With children heading back to school, now is the perfect time to start planning what you are going to pack for their lunches. It can be hard to find ideas that are easy to prepare, budget-friendly and nutritious, so we’ve complied some easy tips to save money and simplify school lunches.
Ways to Save:
- Plan your weekly lunches around weekend coupon deals and discounts
- Try to use leftovers as much as possible, just make sure these won’t spoil before lunchtime
- Buy in bulk as much as possible
- Don’t buy prepackaged snacks as companies charge extra for that service, instead buy a large package and portion it out yourself
- Choose one day to get organized and decide what the lunches will be for that week so you can plan ahead
- On the weekend (or the night before) try to cook and portion lunches as best you can in advance
- If possible, put the whole completed lunch pail in the refrigerator at night so in the morning you can just grab and go
Easy Healthy Switches:
- Whole grain bread instead of refined white bread for sandwiches
- Lean meats, like chicken, instead of deli meat like salami
- Beans are a great inexpensive source of protein and fiber
- Add veggies as toppings wherever possible
- Try avocado instead of butter
- Aim for a ‘balanced’ lunch, which includes low-fat protein and carbohydrates to keep your child full and energized throughout the afternoon
Five Lunch Time Ideas:
- Cannellini bean soup is nutritious, inexpensive and easy in a pinch. Pour the whole can of cannellini beans (including the liquid) in a microwave safe bowl and add 2 cups of tomato sauce (look for ones with no added sugar). Microwave this mixture on high for three minutes, let cool then place into a thermos.
- Three bean pasta salad is cost effective and delicious. It can be make the night before in just 15 minutes.
- DIY pita pizza pockets. Take a lunch time classic and make it healthy. Since your children will put the ingredients together themselves all you have to do is portion out a whole wheat pita, some pasta sauce and cheese. By keeping all the ingredients separate this lunch can be made in advance and stored until the end of the week.
- Mason jar salads. Layering the dressing, protein and veggies in a certain way allows you to combine in advance without it getting soggy.
- Chicken dog. Make a classic hot dog healthier by choosing a ‘hot dog’ made from chicken, a whole wheat bun and lots of veggie toppings.
Healthy lunches don’t have to involve hours of work and lots of money. Using these tips and preparing in advance can help you pack delicious, healthy and inexpensive lunches this school year.