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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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11 Comments

  • Amie says:

    These are good tips. My son’s school now provides all students with free lunch, but prior to that, I packed mini muffins, homemade granola bars, hard boiled eggs, cheese, fruit slices, carrot sticks with ranch dressing, pb&j, crackers, etc. he loved it. We bought a Spiderman thermos and even sent his milk.

  • Doretta says:

    I’m always on the lookout for frugal lunch ideas with 4 lunches to pack. In my case though, it pays me buy my meat and cheese sliced because I don’t have an electric slicer and there’s no way I can slice as thin as what I order at the deli. My children enjoy fruit jello cups so I bought small leak proof containers and make my own.

    • lori says:

      When ham goes on sale at Kroger, I pick one out and take it to the meat counter. I have them cut half of it super thin for sandwiches and the other half into ham steaks for a fast dinner. When I get home, I repackage it in individual bags and then into a larger ziplock bag and put in the freezer until needed. I don’t remember the exact savings over buying regular lunch meat but it’s significant, even when the ham is not on sale. It’s one thing both my kids will eat.

  • Christine says:

    Another way to save – instead of using lunch meat in sandwiches, you can cook whole chickens and turkeys, debone them and use the meat. It’s much cheaper!

  • Laurie says:

    With 2 girls I pack 10 lunches total for the week. I only buy the nitrate free meat at Trader Joes turkey and ham. My budget does allow us to shop at TJ’s so I feel like the quality it top notch. For my oldest DD she loves Progresso soup in her thermos. My rock bottom price is 88cents a can and I will buy 4-5 cases at a time. My other DD loves ham and cheese roll ups or some type of wrap. I do buy the indicidual friut cups and chip bags b/c they have been much cheaper than buying the larger bags that have not been on sale. They always get a dessert granola bars,little Debbies if I can find them for 99cents. I try to keep it fun with lots of surprises. I try to spend 400/mos on groceries,but more if I am stockpiling. Some good idea’s.

  • Jen says:

    Having the kids make their own lunches was the best thing in our house. Last year, the girls were in 1st and 5th (yes, 5th and I was still making her lunch!). The little one makes the same thing every day and eats it all. She loves cranberries, sliced cheese, red peppers and dip. Plus a small cookie :-). The older one loves leftovers so I invested in a good thermos and she takes homemade chicken noodle soup, pasta and meatballs, even taco filling (with tortillas packed separately).

  • K says:

    Any tips on how to slice lunch meat thin?

  • I also have a post titled Five Ways to Save on School Kids’ Lunches! (Linked to my name here)

    Slice meats thin by cooking meat tightly bound (i.e. tied or packed tightly in pan). Refrigerate before slicing. I found a Rival meat slicer for $2 at a yard sale (packaged like new but it turns out it was used so I washed it very thoroughly.)
    I also have a nicer slicer on an Amazon wish list and I use keepa.com to inform me of price drops on this or any other needed items.

  • Lizzy says:

    Years ago, when my daughter was in kindergarten, she begged me to buy lunchables. At the time, they only had ham, American cheese, and a plain white cracker (at least in my area). The funny thing was, she hated those foods! Once a week, I gave her cheese I sliced myself on whole grain crackers and she was very happy.

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