Back to School is right around the corner, which might leave a lot of households scrambling to prepare for a whole new year of school. Everything from school supply and clothing shopping to signing up for activities is probably going through your mind. One of the main concerns for many parents is how to cheaply feed their children lunch during the school year. This can be one of the most expensive aspects of school for some families. Luckily, there are many solutions to provide your children with delicious lunches that can be fun and healthy too. These ten tricks should get you and your family on the right path to feeding your children during this school year.
1. Free Lunch Program
A lot of parents don’t know that their family might actually qualify for free lunches through a government program. Paperwork for this program is often sent out before school begins or presented during school registration. However, if you do not receive this paperwork, make sure you ask your child’s administration office during the first week of school. Even if you did not qualify during the previous school year, you might consider applying again just in case. If your household income has changed or if the household size has changed then you might qualify for this year. This program can come in handy too because it can allow your child to receive free or reduced priced lunches and breakfasts. This will help cut back on your spending and the amount of time you spend on preparing school lunches.
One of your best assets when it comes to school lunches is leftovers. You can pack these items in containers for a warm lunch at school, which most children will love in comparison to what the school serves. However, if you have more than one child then you might consider cooking a bit more at dinner, so you have enough to give each child for lunch. You don’t have to pass leftovers over as the meal either. For instance, you can liven up meatloaf by making it a sandwich. You can transform fajita night into a delicious burrito that will entice any appetite. Leftover spaghetti can be transformed into a spaghetti taco using a parmesan shell that will make your child smile. There are many ways to work with leftovers, but if you’re not sure what to do with your meal then you can always browse around online. You will be surprised by how many out of the box ideas are posted for some of the most basic menu items.
3. Shop Bulk
When it comes to purchasing items for school lunches, your best bet is to go with bulk buys whenever you can. Keeping up with one child’s lunches can get pricey and you’ll probably run out of supplies quickly. So, if you have multiple children you’ll need to purchase even more. Bulk items actually help save you some money in most cases, which can come in handy when you have so many items to buy. One of the best things to purchase in bulk is bread. If you see a sale on this item, then you should grab as many as you can because bread freezes well. This will ensure you have a staple on hand for your lunches. Chips are another item that can be commonly bought in bulk. From family size bags to coupons that allow you to get more for your money, this food item is easy to add to the meal to keep your child full for less. Snack items and more can help you too, so keep your eye out for these items whenever you’re surfing deals.
4. Invest in Reusables
One of the worth things about packing lunches is having to use plastics to store each of the items you have. You will constantly need to replenish sandwich bags, straws, utensils and more. Worst of all, these items fill our oceans because many of the products can’t be recycled and many more hit the garbage can instead of the recycling bin. Instead of spending a fortune on items that are going to be thrown away, you might consider working with reusables instead. You can find reusable straws made out of plastic, metal and more for a fair price. However, if you’re worried your child will lose them there is also paper and pasta options that can be thrown away. Storage containers can be found just about anywhere too and can be cleaned and used again. You can even find reusable sandwich bags and cling wrap. Of course, you should pack your items in a lunchbox or reusable bag to keep things even more frugal and ecofriendly. After using these products you’ll feel a lot better about your budget and your role in preserving the planet.
5. Forget Prepackaged Foods
Prepackaged foods can do a lot of damage when it comes to your budget. One of the biggest culprits is tiny bags of chips. Although they might make your child feel happy, these chips are a waste of material and money as you will never get the same price for these items as you would a bulk bag of chips. Premade sandwiches and even lunchables can do your budget in too. These items can easily be made at home from scratch for a price that won’t cut into your food budget. These foods are often filled with preservatives too, so you’ll be doing your child a favor to skip them altogether and just use what you already have in the home.
6. Get Creative
The same foods can get pretty boring after eating them throughout the school year. So, you might consider adding a few special touches to some of your child’s go to meals. For instance, you can transform any sandwich into fun puzzle pieces using a knife. If you have cookie cutters at home, then you can also use these to make fun shapes that kids will love. Feeling ambitious? You can even transform your child’s foods into images from their favorite shows and movies. Fruits and vegetables can also be cut into fun shapes to make them seem more appetizing. Of course, there’s lots of other great tips online that you can utilize to make your children want to eat more.
7. Scratch Made Foods
When it comes down to it, some of the best items you can add to your child’s lunch are items that are made from scratch. Bread is actually very simple to make and can give your child a wider variety of options when it comes to flavor. On top of that, this bread doesn’t have preservatives that can cause harm to your child’s health. If you’re looking for healthier options for your kids, then you might consider making your own chips from vegetables. Of course, homemade desserts are always appetizing too and will ensure your child finds a little bit of sweetness in their day. Overall, you can find recipes for all sorts of homemade items that will make your child happy, so if you feel like trying something new then you might use school day lunches as a little motivation to go for it.
8. Go Meatless
Meat can be one of the priciest items to add to your child’s lunch, so you might skip the meat one or two days out of this week. This will help cut prices and might even become a healthier option for your child. Like Meatless Monday, going meat free for lunch can also help improve on the environment too. There are lots of great options that don’t require meat though. For starters, you can send your child to school with a cheese sandwich or even an option that is filled with delicious vegetables. Pita pizzas are often a favorite too and can be packed with nutrients. There are many cheap options though, so have fun with your meatless meals. You can even ask kids for ideas to make them feel like a part of the lunch process.
9. Add Fruit
If you’re really looking to keep things cheap and healthy then skip out on the dessert. Instead, toss in an apple, a banana or any other fruit that you already have in the house. Fruit is one of the cheaper dessert items you can give your child. On top of its low price, it will help give your child more energy throughout the day, which might even improve their grades at school. Sending fruit to school will also help your child develop an idea of what eating healthy is like, which will help them by leaps and bounds when they’re older. Best of all, most fruit doesn’t need packaging and makes a great palate cleanser for most meals. It can even help clean your child’s teeth after eating.
10. Meal Prep
Meal prepping is a huge trend that seems to be here to stay. This technique really comes in handy though, especially with things like school lunches and after school snacks. This also helps prevent your child from having to eat a sandwich every day of the week. Before you start, look over the ingredients you plan to buy during your next grocery trip. You can easily make bulk meals out of many items typically found in the home. For instance, egg bites can be filled with cheese and veggies for a perfect lunch that will help the mind work wonders. You can easily prep all sorts of meals based on your child’s tastes too. So, look around online and plan because meal prepping will make your life so much easier when the school rush begins.
School lunches don’t have to be stressful or expensive if you tackle the problem early. These ten ideas should help you ensure your child has plenty to eat during the school year while also ensuring you don’t spend a bundle on the food. This will allow you to worry about other portions of the school season, which are far more important.