School lunches cost more each year. Schools offer plenty of options but not all of them are healthy. But even parents that qualify for state free lunch programs are finding that there are still costs involved when their children are served up unhealthy foods. Making your child’s school lunch is an economical, and healthier, alternative. Luckily is not a hard task either.
Kids like school lunches because they are provided with a variety of choices. Homemade lunches can offer the same varieties but with a smaller price tag. I am very proud of the fact that my son prefers the lunches I make and so do his fellow students and his teachers! A bit of time planning, shopping for the best deals, and a little prep time is all it takes.
First, ask your children about their favorite lunchtime meals. If you send foods that your children enjoy, you are more likely to elicit their cooperation when its time to help pack and eat the lunches. I know this is true in my case. I even let my son make portions of his own lunch meal.
If your child likes foods that need refrigeration, be sure to purchase an ice pack for their lunch and an insulated lunch bag. You could do what I do which is slip in a nifty little fruit shaped ice cubes from my favorite bento eBay store.
Fresh fruit offers a sugar boost that is better than a candy bar. Include a cup of fresh strawberries, apples, oranges, or whatever fruit is in season. They can even be frozen, which will make sure they are cool and delicious by lunch time. If they need more sweetness, add a cup of yogurt to use as a fruit dip.
Kids won’t eat anything that requires too much work. Cut their peanut butter and jelly sandwich into bite-sized pieces for easier handling or cut off the crust if they don’t like it. Use a cookie cutter to make interesting shapes. If your kids are older and health-conscious, serve a turkey and veggie delight in pita bread. Soft chicken tacos or ham roll-ups are delicious also.
Bento boxes with different compartments are a great for serving up last night’s leftovers for today’s lunch. Throw in a slice of meatloaf and a bit of leftover corn on the cob from the previous night, and add some fresh fruitvoila! There are even some cool looking bento lunch boxes for older kids.
One incredibly simple thing my son loves is hard boiled eggs and I have found a way to make even that interesting. I use egg molds to change the shape of an egg into that of a car, bear, bunny, or fish. He just loves them. I put together a quick tutorial for you at the bottom of this post.
If your kids don’t want the traditional milk at lunch, they may make a trip to the soda machine. To avoid this, invest in bottles of fruit juices. I buy juices in bulk and use Klean Kanteen or Sigg bottles to cut down on waste. Make sure that the juices are 100% juice with no sugar added. Whole Foods also has organic chocolate and vanilla milk boxes that are loved by my kids.
If you have a Costco nearby then pick up some of that same organic chocolate milk there to save almost $3.00 on a dozen. Some other Costco favorites for school lunches in our household are Fruitabu smooshed organic fruit rolls (another HUGE savings), organic stone wheat crackers that taste yummy with jam, organic peanut butter and jelly, and organic granola bars. We also buy their big containers of grapes and freeze them for school lunches.
Save money on utensils and napkins buy giving them REAL tableware and cloth napkins. The Laptop Lunchbox system comes with a fork and spoon and an ideal place for a cloth napkin.
School lunches can be delicious, nutritious, and more affordable if they are made at home. Why not give it a try?