5 Ways to Save Money on School Lunches

school lunches

Guest post from Adeline of Frugal Fanatic

Now that school has started, you may have noticed how quickly all of the different costs add up. Not only did you need to purchase new school clothes and supplies at the beginning of the year, but now you have to figure out how you are going to afford school lunches.

Many parents plan ahead and budget for school supplies throughout the school year, but they forget about school lunches. Having your child buy their lunch from the school each day will quickly add up.

You want to send your child to school with a healthy lunch, but you do not want to spend a ton of money. Here are 5 ways to save money on school lunches.

1. Think Outside the Sandwich

Lunch does not have to be a sandwich every day. Invest in an insulated container that will keep food hot or cold. Leftovers from the night before are perfect. When you make some of your child’s favorite meals you can inexpensively double the recipe to allow for extra servings for lunch.

Not only do you save money, but your child will be happy to be eating one of their favorite foods at school.

2. Slice Your Own Meat and Cheese

If your child likes to eat sandwiches for lunch buy the sandwich meat and cheese in unsliced blocks, and do the slicing yourself. This will save you money instead of spending more to have it sliced at the deli counter.

Even though you will be taking the time to slice it you will quickly see the savings add up.

3. Make Your Own Lunchables

A lot of kids love Lunchables, but they can be pretty expensive. Instead, buy containers with different size sections and make your own version of the Lunchable.

You can use crackers, meats, cheese, veggies with hummus, and fruit. Plus, you will get to use all food you just sliced from our previous tip. This is a frugal alternative and much healthier also.

4. Buy in Bulk and Divide Into Servings At Home

Do not buy single serving packs of snacks like chips, cookies, yogurt and pudding. You are paying for the convenience factor. Instead buy larger packages and separate them into single servings yourself using bags and small containers.

This is a real money saver especially if you used reusable containers.

5. Get Your Kids Involved in the Process

Do not try to force your kids to eat things they really do not like. If you send them to school with a lunch they dislike, chances are they will throw it away. That is like throwing your money in the trash!

Instead, get your kids involved int he lunch-packing process and try to compromise — finding healthy foods that they love and will eat.

It may be difficult at first, but once you get into a routine and find out some of your child’s favorite foods, you can save money while still packing foods they enjoy.

If you are already calculating how much money you are going to spend this school year, try some of these ways to save money on school lunches. You can be frugal and still give your kids a healthy and tasty lunch each day.

What tips do you have for saving money on school lunches?

Addi Ganley is a work-at-home mom of 3 young boys. Her blog, Frugal Fanatic, focuses on how to live a frugal lifestyle. She is passionate about saving money and believes that if you save where you can then you can spend where you want to. Frugal Fanatic is her way of helping other people learn how to manage their finances in every day life.

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Brigette’s $56 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan for 6

Biggest grocery success of the week: finding huge boxes of reduced produce at the Farmer’s Market and walking away with enough produce to last us for weeks – all for $11.50!!

Biggest grocery failure of the week: somehow losing the pictures documenting this success. I have looked EVERYWHERE on my camera, and they are just not there. (Seriously!! How can you lose pictures on a camera?) So you will just have to use your imagination. :)

Another grocery success this week was trying the $1.69/lb ground turkey from Aldi for the first time – and my husband gave it a thumbs-up! Thanks so much for all of you that gave suggestions and encouragement to me last week! I mixed the turkey with rice, beans, and taco seasonings (and yes, I realize that you could mix just about anything with rice, beans, and taco seasonings and it would taste good, but that’s beside the point) and we used it in taco salad. Yum!

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Aldi

2 3-lb bags Golden Delicious Apples (@$0.69/lb) – $4.14, plus receive $0.50 back from Snap by Groupon

1 10-lb bag Russet Potatoes – $3.49

2 2-lb bags Honeycrisp Apples (@$1.29/lb) – $5.16

1 3-ct package Romaine Hearts – $1.99

1 Pineapple – $1.29

3 Pomegranates (@$0.69/each) – $2.07

1 bunch Bananas (2.76 lbs @$0.44/lb) – $1.21, receive $0.25 back from Checkout 51

Tortilla Chips – $1.19

2 32-oz cartons Half and Half (@1.69/each) – $3.38

1 8-oz package Cream Cheese – $0.99

1 16-oz package Baby Carrots – $0.99

1 dozen Eggs – $1.39

1 gallon Milk – $3.69, plus receive $1.00 back from Snap by Groupon

Total: $30.98, plus receive $1.50 back from Snap by Groupon and $0.25 back from Checkout 51

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Harris Teeter

1 carton Egg Whites – $3.97

2 16-oz packages Turkey Bacon (@$2.50/each) – $5.00, used 2 $0.75/1 Printable (doubled) – $1.00/each after coupons

1 Cabbage (@$0.39/lb) -$1.37

1 2-liter bottle Cheerwine – $1.00, used .50/1 SS 10/6 (doubled) – FREE after coupons

