Around Sales
Check the sales flyers, and then plan your lunches. Just like dinner, find the best deals, plan, then shop. If deli turkey and grapes are on sale, that’s lunch this week.
Batch Cook/Prep and Freeze
Instead of buying Uncrustables, assemble sandwiches and freeze them. They stay cold and thaw by lunchtime. That makes it easy to grab and go in the mornings.
Pasta is super economical and versatile. Make a pasta salad, macaroni salad, or add sauce. Most kids have a favorite pasta topping.
Request Ideas From Your Kids
Kids know what they like or haven’t had in a while. If they participate in planning their lunches, they are more apt to eat them. Please take into consideration what they like when planning.
Dips Make Everything Better
Kids love to dip their food, whether ranch, ketchup, BBQ sauce, or hummus. It makes eating more fun and can encourage them to try new things. Plus, it’s a great way to sneak in some extra vegetables.
Final Thoughts On Tips To Save Money On School Lunches
There are endless possibilities for lunchtime meals. Providing your child with a healthy and affordable school lunch can be challenging. But with a bit of creativity and planning, it is possible. If you get creative, you can easily find ways to save money and still provide your child with a nutritious and delicious meal. Check out our tips for easy and cheap school lunches that will leave your child happy and satisfied. And don’t forget that shopping around for sales is the best way to save money. So don’t be afraid to think outside the lunch box! Your child will thank you for it.