Waste Not, Want Not: A Month of School Lunches for Under $50!

iStock_000019541473_ExtraSmallIf you’re like most families in this economy, being frugal is already something that is a necessity, especially when it comes to expensive items like food. Our team decided we needed to find ways to save on food, without sacrificing variety or flavor. Since school time in autumn means a chill is in the air, kids need to have some hot foods in their lunch to keep them warm.  So with that task our team went in search of a full month’s worth of packable lunches for about $50.  We’ve also applied another frugal concept—5 ingredient meals (or less)—and came up with this list of flavorful, portable, and crave-able meals for you to send your kids off to school with. Oh, and we wouldn’t be surprised at all if these recipes ended up with you at work as well!
A-MONTH-OF-SCHOOL-LUNCHES

5 SIMPLE INGREDIENTS (OR LESS)

By limiting the ingredient list, you make preparing lunch fast and easy. Employing this concept is a win/win situation, because now most of the recipes are simple enough for you to enlist your children to help make them, and if you’re really efficient, breakfast and lunch can be made simultaneously, and clean up can be done all at once!

Here are some recipes we’ve found that are easily made and adaptable:

  1. What’s included?
    • A link to an adaptable recipe.
    • Recipes may need to be scaled down to servings needed, and ingredients may need to be removed if they’re unnecessary.
    • Suggestions with 5 ingredients or less take into account pantry items that are present in most homes: flour, sugar, salt, pepper, butter, and oil.
  2. Why 5 ingredients?
    • Limiting the ingredient lists means less to purchase and prepare.
    • Fewer ingredients means fewer calories and less fat.
  3. Why are they great recipes?
    • Most of these recipes are freezable.
    • All of these recipes are portable: They can be eaten at room temperature or by heating and placing in an insulated Thermos.

 RECIPE SUGGESTIONS

1. SPINACH & BACON MINI FRITTATAS

  • SPINACH, EGGS, CHEESE, MILK, BACON
  • You can make all the servings at once and freeze the 3 servings you don’t need right away.

2. BLACK BEAN BURRITO

  • BLACK BEANS, RICE, TORTILLA, CHEESE
  • It’s a filling meal, and you can make both burritos at the same time.

3. HOMEMADE LUNCHABLES

photo (1)

  • HAM, CHEESE, WHEAT THINS
  • They’re easy to make and fun to eat.

4. BAKED POTATO SOUP

  • POTATOES, MILK, CHEESE, BACON
  • You can make all the servings of this soup at once, as well, freezing what you don’t need right away.

5. BERRY SMOOTHIE

  • YOGURT, FROZEN BERRIES, MILK
  •  Smoothies are a great end of the week recipe that you can make all at once and then freeze the additional servings.

6. HAM & CHEESE QUESADILLA

  • HAM, CHEESE, TORTILLA
  • Quesadillas are very easy to make and delicious to eat.

7. PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY WRAP

  • PEANUT BUTTER, JELLY, TORTILLA
  • Wraps are also very easy to make and can accommodate a variety of harder to store foods (e.g. rice, beans, sauces, etc.)

8. TUNA RANCH PASTA SALAD

  • TUNA FISH, PASTA, PEAS, RANCH DRESSING, BOILED EGGS
  • You can make this recipe on a Monday and have it again before Friday to increase the longevity of the complete menu. This is listed on the fourth week of are menu calendar because tuna and pasta are dry goods, so you have less chance of food waste.

9. SIDES:

  • Carrots & Ranch Dressing
  • Wheat Thins
  • Raisins
  • Vanilla Yogurt
  • Applesauce
  • Fruit Cup

iStock_000017020682XSmallOf course, these ingredients can be substituted or supplemented by anything you have on hand that you feel would complement the flavors. This calendar-style approach and these quick preparation lists are some things that can help take the daily fuss out of “what should I put in their lunchboxes?” and free up some time to breathe in the morning before you get your kids, or yourself, out the door for the day ahead. We had fun trying to find recipes that were inexpensive, easy, and delicious, and we know that if you and your kids try them, you’ll adapt them to your family’s tastes.  

With a little planning and budgeting, you can find recipes tailored to your family by applying the same principles—that will leave your wallets and bellies fuller. What types of recipes have you made your children for autumn? How do you save money on lunches regularly? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

If you liked this article, here are some additional articles on school lunch techniques and  frugal and flavorful soups that are equally as informative and fun!

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “Waste Not, Want Not: A Month of School Lunches for Under $50!

  1. Berry Smoothie for a child at lunch? That’s not a meal for one, they’ll still be hungry afterwards – and secondly, how is the child supposed to keep the smoothie chilled in their locker for 4 hours or so until they are able to consume it? This seems like more of an after school snack at home until dinner.

    • Samantha:

      It can be a meal, a meal is just calories and nutrition. It may have to be a big smoothie, a lot would depend on the child. One could add additional calories with nut butter, for example. Even greens, if you’re so bold.

      Also, you keep them cold in an insulated container, such as a Thermos. Those have been around over 100 years, apparently.

  2. Hm. A lot of these meals don’t seem like they’d satisfy a child through the end of the school day (I’m looking at you, smoothie).

    Also, for things that need to stay cold like the smoothie or things that need to be warmed like the baked potato soup, do kids have access to these things at school? I know I didn’t growing up

  3. Yeah, not gonna send a kid to school with just baked potato soup and wheat thins. What are you thinking? Is that balanced to you? Where’s the protein? In a meal loaded with carbs?

  4. I agree a smoothie may not be the most filling even if it did have enough calories – as for keeping things hot/cold the thermos-es? on the market today are much more effective than even 15-20 years ago. I personally love my Hydroflask water bottle and have ice cubes still tingling around in it at the end of a day, so it is definitely possible to keep them cold and the same for hot food too. (If anyone is interested – http://www.hydroflask.com ) That is just an example but also look up bento boxes the japanese have been sending hot food with kids for years too.

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