Cooking On A Budget: Packing School Lunches

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Packing School Lunches

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If you are cooking on a budget you are shopping on a budget.  School lunches can be a very expensive part of your budgeted grocery money. Deli meats are expensive - not to mention loaded with sodium and preservatives.  Off the shelf snacks are often highly priced.  Here are some helpful tips to save you money.  You will however need some small containers and a small thermos that holds in hot or cold food items and sandwich sized bags to hold sandwiches and other goodies.

  • Any left over dinner meats - chicken, turkey, ham, roast beef, or even steak can be thinly sliced for sandwiches.  Add lettuce, tomatoes, thinly sliced avocado or apples to the sandwich. For the dressings use mayonnaise, mustard or ketchup.  Make a blend of mayonnaise and ketchup with some ground up sweet pickle to make a sauce similar to a McDonald's dressing. Be imaginative based on your child's likes or dislikes.
  • Instead of buying the expensive puddings that are 6 to a pack, use a My-T-Fine or Jello brand pudding mix and make your own.  Package in small round containers. It yields more than 6 and is far less expensive.  If there are no nut allergies add in some nuts (very nutritious) to a chocolate pudding.
  • Make Jello and put that in small containers. Add in small chunks of fruit.
  • Make your own trail mix blends like peanuts, raisins and some M&M's.
  • Buy a box of saltine cracker or Ritz crackers and make your own combination "sandwich" like peanut butter, peanut butter with slices of banana or apple or pears.
  • Over the weekend, bring your children into the kitchen with you and make some healthy mini muffins: carrot, corn, pumpkin or blueberry or cranberry are a few ideas.  Bake cookies that are nutritious - oatmeal and raisin, peanut butter or any family favorite.
  • If you have made chili, a stew or a soup for dinner - heat those up and put them in a thermos. Heat up left over spaghetti and sauce and put that in their lunch.
  • As with pudding from the shelves, already packaged fruit packs are also pricey.  Depending on what is on sale, pack containers of fresh fruit, or buy cans of fruit like peaches and pears and pineapple and make your own blends to put in small containers.
  • Buy cream cheese when it goes on sale.  Let the cream cheese come to room temperature and add in some milk or half and half to make it smooth.  From there add in nuts or diced fruit or olives - or any finely diced vegetables.  Use it as a dip for fruit and vegetables or as a spread on mini bagels.
  • Purchase a large container of plain yogurt and add in your own blend of fruits and granola for crunch.
  • Change up the breads you use to make sandwiches - try and get your children to eat whole grain breads. Wraps, pita bread and mini croissants or bagels could be some other alternatives.
Ask your children for ideas and use your imagination.  Look at food sites like this one and others to get ideas. The possibilities and combination's are endless! School lunches never tasted so good!
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