School Lunches the Frugal Way
By Cyndi Roberts
It seems that school starts earlier every year. So it's time to
start thinking about what to put in those school lunches every morning.
My children always wanted to bring their own lunches because
they didn't really like what was offered in the school lunchroom. But it was
sometimes a little difficult to make their lunches nutritious and tasty and also
to put a little variety in their lunchboxes without spending a small fortune.
If we let ourselves, we can spend a "lot" on individual
servings, lunchables, and treats for lunches. Here are a few ideas to help you
meet the "Frugal Lunchbox Challenge".
Go to the Dollar Store and buy a few of those individual
serving-size storage containers. These are very inexpensive and they are worth
You can use them for any number of things--like making your own
fruit cups and pudding cups.
And they can also be used to hold dip for carrot or celery
sticks or fill with peanut butter and pack a zipper bag of pretzels for dipping.
Also at the Dollar Store or discount store, you can pick up one
or two of the small "blue ice" cold packs. They will help keep lunchbox items
cold and safe. Sandwiches such as egg salad or tuna salad need to have a cold
pack. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, on the other hand, can be packed
Those zipper bags we all love come into their own when packing
lunches! They can hold vegetable sticks, popcorn, crackers, homemade cookies,
Muffins hold up well in a zipper-top bag, as do slices of banana
nut bread, or most any other quick bread.
When the weather turns cool, a small thermos will come in handy
for homemade soup or chili. I see lots of these for sale at garage and yard
sales, sometimes for as little as 25 cents.
A thermos is also handy to hold whatever drink your child likes
Try to put some fun in the lunchbox: keep a stash of small,
inexpensive toys, cut sandwich bread into cool shapes with cookie cutters, write
little notes to your child, cut out funny cartoons. Children love surprises.
A good routine to get into is while you are cleaning up the
kitchen after dinner, put leftovers in the storage containers, or make
sandwiches and place in the fridge in a designated area for lunch items. Get
your kids to help--the more they are involved, the better!
Put napkins, etc. in lunch boxes or bags and place them where
all anyone has to do in the morning is fill with the prepared items. Now you can
all be out the door in minutes!
Here are a few recipes that will help get you started this
Cut apple in half. Carefully, cut out the core
of the apple. Spread peanut butter where the
core used to be and over surface of apple.
Sprinkle raisins over the peanut butter.
1 cup peanuts
1 cup dried apple bits
1 1/2 cups yogurt-covered raisins
2/3 cup chopped dates
1 cup dried banana bits
Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. A
small serving of this goes a long way!
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Peanut Butter Balls
2 1/2 tbsp. nonfat dry milk
2 tbsp. raisins
2 tbsp. honey
1/4 c. coconut
This is a good recipe for the kids to help with-- they love to
roll the dough into balls. NOTE: sesame seeds are cheaper in bulk at a health
food store. You can get unsweetened coconut there, also.
Cyndi Roberts is the editor of the "1 Frugal Friend 2 Another" bi-weekly
newsletter and founder of the website of the same name. Visit
to find creative tips, articles, and a free e-cooking book. Subscribe to
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