The Frugal Lunchbox

Since I first posted about living frugal, it really got me thinking. I’ve been paying more attention to our daily lives.

My children are in school, and I pack their lunches every day. Some acquaintances of ours could not believe that I could pack a lunch that costs less than $1.00 (give or take a little depending on what they want, but the average is about $0.75). Here are some of the things I pack in their lunches:

  • PB&J sandwiches on homemade bread – this is what they take most often because this is what they want. Who am I to argue with protein. (peanut butter bought on sale or in bulk, jelly has been store bought here lately, but I prefer to use homemade.
  • cheese sandwich on homemade bread
  • Pretzels instead of chips ($1.18/bag at Wal-Mart, but I try to buy them on sale as much as I can)
  • fresh fruit (bought on sale) – bananas, apples, oranges, & grapes are their favorites (apples & oranges are sliced at home and divided up accordingly – apples get treated with lemon juice & water to help keep them from turning) – fruits are rinsed well before eating
  • carrot sticks/baby carrots are another favorite and cheaply bought
  • yogurt – buy in large containers and divide into individual servings or buy on sale (they love Go-Gurt, but it doesn’t go on sale very often)
  • ravioli – I can get Aldi’s brand for $0.79/can
  • leftover homemade soups or other dishes (pennies here!)
  • leftover spaghetti (teachers will reheat noodles in the classroom before lunchtime)
  • peanut butter crackers (extremely cheap)
  • air popped popcorn (extremely cheap)
  • homemade granola (extremely cheap)
  • homemade cookies, brownies, cupcakes, muffins, etc. (another item for pennies!)
  • occasional piece of candy, but not very often (usually left over from a holiday)
  • occasional chips, but very rare – usually after a party of some sort when there are a few left over.
  • apple juice/water to drink (bought on sale and put in reusable bottles)

Everything that I send with them is placed into plastic reusable containers which saves on not having to buy baggies all the time. They take a main dish, 1 side, 1 snack, 1 dessert, and a drink.

As you can see, those 4 items usually add up to right around $1.00 on average. So, instead of paying $2.00-$2.25/ school meal/day x 3 kids, and knowing that they’re not eating even half of what they’re “buying” at school, this is a much better alternative. Plus, they get to pick what they want to eat and they usually eat most everything!

As for my husband, Brian, he usually takes leftovers, but he also takes sandwiches, and he takes fruit, and a dessert.

For me, since I’m home, I just round up something here – anything from leftovers to yogurt, fruit, & granola.

So, see – lunches can be cheap! Here’s a break down of the math for you:

Kids:

$6.25/day for 3 school lunches x 5 days = $31.25/week or $125/month

OR

$1/day for 3 packed lunches x 5 days = $15/week or $60/month. Usually, the lunches end up around $0.75/each(or less) or $11.25/week or $45/month

Brian:

If he ate out every day he would average $6/day x 5 days = $30/week or $120/month

Me:

I eat ate home so about the same as kids, or even less since our meals average around $5/meal which feeds us 1 dinner and at least 1 lunch.

Here are some tips to make lunches easier and mornings less stressful:

  • portion out items on Sunday night for the week as much as possible (i.e. pretzels, carrots, grapes, sliced oranges, etc. )
  • If you know an item will need to be heated before packing, set out thermoses, pot needed to heat food, and something to heat water in
  • set out all containers needed for packing lunches
  • package up any homemade goodies/candy that they will be taking
  • sandwiches can be frozen in advance by putting peanut butter on both slices of bread and then jelly in the middle, but I found that my kids made a huge mess with them because the jelly kept sliding out.

I hope this will help give you some ideas for lunches and how to make them cheaply but still tasty.

This post linked to Frugal Friday

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