1 bag Harris Teeter Shredded Cheese -$1.67

4 cans Progresso Soup – $5.30, used 2 $0.50/2 Progresso Product, exp. 12/13/14 (SS 10/19/14) (doubled), plus $1.00 Harris Teeter evic – $2.30/4 after coupons, plus receive $1.50 catalina for buying 4 (this works out to $0.20 each, and is worth it to me since my husband like taking these to work for his lunch)

2 bags Food Should Taste Good Multigrain Tortilla Chips (@$2.00/each) – $4.00, used 2 $0.75/1 Printable (doubled) – $0.50/each after coupons

1 package Sargento Muenster Cheese Slices – $3.00, used $0.55/1 Printable (doubled), plus $0.55/1 Harris Teeter evic – $1.35 after coupons

2 containers McCormick Cinnamon (B1G1 @ $1.79) – $1.79, used $1.75/2 McCormick Spices or Herbs, exp. 11/2/14 (RP 10/05/14) – $0.02/each after coupons

Total after all Coupons, Sales and Tax: $13.70, plus receive $1.50 catalina back

Farmer’s Market 

(not pictured)

1 box of green beans, reduced (about 13 lbs) – $5.00

1 huge box of assorted fresh vegetables including zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, green peppers, cucumbers, cabbage, and hot peppers – $5.00

1 3-lb bag Apples – $1.50

Total: $11.50

Weekly Total after all Sales, Taxes, and Coupons: $56.18, plus receive $3.25 back in rebates and catalinas

Weekly Menu Plan

Breakfasts

Oatmeal and fruit x 5, Cinnamon Rolls and Eggs, Cereal

Lunches

Shared lunch at the park with friends – I am bringing fruit for everyone; Grilled Cheese Sandwiches/Fresh Veggies and Fruit x 2; Leftovers x 2; Baked Potatoes with Cheese and Broccoli/Fruit x 2,

Dinners

Dinner Out with Friends

Oatmeal Pecan Pancakes, Scrambled Eggs, Turkey Bacon (breakfast for dinner)

Hamburger Vegetable Soup (using ground turkey instead of hamburger), Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

Dinner with our Shepherding Group at Church

Taco Salad (back by multiple requests!), Steamed Cauliflower

Dinner at a Friend’s House – I am bringing Freezer-Friendly Pumpkin Bars

Leftovers

Snacks/Desserts

Popcorn

Dessert Night with Friends (I am hosting): Homemade Caramel Corn, Apple Slices with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese DipFreezer-Friendly Pumpkin Bars

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On Perfectionism & Disappointing Readers

Can I just be really honest with you tonight? You know what one of the hardest parts about blogging has been for me?

It’s that some readers want me to be perfect.

I know they’d probably never say out loud, “I expect you to be perfect,” but if I admit that I failed at something or am struggling with something, they are disappointed and they voice that disappointment.

Here’s the thing: I understand that part of blogging in a public forum is the fact that I’m choosing to let people into my life. I’m choosing to open up myself and our family and our choices to other people’s really honest opinions.

I get that. And I own that.

But at the same time, in the past, it’s held me back from sharing candidly about certain topics that I’d really like to blog about. Why? Because I know that writing about certain topics means other people are going to voice their opinions over my decisions and or be disappointed in my short-comings.

More and more, though, I’m becoming okay with it. Because I realize that it’s exhausting to try to please everyone.

I don’t have it altogether.

I sometimes yell at my kids.

I get frustrated with my husband.

I don’t always want to make meals from scratch.

I sometimes (usually?) let my laundry pile up way too high.

I’m often running late.

I have many moments where I feel so very inadequate to be sharing anything in a blog post or a book or on a stage because I feel like I’m such a mess myself.

A few days ago, I wrote a post about quitting my cutting back on caffeine goal for this month. I know it was the right decision and most of you cheered me on in it or even expressed relief that I gave up my lofty goal.

A few people weren’t so thrilled with me. They wrote in annoyed that commentors would be supportive of me and a some even strongly chided me for not following through with my goal.

I’m sure these readers meant well, but in each case, they didn’t know me or my family personally. In addition, they didn’t know that the next few weeks are some of the fullest weeks I’ll probably have all year long (we have multiple trips + some big projects to complete) and I can’t be dragging or running on weird sleep patterns. I have to do what’s best for my family and myself and I have follow my own advice to give myself grace — even if it means that I disappoint a few readers.

What I’m learning, though, is that when I share my short-comings and struggles, I may disappoint a few people. But ultimately, I will encourage many, many more people.

It helps others know that they aren’t alone in their struggles. We’re in this together.

We’re learning right along with each other. We’re stumbling. We’re falling down. We’re making mistakes. And we’re here to encourage each other to get back up, keep pressing forward, keep doing the best you can do with the time and resources we have.

