Homemade Tasty and Cheap School Lunch Ideas
So it’s that time of year again, you will be sending the kids off to school, and with that, it’s time to start dealing with what can be a frustrating question – what to pack them for lunch? Of course, you want to pack items that are healthy, will give them the energy they need to make it through the day, meet the school restrictions, and are tasty but what about the cost? Packing lunches daily can be pretty pricey so let’s take a look at some economical lunch solutions.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
Before even heading to the grocery store to pick up on items, it’s important first to be aware of what food restrictions your child’s school and/or class may have. We are all now very used to the nut-free environments at school, but there can be other items your child can’t bring. It may take a little reading at first as you look at the ingredients on all the boxes and cartons at the supermarket but soon you’ll be familiar with what is safe and what isn’t.
Another thing to keep in mind is to have on hand a selection of containers that will work for your child’s tastes. If you child prefers hot lunches, you may want to pick up on a few spill-proof insulated containers, whereas if your child is more of a sandwich type you can find all kinds of perfectly sized reusable containers. It’s all about making your life easy, convenient, and quick when it comes to packing lunches.
A great way to save money is to think ahead when you’re cooking dinners. Try to pick meals that can be versatile and can then be used in lunches for the next few days. This means you aren’t preparing new things or having to purchase new items. An example of this is pasta, which can be cooked in advance even on Sunday afternoon/evening. Cook up a large pot and then start getting creative. You can quickly transform that pasta into a cold salad, add a warm and comforting sauce to it, bake it with some grated cheese and your child’s favourite spices, or add pesto, kidney beans, and veggies for a scrumptious dish. Each day you can serve up the pasta in a different way taking no more than 15 minutes to prepare and at a very low cost.
Another cost-effective option that is quick and straightforward is a selection of finger foods. Pick up your child’s favourite veggies, cold meats, a little cheese, eggs (for hard-boiled eggs), hummus, and some crackers. This sort of meal does well with the reusable containers that have separate sections in them. You can pre-wash and cut up all the vegetables and fruit (if you are sending a fruit). Send them with a variety of nibblers each day, and it will be fun for them to eat, super fast for you to put together, and very cost-effective. To add a bit of substance if they are a big eater you can also include a soft tortilla wrap so they can eat that separately or create their own customized wrap at lunch time.
All You recipes
Meat Eaters Unite
If your child is a meat eater and can’t seem to go a meal without this food group, you can still satisfy their hunger in a cost-effective way. Chicken drumstick are one of the cheapest cuts of meat you can find. Look for the large value packs to go on sale and pick up a pack or two then place one or two drumsticks in a freezer bag and pop them in the freezer. Take out one freezer bag at a time and cook the drumsticks in advance, on say that Sunday night. You can now include fresh meat in their lunch for days and again do it in different ways. Perhaps make a sandwich from the meat, a pasta and chicken salad, a chicken wrap, or just a full drumstick with a container of ranch dressing on the side.
This same idea can be done with any type of meat the key is to package them separately before freezing them.
Warm them Through the Cold Months
Even though we are still enjoying relatively mild and beautiful weather, it won’t be long before it starts getting chilly. This is the perfect time to start enjoying soups and stews, which can be very cheap and easy to make. A slow cooker is a wonderful way to make use of all those leftovers in your fridge, and you can throw in the rice, kidney beans, lentils, potatoes, pasta, or barley to give it more substance and fill their bellies. Don’t forget experiment with those warm and comforting spices such as cumin, garlic, onions, thyme, ginger, nutmeg, and chili peppers that also do an excellent job chasing away those cold and flu bugs. You can add a nice thick slice of fresh bread or a roll that they will be able to dip into the soup and leave them satisfied.
Keep in mind many stews/soups can be frozen so you can ladle them into individual meal portions in your reusable containers making lunch preparations so simple. All you’ll need to do is take it out of the freezer the night before and let it defrost in the fridge overnight. Warm it up in the morning and pour it into an insulated spill-proof thermos.
Take Some Hints
- Get ready for back-to-school with some easy, fast and tasty lunch box ideas from Betty Crocker. Below are some ideas for lunch skewers. Make sure to remove sharp pointy part of skewers before putting it in your child”s lunch box.
fun and simple lunch box skewers with veggies and fruit.
- Club Sandwich Skewers.
- PB & Awesome Skewers.
- Veggie Bites.
- Fruit Fun.
Also, check out
- Veggie Wraps
Cold Roast Beef Sandwich Pizza
- Crescent Dogs
Again, you may want to dress up their lunch in cool containers like these:
To sum it up, there are plenty of ways to make lunches exciting, tasty, healthy, and cost-effective for kids. Planning out the lunches in advance, taking advantage of sales when you find them, seasonal items, and a little advance preparation can actually make a big difference for all.