4 ways to save money on healthier school lunches

save money on lunch at school or at workBy now, you may have already joined the cold lunch revolution. You know how to save time packing those lunches and have a few ideas for some easy recipes. It’s time to ensure you are saving money when you convert to the brown bag.

Create your own individually wrapped package

Good things may come in small packages but small packages usually mean higher prices and more waste. Rather than buying individually wrapped snacks or milk and juice boxes, purchase larger portions of these items and package them yourself in reusable, BPA-free containers and thermoses.

ReUseIt.com has hundreds of reusable lunch bags, containers, utensils, and more. And bonus, new ReUseIt.com customers get to choose a free gift with their first purchase.

Bulk bins, often found at stores like Whole Foods, are now popping up in local grocery stores. Frequenting these bins gives you a variety of options where you can see the product, create your own mixes, control the quantity, and keep waste out of landfills.

Buy in bulk wisely

Determine the cost per unit to make sure you are really getting a good deal. Be sure you know how long the product will last once it’s opened. Does your kid actually like the product? You won’t save money if the food goes to waste before it’s eaten, or sits on a shelf because it tastes like cardboard. Buy only the amount of food that can be used in a reasonable amount of time.

Consider their time

According to my inside sources, my son spends the majority of his 20-minute lunch “hour” visiting with his friends. This explained the uneaten lunches of the past. Acknowledge if your child is a fast or slow eater, and be realistic about the time they have to eat versus the amount you have packed in their lunch. Do a time trial at home if necessary. Prepare food that is easy to eat. (e.g. Apple slices are quicker for little kids to munch than a whole apple). Turn lunch leftovers into an after-school snack.

Consider their tastes

Plain and simple, if you pack what they like it has a lesser chance of ending up in the garbage like wasted money. Limit your child’s choices to three to five tried and true items. School lunchtime might not be the best time to experiment with new casseroles.

Unless, of course, your child just loves experimental casseroles…..

Packing school lunches may not be a reality for everyone every day of the week. You may need a little time, ingenuity and foresight, but making lunches part of your weekly routine will bring you savings in food, health and waste costs.

What do you do to save money on food?

[Photo: mconnors/morguefile]

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About Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson is a freelance writer with nearly 20 years of experience in community health education, non-profit program management and mental health counseling. Amy works on projects that promote greener, healthier living through pragmatic approaches. She is an avid fan of reality therapy, small town farmers markets and dishing out home cooking with unsolicited advice. You can also follow Amy’s adventures in realistic wellness.