Progress Not Perfection

And here’s the truth: I’d rather disappoint a few people and be a completely honest and authentic blogger who shares my struggles and success than try to pretend like I have it altogether and make the majority of people feel like they can’t measure up.

None of us have it altogether. None of us are perfect. But we can all learn from each other, inspire each other, and cheer each other on — in both our struggles and successes.

When we are honest and authentic with each other, we are all stronger for it. Who’s with me? :)

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Gretchen’s $10 Target Shopping Trip

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Target Shopping Trip

Transaction #1

The following were a part of the Buy 3 participating products, Get $5 Target gift card:

1 Icy Hot Gel – $4.99
1 Icy Hot Advanced Relief – $5.49
1 Allegra Anti-Itch Cream – $4.59
Used 2 $1/1 printable here and here
And used $3/2 Target printable
And used Free $5 Target gift card when you buy $15 in personal care

Total with tax ($0.16): $10.23, Received 2 $5 Target gift cards

Transaction #2

2 Pull-Ups – $7.99 each
Used 2 $2.25/1 printable (no longer available)
And used 2 $2/1 printable

Used gift cards from Transaction #1

Free after coupons and gift cards

Total for both transactions before coupons and sales: $33.21

Total for both transactions after coupons, sales and gift cards: $10.23

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How I’m Helping My Daughter’s Special Needs via Swagbucks, Surveys, and Coupon Apps

free items

Testimonial from Samantha

About 9 months ago, we found out that my daughter had autism, it was a shock and has been something we have spent these last 9 months dealing with, as well as proactively seeking treatment for her.

We have gone the traditional routes with speech, occupational, and physical therapies for her (which are thankfully covered by insurance) as well as the biomedical route.

We also immediately started her on a Gluten-free, Casein-free diet. It is expensive but I have been able to find great deals using the coupons and match-up from your weekly Organic and Natural coupon posts.

One thing that kept coming up in my web research was a cookbook called “Special Diets for Special Kids“.  I really wanted this cookbook, but couldn’t justify the splurge on our already tight budget — so I check my Swagbucks and saw that I had enough gift cards to cash out for $25 (which was enough to pay for the book!)

Another route I have been researching (and was happy to see your post on) was essential oils. I am trying go avoid medications whenever possible, but still keep my family healthy.

While we are somewhat obsessive about hand washing and have started taking a daily multivitamin and even probiotics, I wanted to try some essential oils too. I have been able to purchase “Essential Oils for the Healthy Child” as well as few synergy blends from Plant Therapy using my various on-line earnings, as well as a sample pack from Native American Nutritionals.

So how have I been able to make money online?

Most of the ideas below came directly from your website!!

1. Swagbucks:

I try to run the Swagbucks TV app on my phone or tablet throughout the day as well as do the Daily Poll, Encrave, NOSO, and Discover Content.

2. Surveys:

I have also signed up with several survey companies including Pinecone, MyPoints, Opinion Outpost, Survey Spot, Inbox Dollars, and MySurvey.

While I don’t do those every day or even every week, when I get a free moment or while I’m watching TV with my husband, I will do a few surveys. I have earned about $10 or more from each of those survey companies — which I then cash out to my PayPal account.

3. Coupon Apps:

My final avenue of income as a SAHM is coupon apps such as Ibotta, Jingit, Shopmium, Checkout 51, and Saving Star.

I check each of those after a trip to the grocery store and upload receipts to those for matching offers. Most of those have a PayPal option as well, which I often choose.

This has been a hard year for us, both emotionally and financially, with little money to throw around. But with using my precious free time (I don’t have much as a mommy to 2 preschoolers and an infant) I have been able to make a bit of extra cash to purchase some helpful items for my daughter and my family as a whole.

Thank you!

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Letting you in on a secret we’ve been keeping…

I hinted around about it last week, but the cat’s officially coming out of the bag tonight. And I couldn’t be more thrilled and excited and, well, a little scared, too. :)

But it’s good to step out of your comfort zone and do things that scare you a tiny bit, right?

So, here’s our big news: my team and I are currently developing a line of organizational and inspirational products!

If all goes as planned, we’ll be launching this product line in-stores nationwide in 2015! It’s a little bit mind-blowing to me at this point how all of this has come together — especially because it’s the realization of a long-time big, crazy dream of mine!

We’re working with an amazing company on this and I cannot wait to tell you more about this company, their commitment to giving back and making a global impact, and the story of how this product line came to be.

Would You Fill Out This Quick Survey?

We want to do our best to meet YOUR needs with this product line, so we’d love your input. Can you take a few minutes to fill out this simple survey for us?

All answers are anonymous. Feel free to skip any question that you don’t know the answer to or would prefer not to answer.

Click Here to Fill Out the Survey

Thank you so very much! And thank you for being on this journey with me and for all of your support over the years. You all bless me each and every day.

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