Save Big on School Lunches

Groceries and the school year and how to save…and I don’t shop at Aldi (personally I’ve found its quality control faulty) and a tip on how to not waste the food that comes back uneaten in their lunch bags…

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The school year actually brings the cost down a bit with no grazing during the day, though one thing that helped with grazing during the summer was when my kids wanted a snack, I’d ask – do you want a hard boiled egg or a banana? If they ate that, then I knew they were truly hungry and not boredom hungry and it was worth going and making a real snack or meal for them.
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You don’t need to blow the budget on school lunches, but neither do you have to blow your TIME budget making home made extravaganzas for them.
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What’s worked for me is getting:
  • large bags of apples and pears and vegetables clearanced at our local Kroger chain store for 99 cents per bag (call them and ask what time they clearance produce)!
  • 59 cent clearanced loaves of bread
  • Deli meat clearanced for 99¢ to $1.99/pound
  • Rice (I make this in the rice cooker at home) with packets of soy sauce
  • Popcorn that’s on sale at Costco in those GIANT bags when they’re marked down to $2.50 – these can last my three school-aged kids two weeks worth of lunch snacks
  • Saltine crackers with a small tupperware of peanut butter
  • French toast (eggs at Walmart are under $2/dozen) to school
  • a bag of raisins or craisins
(If you’re concerned they might still get hungry, I pack an extra container with leftovers from the night before, for example, room temperature noodles + many toppings last just fine.)
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My kids don’t get juice drinks or soda, and I use re-usable bottles for their water (recently at our local Kroger store, they were clearancing reusable water bottles for children for $1.99 each – they’re lasting well and work great/don’t leak).
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Occasionally they get a piece of candy in their lunch bags for dessert – this is especially easy to do for a month or two after Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day (as the day after any particular holiday, stores clearance bags of individually wrapped candies for 75% off and those bags last a long time!)
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Empty bags from bread loaves I use sometimes in place of zip lock baggies. (If I can reduce the paper good replacement rate, that’s a win. The Costco trip that entails grabbing garbage bags, sandwich bags, etc. is an expensive run. By re-using sandwich and snack bags for more than one time in their lunches extends the time between Costco trips.
(Incidentally, a $14 travel coffee mug off Amazon has pleasantly replaced my husband’s disposable travel coffee cups from Costco, saving us money plus giving him a more pleasant coffee drinking experience on his drive in to work.)
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The food that comes home, uneaten in their lunch bags, is what they can snack on when they come home from school and are inevitably hungry. Whatever’s still in their lunch bag, they can eat while I prepare dinner.
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None of these items listed above take a lot of time. Lord knows as a mom I don’t have oodles of spare time laying around for me to waste on something as ordinary as a child’s school lunch.  And the money saved on ordinary lunches can be placed instead on things that matter more, like unforgettable family vacations….or a sport or for lessons for an instrument they want to play.  Happy saving! You’ve got this! You can do it!

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