Kid's Lunches and After-School Snacks

contributed by Maureen

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  1. Invest in the single serving size disposable snack containers. Don't ever throw them away! I purchased about 30. They are dishwasher safe and the perfect size for any individual serving of food.
  2. Locate and utilize your bakery outlet, especially on the "Bargain Days" and especially if you have a chest freezer to keep extra bread, etc.
  3. If you do not have an area where you can store one- to two-week's worth of school lunch supplies, invest in a metal garbage can from your local hardware store. Put all "extras" in the garage, basement, or porch. Just remember not to haul it to the curb! Purchase metal so you have no worries about friendly neighborhood critters getting into your stash, and get a tight-fitting lid or lid-lock! Also, you can store the surplus in your chest freezer, if you have one.
  4. Carefully peruse your local sales circulars. Stock up on items like peanut butter, jelly, bologna, juice boxes, etc. It doesn't take that long to run into a store to pick up eight to ten of the same item. Just stick to the "loss leaders" and get out of the store. You don't need to go down every aisle!
  5. The one place you should never miss is the Clearance Section. Take two minutes to look over the selection. Often, deals on items from soap to cereal to household items can be found here. Only buy if you know it's a good deal.
  6. Purchase a supply of snack-size and sandwich bags. Alternatively, keep an eye out at garage sales and thrift stores for the sandwich-size plastic containers with lids, if that is your preference.
  7. Check out your local discount or dollar store. Canned fruit and snack crackers can be purchased here inexpensively. Compare their prices to your local grocery!

This may sound like a large investment to save a few bucks. Where the magic begins is how simple and stress-free your life can become, as well as the cost savings that will emerge!

At any point during the week, fill your containers or bags with yogurt, canned diced fruit, Jell-O, pudding, salad dressing, sliced vegetables, raisins, or any other healthy lunch alternative that your child(ren) may like. Purchase all these items in the economy size and package them yourself. Cost savings are enormous over individual serving packaging!

Make up as many sandwiches as you will need for the week. Package into individual bags, and put back into a bread bag. Store in fridge. This works great for PBJs. However, I don't think luncheon meat with mayo would hold up well after five days!

I emptied one of the fruit drawers in my fridge, and put all the containers, filled snack bags, as well as the fresh produce they are encouraged to take for lunches. This is at "kid" height and easy for them to see.

Now, your child(ren) can empty the used containers from their lunch box, and assemble the next day's meal, with minimum assistance from you! When they are ready for an afternoon snack, there are a variety of options available in the drawer! Of course, you want to limit snacking to save room for dinner. This is not a free-for-all, but a way to make sure that snacks are nutritious and available.

When you're running from hither to yon for after-school events, your child(ren) can also put together a snack bag of a couple easy-to-eat items to take along in the car or for at the game.

In all, I spend about an hour a week assembling items, cutting and packaging, for five days of lunches, not including shopping time.

Our school charges $2 per meal, per child. That is $8 per day or $40 per week for our family. I am saving at least $30 per week, even if I splurge and give the kids an expensive special treat!

Many parents are concerned by the lack of variety provided by home-made lunches. My experience has been that my kids willingly eat the same sandwiches, fruit, and yogurt, but love the variety of different snack crackers or treats. Your youngster(s) will let you know (by the leftovers) what is a success or a failure!

Finally, for those working parents, this same strategy can be applied to you! Assemble your own healthy favorites, and you'll be able to put a great lunch together in no time. What would your cost savings be if you ate for $1 per day?

And what could you do with all the money? I plan on continuing this during the summer months, as well. I won't hear "When's lunch? What's for lunch? What can I have to eat?"!

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by

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