Because of the economy, some people are finding themselves on a tighter budget than they’ve ever been on. Some of us have been on a tight budget for a while and might just need some fresh ideas. So let’s share ideas for packing lunches on a budget.
I have decided that we don’t have much room in our budget to pay for convenience. That means, if the food is already divided into individual portions, it’s probably not in my budget.
Little prepackaged bags of chips or crackers, gogurts or tiny bowls of yogurt, pudding cups, cups of fruit or applesauce — all of these have become rare treats around here. They cost more and they are less environmentally-friendly.
Instead, I buy a big bag of chips or a box of snack crackers and the kids can put them in a baggie or small plastic container when they pack their lunches. I buy boxes of pudding and make it myself, then I put it into those little round Gladware containers. I buy a big container of low-fat yogurt and divide it up in those little containers too. The kids can choose pudding or yogurt for dessert from the Lunch List and grab one from the fridge. The perfect little serving size.
The inventor of Gladware containers should get some sort of award.
I do the same thing with applesauce and fruit salad. We buy the big jars or cans and then divide it up into individual portions in the Gladware bowls.
Last year, one of my sons would forget these little containers (and the residual applesauce all on the inside) in the bottom of his locker. He had his own little science experiment growing in his locker. This year, if they don’t bring their containers home one day, they don’t get to take anything in a container the next day. Because my little apples didn’t fall far from the tree, they love pudding and they don’t want to miss a day of dessert. They bring home their containers for me to wash and re-use.
Juice boxes are another convenience that doesn’t often fit into our budget. Instead, I bought insulated water bottles or thermoses for my children. They can fill these with water or juice or lemonade each morning. It’s much cheaper and also makes less trash.
My kids got boring solid-color aluminum bottles, but some stores sell water bottles with fun designs, like these —
I also save money by making my own granola bars. Most granola bars you can buy are expensive when you consider the price per bar. They also have a lot of preservatives and artificial colors and other stuff that I’ve decided to cut back on for my kids. (Unless they are organic granola bars, and then they are even more expensive!) So I make my own, cut them into squares, wrap them in plastic wrap, and keep them in the fridge. You can find a lot of tasty granola bar recipes online — or maybe some of you want to share a recipe you have in this comment section.
So that’s how I’m packing lunches on a budget — I don’t pay for convenience.
How about you? Do you have any tips for packing lunches for less? Please share them with us.