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Back to School Tips: How to Save Money on Lunch

 It’s that time of year again… School is Starting!

Most parents are looking forward to the start of school. While getting the kids back to school involves a lot of planning, including buying school supplies, clothing and a whole bunch of other needs, one thing that parents have to concern themselves with is providing their children with a wholesome lunch without going broke.

If you only have one child you may not find this much of a challenge, however if you have multiple children you might find this a daunting challenge.  Here are some suggestions to provide your kids with lunches they will love and keep you out of the poor house at the same time.

› Spend some money now to save over the long-haul — This might seem like a strange way to start saving money but bear with me… There are a few things that you might want to purchase now to make your kids’ lunches more affordable all year long.  Instead of continually spending small amounts throughout the year on paper bags, plastic wrap, zip-lock bags or aluminum foil, all of which adds, consider going “old school”.

Buy lunch boxes – Lunchboxes.com has a wide variety of lunchboxes from metal to plastic with all sorts of designs to make your returning students happy, many for under 10 bucks.

Buy plastic containers – If you can’t find a cool enough lunch kit for you kids, take a trip to the local dollar store and pick up some plastic containers.  You should be able to find them in many different sizes, just right for sandwiches, snacks and even drinks.

Using plastic containers to package put your kids’ lunches will not only provide them with a lunch that is fresher than a paper bag but will also save you money over the school year.

› Avoid those single serving items — While those little pudding cups might look neat, they can cost you up to 3x as much as making it yourself.  Consider snack size fruit cups. A 4 pack of 4oz fruit cups (Del Monte) at Walmart (the cheapest I could find) costs $2.28, that’s 57¢ a serving. Now, you can buy a 106oz can of the same mixed fruit for $5.49.  If you make the same 4oz snacks and put them in your own container, it will only cost 26.5¢ per serving.  Not a bad savings!  You will likely find the same holds true with any other “snack pack” size snacks you can think of.

› Shop at the big box or club stores — You have been to one of those warehouse stores I’m sure.  You don’t need to buy a case of 47 jars of spaghetti sauce that will last you a lifetime but it could be a good source for those school lunch snacks.  Buying canned fruit, pretzels, granola bars or any other snack type foods in bulk can save big bucks.

› Fast food restaurants can help — No, don’t send your kids to school with a Big Mac, but when you go to those fast food restaurants or get Chinese take-out, hang on to napkins, utensils and especially those little condiment packets.  Things like ketchup, mustard, soy sauce and salt & pepper packets are perfect for sending in your cost-saving school lunches.

› National School Lunch Program — Established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946, the NSLP is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day.

According to usda.gov, “Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced‐price meals, for which students can be charged no more than 40 cents. (For the period July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013, 130 percent of the poverty level is $29,965 for a family of four; 185 percent is $42,643.)”

These are just a few ways that you can save some money this school year and still provide your young scholar with a meal that they will like, is healthy and will make life with some prior planning on your part you can provide a well-balanced lunch without it costing you an arm and a leg!

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