On Labor Day I was like so many other parents whose children were starting school the next day and needed to restock our pantries to pack lunches. But if you know me, I was looking for ways that these lunches would save me money yet be the healthy lunches that my athletic daughter craves.
Overall, packing lunch–whether you’re a student or an employee–saves you money. A few years ago I crunched the numbers and discovered that packing your lunch to take to work saves you, on average, about $150 a month, or about $1,800 a year. That’s no chump change. With school lunches costing about $4 per day in my district, bringing lunch from home might not save my budget as much money, but at least I know that I’m packing healthy lunches and I know what my daughter is eating.
With all this in mind I’ve come up with 3 tips for packing healthy lunches that save money. Note: Starkist Albacore has compensated me for sharing this information.
1. Shop Local to Save on Produce
You know the importance of eating local as far as your health is concerned. Well, eating local helps your budget’s health, too. Apples at my supermarket range in price from $1.79 a pound to $2.49 a pound. If I trek over to the local orchard, I can get in-season, freshly picked apples for only $1 a pound. So look for local produce of the season that you can add to your child’s lunch, such as cucumbers and cantaloupe.
2. Switch Up the Boring Old Sandwich
With peanut butter and jelly a staple in our house, sometimes my daughter wants to change things up a bit with the lunch she takes. If I make her favorite stir fry for dinner the night before, she’ll ask for the leftovers for lunch. She knows the chicken and vegetables are healthy, and I know that sending her with leftovers doesn’t cost me a cent. Or I might put together a container of hummus and baby carrots for her to dip and enjoy. Another heart-healthy option to consider if your child likes tuna is Starkist Albacore. These come in non-perishable pouches that you can serve over salad, with crackers, or any way your kid likes to eat tuna. They’re less than 110 calories, good to know if you son is a wrestler and watching his weight or you yourself want to take one along for a healthy lunch option. Here are some recipe ideas using Starkist Albacore. Best of all–no more soggy tuna fish sandwiches!
3. Choose Reusable Containers: It’s Green and Saves You Green
When I was at the supermarket on Labor Day, I found myself using algebra to figure out if those 100 calorie packs were really worth the convenience. (And you thought you’d never use math in real life.) Turns out they are convenient but at a cost. One package of 10 .9 ounce bags of pretzels cost about $3. For the same $3 I could buy a 16-ounce bag of the same brand pretzels, then make my own 100 calorie packs with my reusable containers. You can do the same with popcorn or animal crackers–anything that comes in those smaller packages that actually cost more in the long run. Don’t forget the reusable water bottle, too. Most schools charge $1 or $2 a bottle for water in the lunch line. Filling a bottle at home doesn’t cost you anything. Finally, invest in a good lunch box that your children (or you) can use for years to come.
Let me know your favorite ways to pack healthy lunches that save money.
Here is the video of this money saving segment