Summer is just about over, and it’s time for the kids to go back to school. Instead of purchasing school lunch, which can be loaded with sodium and preservatives, you can pack a nutritious and affordable lunch. Try these money-saving bag lunch upgrades, and bring a little bit of fun to your kids’ lunch period!
Tasty Bag Lunch Upgrades for Kids
Get a lunch box instead of using brown paper bags. To make sure it’s something your kid won’t outgrow, get the box in a fun color or print instead of a movie/TV character theme. That Elmo lunch box may be adorable for a first grader, but it won’t fly in fifth grade. You’ll save more money in the long run by using reusable items instead of single-use containers, like brown paper bags or zipper bags.
Take sandwiches to the next level. Use the leftover meats from the night before to make sandwiches to make the other kids jealous. For example, leftover pot roast can be cut into thin slivers and topped with tangy potato salad. Shred leftover roast chicken and spread cranberry sauce on the bread. If it tastes good as an entrée, it’s probably even better as a sandwich.
Make your own Lunchables. The pre-packaged Lunchables have pretty horrifying nutritional facts, but you can make your own for much cheaper and with much more love. Get deli meat sliced thick from your favorite butcher (ask for whatever is on sale), and buy blocks of cheese to cut at home. Using any cracker, your child can assemble their own Lunchable combination. You can even dress it up with some hummus, ranch dressing, or pesto. Add a bag of carrots and an apple, and you’ve got a well-rounded meal that costs next to nothing.
Use leftovers to create a kid-friendly meal. Use leftover pasta to make a delicious and fresh pasta salad. If you’re making ziti or rotini for dinner one night, make a little bit extra to toss with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and your choice of raw or chopped veggies. For an extra nutritional boost, use whole-grain pasta or quinoa pasta. You can include sliced deli meat or cubed cheese for added protein.
Crank out multiple lunchtime salads at once. Salads are easy to make and delicious to eat. If you’re making lunches for numerous kids, line up plastic containers and add ingredients equally – start with a base of romaine lettuce, then top with shredded carrots, diced tomatoes, and chopped hardboiled egg. For each child, include a small packet or plastic container of salad dressing to add at lunchtime, which extends the freshness of the salad. This is very customizable to each child’s tastes, and one of the simplest of the cheap bag lunch upgrades.
Do you have other easy lunchtime favorites? Share them in the comments below! Be sure to check out some of our other installments of Eat Your Way to Debt Relief: