When trying to live frugally, finding ways to get more for less expense is your main goal. School lunches can be a problem area in a frugal lifestyle. Your child needs to eat enough to sustain them through the day, but limiting the amount of food wasted is also important.
If you live in an area where low income families are eligible for free school meals, you should sign up for this service. There are 2 main benefits associated with this.
The first is that you will not have to spend money on food that may not be eaten. The second benefit is that in most cases your child will have a hot meal at school for lunch, meaning the evening meal can be sandwiches or a smaller portion of hot food.
Not all countries have a free school meals programme, and if you have to provide your child’s lunches, then assessing the ingredients carefully is important. The ideal school lunch has enough carbohydrates to fill the child up and provide slow-release energy for the rest of the day, along with fruit and vegetables and a drink.
There is no point in filling your child’s lunch box with brown rice and bean curds if they wont eat it. Those foods may be good for them, and relatively cheap for you to provide, but if it gets thrown away and your child eats more when they get home before dinner, you have not really saved any money at all. Better to give your child things that you know they will eat, so that you are only feeding them once for that meal and not twice.
Try to vary the carbohydrates that you provide each day. There are many different kinds of bread, pasta, rice, beans etc that can form the basis of the school lunch. You can often use left-overs from the previous night’s dinner in your child’s school lunch.
Invest in some small plastic tubs with lids. These can hold a small portion of pasta salad, rice and raw vegetables, couscous with olives or any other colourful combination. You can also get some colourful plastic spoons or forks for your child to use just for their school lunches.
Sandwiches can be boring if you have the same thing every day. Try using a variety of fillings that you can keep on your refrigerator for a few days in small bowls, such as tuna with grated cheese and chopped spring onions, or mashed corned beef and beetroot. Add a little mayonnaise or salad dressing can help bind the ingredients together.
These fillings can then be spread onto bread, with or without butter or margarine, or onto crackers sandwiched together. This will help them go further than trying to pile up the ingredients in a single sandwich.
Whatever foods you are going to use in your child’s school lunches, buying in bulk is the frugal option. Purchase multi-packs of drinks in cartons instead of individual cans or bottles. Alternatively, buy some concentrated juice drink that you can add water to, and fill up your own bottle each day.
Try to avoid foods deliberately aimed at children, particularly foods with well known characters from film or television on the packets. These will almost certainly be more expensive than the standard versions. Make your own cookies, with help from your children, and pack them with berries, seeds and nuts for a high fibre, low sugar treat.
Filling your child’s school lunch box with healthy yet appealing and low cost foods is not as difficult as it may first seem. Reducing the wasted food is just as important as spending less on the ingredients in the first place.