As the kids head back to school, it's time to think about that daily necessity: lunch. My girls bring their lunch to school most days so we are always looking for frugal and healthy meal ideas. Here are the lunch foods my girls like to take to school. Please share your ideas for tasty lunches that won't break the bank!
The cost of school lunches in the Triangle is approximately $2 and even more if the kids buy any extras. For $1.50 or less, I can provide a healthy, delicious and portable lunch with whole grains, lean protein and fruits and/or veggies my kids will actually eat. I buy the ingredients when they are on sale and with coupons, when applicable.
Please share your other ideas for frugal lunches!
Main lunch dishes:
* Salad with grilled cubed chicken and light dressing on the side
* Turkey and cheese sandwiches on pita bread or whole wheat
* Bagel with light cream cheese
* Tortilla roll ups with light herb cream cheese, turkey and tomato or light cream cheese with chopped black olives and salsa on the side. I cut the tortilla into sushi sized pieces and they are perfect for dipping into the salsa.
* Chicken salad (made with light mayo) and served with crackers
* Cold homemade veggie pizza (because we all know that cold pizza is good anytime of day, breakfast included!)
* Cold tofu cubed with soy sauce on it (yes, they both like this!)
* Cereal in a plastic Ziploc container and then they buy milk to pour on to the cereal in the Ziploc bowl
* Soup in a thermos
* Spaghetti in a thermos
* Hummus and crackers
* My oldest likes jelly on whole wheat bread
* My youngest likes peanut butter and a little honey on honey wheat bread
* Neither of them likes peanut butter and jelly on the same sandwich!
* Cold nachos packaged separately and pieced together at lunch (like a Lunchable only healthier). My youngest likes to do this. We use tortilla chips (often baked), an ounce of 2% light shredded cheese, and salsa.
* Homemade "lunchables": Cut up smaller pieces of deli meat, sliced cheese and crackers packed in separate containers.
Sides we pack for lunches:
* Fruit salad
* Whole fruit
* Carrot and/or celery sticks
* Nuts or trail mix
* Cheese stick
* Granola bars
* Sliced veggies with a side of light ranch for dipping
* Pasta salad
* Honey wheat pretzels (Trader Joe's has some really tasty ones)
* Light Popcorn
* Banana or zucchini bread
* Baked chips
* Homemade breadsticks with a little side of pasta sauce to dip them in. You could use the dough from the Harris Teeter whole wheat pizza dough balls and I bet they would be delicious. I may try that this week to see how well it works.
Drinks: We pack water in reusable water bottles. Every once in a while they buy milk, but I don't send sugary drinks like juice boxes or sports drinks.
Tips for packaging lunch:
* Include the kids when packing lunch. It's good for them to help decide what to bring and it's good practice for when they are older and packing their own lunches.
* If you let your kids pack their own lunches, double check to see what they are bringing. My kids have told me stories about some of their classmates bringing multiple bags of chips, sugary juice boxes and desserts, with nothing healthy in the whole lunch.There is no protein, no whole grain products and no fruit or veggies.
* Prepare and pack as much of the lunch as possible the night before so you have very little to do in the morning, when life is usually a little more hectic.
* Invest in small reusable containers for single servings of dips and dressings like salsa and salad dressing. You can also use them for servings of nuts, raisins and small servings of other foods.
What other tips and ideas do you have for frugal lunches?