The start of the school year is always very expensive, with back-to-school shopping and extracurricular activities. Another expense that you’ll have to manage in the coming months is school lunches. While brown bagging your lunch is one of the best ways to keep your household expenses down, the cost can quickly and quietly creep up if you don’t pay attention. Like with the rest of your grocery budget, planning out what to pack for school lunches can go a long way in helping you save money on school lunches.
“Feeding a family is expensive, and the costs seem to increase all of the time. You’ve got to use a number of the same principles that you do when grocery shopping with your lunch shopping in order to save money wherever you can, including using coupons and avoiding pre-packaged foods,” says Jeff Schwartz, executive director, Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.
“Obviously, it is essential to make sure that you try to pack healthy lunches too, to give your kids the boost they need to be attentive and learn as much as they can while in school. Healthy choices can be done within your budget, but again, you need to plan your groceries– and your lunch packing ahead of time,” says Schwartz.
Here are some tips on packing lunches that are cheap, tasty and healthy.
Start with breakfast
Even though we are focusing on how to save money on packing lunches, you may find that you come out further ahead if you take the time to make sure your youngster has a breakfast that really sticks to their ribs. This will not only give them a jump start on their day, it means that you need to probably pack less snacks (which may end up as waste, punching a hole in your food budget).
Think oatmeal, quick scrambled eggs in the microwave, or fruit with yogurt.
What’s in your lunch box?
The key to saving money with your kid’s lunches, believe it or not, may not be what’s in their lunch- but what their lunch is packed in.
Many schools are requesting (or even requiring) litterless lunches. Not only is this environmentally friendly, it is a great way to keep costs down. Invest in reusable containers (including juice and water bottles). You’d be surprised at how much money you’ll save on plastic bags and juice boxes.
Wherever possible, buy your lunch supplies in bulk. You don’t need to pay extra for packaging. Not only does buying in bulk cost less, it lets you control exactly how much to give your child, reducing waste.
When things like cookies and other snacks are on sale, buy them and store them in the freezer.
Keep it healthy
Take a few minutes on the weekend to chop up some fruits and veggies, which can be a healthy and a cheap go-to during the week for lunch.
Consider things like dried fruits (cranberries and apricots are sweet and yummy).
Having a thermos to transport a hot lunch on a cold day is super idea, not just because it’s tasty, but because of the versatility you get with this particular container. Heat soup, beans or mac & cheese, which are all hearty, budget-friendly options.
Do you find your budget is stretched pretty thin every month? Is debt eating up your budget? We can help you make some changes to get your household on track financially so that you can focus on other things. Call one of our trained credit counsellors at or visit our free online debt analysis.