6 ways to save money on school lunches

Grocery bill alarmingly high? Dietitian and mom of two Cara Rosenbloom offers up six ways to cut costs on school lunches.

Go litterless

A lot of parents still use disposable zip-top bags, paper bags and disposable water bottles that they throw away each day. The cost adds up because you have to constantly buy more. A better option is to buy containers and reusable water bottles and fill and wash them each day. It’s maybe $20 for a container versus $5 for the bags that you throw away—but you only buy it once and use it for years.

Use raw instead of prepackaged ingredients

Illustration of a happy mom with her kids next to her packing their lunches I tried getting my kids to pack their own school lunches: A diary Raw ingredients cost a lot less than prepackaged items. For example, instead of purchasing cheese strings, buy a brick of cheddar cheese and cut your own sticks. Instead of buying yogurt cups, get a 750-millilitre tub and dollop it into your own small containers. The same can be said for baby-cut carrots. They’re much more expensive than buying a two-pound bag of carrots you can peel and cut yourself. As parents, we’re always weighing convenience and cost. If cost is an issue, then prep ingredients at home—or get your kids to help out!

Try more affordable proteins

Not enough parents are getting their kids used to beans, lentils and chickpeas, which are very affordable. They can be super kid-friendly, too. Try throwing a few chickpeas or red kidney beans into a little grain or fusilli salad with cucumbers and carrots. It will cost a lot less than adding meat, tuna or cheese, but still provides much-needed protein.

Buy frozen fruit

When you can’t afford $6.99 for a half-cup of blueberries, check the freezer aisle, where you can get three cups for the same price. In the morning, I take sliced frozen peaches or mangoes from the freezer and defrost them in a little bit of warm water. Then I drain and pack them. By lunch, they’re perfectly ready to eat. Just send along a fork.

Turn your dinner extras into lunch

If there are leftovers from dinner, immediately put them into lunch containers. This makes my job easier because it’s a lunch I don’t have to make, and the kids are happy because it’s food they like.

Plan, plan, plan

Sit down on the weekend and plan what you’re going to have for lunches and dinners—this will help you write a grocery list that actually meets your needs and doesn’t result in wasted food. Try using a meal-planning app, like Today’s Parent Mealtime.

Read more:
6 ways to save money at the grocery store
What to send for lunch—advice from a dietitian