Today we’re featuring a guest post from the good folks at BeattheEconomy2009.com
Every parent wants to send their child off school with a good, healthy lunch. Mine did. However, many parents mistake a good lunch as one filled with attractively-packaged, sugary, expensive items. This should not be the case. Packing a brown bag lunch will be less expensive than having your child buy lunch. Also, on top of keeping money by making lunches this article explains, through personal experience, how to save even more money by watching what you put into those lunches.
My typical lunch growing up was a PB&J sandwich, a bag of chips, some variation of fruit (applesauce, fresh fruit, or yogurt), and two cookies. I had this lunch, with a few changes once in a while, every day at school… for twelve years. It’s not a huge lunch but I survived, my parents saved money, and you and your kids can too.
So, you’re probably asking, “Well then, what should I put into my child’s lunch?” The answer begins at the grocery store. Divide the lunch into four categories- a main item (sandwich or leftover pizza), a side (chips, crackers), a fruit/veggie or variation (apple, banana, applesauce), and a small dessert (cookies). This will ensure that the lunch has enough to fill its owner and give him or her the necessary nutrients to succeed in school. To start saving money you need to follow these easy steps:
1. Avoid expensive, unnecessary items (i.e. juice boxes, soda, fruit roll-ups, and other sugary packaged foods)
1. Drinks. Kids do not need juice boxes or sodas in their lunch. Every school and business place has some sort of a drinking fountain or water dispenser. Water is the best drink for you and best of all, it’s free! I never had in 12 years of school any kind of drink in my lunch. It saved my parents tons of money and forced me to be healthier.
2. Treats. Avoid those unnecessary treats like fruit roll-ups or ding dongs. These items are full of sugar, are not filling, can cause obesity, and are very expensive. Eliminate these from your shopping list. I still believe something sweet is a good way to end a meal so instead replace the expensive items with cheap store brand cookies. They come in large packs, are cheap, and taste very close to the brand name. This way, you can stick two little cookies in a baggie and still have a treat in your lunch (except this way it will be a lot cheaper). By the way, if you are worried about the store brand thing, it’s a cookie! It can’t taste that much worse than a brand name cookie.
Buy your items in bulk
1. Sandwiches. If you’re going to be buying sandwich items such as peanut butter or lunch meat, buy the biggest package possible for the best price. You’re going to be using it every day and that means it probably will not be going to waste. Buying a small jar of peanut butter every week or two will end up costing a whole lot more over the course of a year than if you bought a big jar that lasted a month or two.
2. Side Items. Buy the big boxes of chips or Costco-sized packages of individual applesauce. Smaller packages are going to cost much more than buying the big box or bag. It might cost a little more up front but will save lots of money in the end.
1. Buy the cheapest bread. Your kids will not know a difference.
2. Shop Around. Invest some time viewing the ads that come in your local newspaper before going to the grocery store. Clip some coupons and be sure you are buying at the cheapest price. A box of chips might be on sale for three bucks at one store and regularly-priced at five at another. It might take a little more time but you’ll know it is worth it when you start to see the money you save.
3. Store brands. Stick to the store brands (unless it is in fact horrible, but in most cases, they won’t be).
4. Lay down the law. If your kids are with you in the store, tell them that if they ask for it, they won’t get it.
Once you have your groceries, it is time to pack the lunch.
1. Have the kids make their own lunch. They will appreciate the lunch much more once lunchtime rolls around. It will give them a sense of accomplishment and force them not to take you for granted. I’ve made my own lunch since the second grade so do not think your child can not.
2. Set limits. Set a limit for what each person can bring each day. If you decide to buy cookies, make sure to let everyone know that two is the maximum per day, etc.
Note: If your children are used to much bigger lunches full of sugary treats, they might be upset at first. Do not give in. Remember, you are saving money and helping to ensure your child does not become obese.
Follow the steps mentioned above and I guarantee you will save plenty of money. For more tips on how to save money visit BeatTheEconomy2009.com