family budgeting | saving money

How to Save Money on School Lunches

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Tips and tricks to help you save money on school lunches.

how to save money on school lunches

Looking for ideas to reduce the cost of packing school lunches every day?

Packing a school lunch is definitely cheaper than buying from the tuckshop, but all those ‘lunchbox additions’ that supermarkets sell can really add up!

Below are eight tips for saving money on school lunches that don’t require hours in the kitchen.

1. Go Waste-Free

Buying lunch boxes and containers at the beginning of the year when they are on sale means you don’t need to buy zip-lock bags or plastic wrap during the year. And a good quality lunchbox can last for many years.

I like the Sistema range of lunchboxes, which is a Kiwi brand. Check them out at Amazon or find them on Amazon Australia. Or you can purchase at the supermarket – look for half-price sales to save!

My kids are still using the Sistema lunch boxes I bought eight years ago. We also use the small snack containers for yoghurt, fruit, crackers and cheese.

Make sure to label all containers and lids well to ensure they come back home. And if they do get lost, you can find them again in the lost property box!

2. Bulk in Bulk and Portion

Buying in bulk is usually cheaper than buying individually packaged foods.

For instance, it’s usually cheaper to buy a large box of crackers and portion them into containers than to buy the multi-packs.

The same goes for yoghurt. Save by buying a large tub (or make your own!) and dispensing into containers. That way you can control serving sizes and how much sugar (if any) goes into the yoghurt.

You can also save by buying whole fruit like watermelon or pineapple and freezing it. Or buying large tins of fruit instead of snack packs.

3. Plan Your Lunches

Meal planning makes life easier and planning school lunches ahead of time means you have all the ingredients on hand – no midweek dash to the supermarket.

It also allows you to prep lunches ahead of time, which makes school mornings that little bit easier.

For school lunch planning ideas check out these articles:

4. Pack Food Your Kids Will Eat

Wasted food is wasted money, so there’s no point packing food your kids won’t eat. I test new lunch ideas on weekends and school holidays so I know whether my kids will eat those foods or not.

If your child is coming home with food regularly, you might be packing too much food. Packing ‘just enough’ will reduce food waste and save money.

5. Shop the Sales

Use catalogue sales to save lunch box items. When you couple this with buying in bulk, you can save a significant amount on lunch boxes. 

For example, I keep an eye out in catalogues for bulk crackers that are 50% off and buy several when they are half-price. Couple this with a purchased dip that is on sale (or you can make your own dip) and it’s cheaper than individual serves. And less waste.

Another idea is to buy cream cheese (fresh or in a jar) and portion it with crackers for a cheaper less-waste version of cheese and crackers.

Besides the regular supermarkets, keep an eye out for sales at Big W, Kmart, the Reject Shop, and Health Food stores for discounts on snacks and other lunch box foods. 

Bulk stores can be a great place to find nuts (if allowed at your school, check to make sure), dried fruit and other snacks for the lunch box.

6. Make Your Own

Switch out store-bought foods for homemade versions for a cheaper (and often healthier) option. To save time, make up a big batch and freeze for school. 

Some lunchbox ideas include:

7. Make the Most of Leftovers

Leftovers not only save money, but they can also be a welcome break from the old school sandwiches.

Some ideas include:

  • leftover pasta
  • cold quiche or frittata
  • leftover casserole
  • curry and rice if your kids normally eat curry
  • fried rice
  • leftover soup in a thermos
  • leftover roast vegetable wrap

8. Pack a Reusable Water Bottle

Water in a reusable bottle is the cheapest drink option at school. 

But if your child doesn’t drink water, an alternative to juice boxes is to buy juice or cordial in bulk and make it up in a reusable bottle. Watering juice or cordial down can save money as well as reduce sugar intake.

Packing school lunches doesn’t have to mean boring vegemite sandwiches or expensive packaged food. With a little bit of planning, you can save both time and money on lunches.

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