With the kids headed back to school and summer winding down, everyone is looking for solutions to save money. One of the most overlooked areas to save money is in the kitchen. Some parents send lunches with kids to school while others pay for them in the cafeteria. Regardless of how you handle back to school lunches, there are opportunities to save money in the long run. Here are some important tips that will help you stay budget friendly for back to school lunches:
Utilize your leftovers
Packing your kid’s lunch can get expensive, but using leftovers can really eat into that expense. Every evening when you cook supper, think about lunches for the next day or two. If you can throw in a extra few ingredients, you may be able to make the leftovers into a couple of days worth of lunches. That can really eat into your lunch budget and cut costs. Most leftovers can be recycled for lunch in some way so get creative! No waste equals lunch solutions!
Investigate paying lunches ahead
Most lunchrooms and cafeterias have discounts if you pay in advance for a certain number of lunches. Ask at your kid’s school to find out if such a discount exists and see if it would save you cash. Paying in advance also prevents those last minute scrambles to find lunch money for the kids on mornings where it is forgotten.
Focus on fresh over prepackaged
Fresh foods are always going to save you money and keep your kid healthy. Few parents are able to send exclusively fresh foods for lunches every single day, but making sure you send some is vital. If you send along a bag of chips, for example, make sure you also send some fruit slices or veggies. It is important to also consider healthy lunch solutions while we save money, right?
Use a thermos
Prepackaged drinks are another huge expense. A good thermos will allow your child to have a great drink option and never have to pay for it in the cafeteria. It also will give you options as far as soups, stews and so on. Pay the money and get a good thermos and you will save a ton.
Break down foods from larger packages
Back to school foods are expensive, but they tend to get cheaper the larger the bag or container size. Assuming you are going to be able to eat through the whole thing before they expire, buying bulk is a great way to save on back to school lunches. Never send individual sized bags of food because you almost certainly will be paying for packaging and in some cases, air. Instead, buy a large bag of chips (example) and break them down daily into small sizes with ziploc or sandwich bags. This can apply to fruits and veggies too. Buy a bag of apples and cut them up as needed as opposed to buying one by one.
Make sure the lunch account is controlled
If you are not careful, lunch accounts on credit can get way out of hand. There are horror stories everywhere about kids charging lunches, extras, drinks, candy and various other things and sticking mom and dad with the bill. In some cases, kids have charged another student’s lunches and so on. The cafeterias will not police your child unless you put limits on the account. Visit your local school cafeteria and ask these types of questions. It could save you a bundle.
What other back to school savings ideas do you have? Share them in the comments below!