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Money Saving Lunch Ideas for Back to School


Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D.
Copyright 2006

Hot lunch at school can become quite expensive. Figure on average, hot lunch costs $2.10 per day if you include milk with the meal. If you have three children, $6.30 a day, multiplied by five days, that's $31.50 a week… just for lunch! Is it convenient for parents? You betcha. Can it be expensive? You betcha!

 I'm going to give you some excellent money saving lunch ideas. It's important to remember that you must not embarrass your children with the lunch you force them to take (egg salad sandwiches aren't real popular in school). You need to come up with some fun, tasty meals that will make your child the envy of the lunch table. The object here is to save money and ensure your well thought-out lunch doesn't end up at the bottom of the trash barrel.

I remember a day when it was cool to bring a thermos to school. Mine had My Little Ponies (the original ones) and my brother's was Lost in Space. Kids' thermoses are quite adorable, however a word of caution: they don't keep hot foods as hot as the trusty metal and glass thermoses. Just be certain to preheat the thermos with boiling water, and then put the hot food directly into the thermos. Your hot food should stay warm until lunch time, four hours later.

Leftovers make great thermos food. Make sure you get a wide mouth, shorter thermos. You could fill it with soup, stew, mac and cheese, hamburger helper, chili, spaghetti and even hotdogs. Another idea is to fill the thermos with taco meat with the cheese already added. Then put a hard taco shell or a soft tortilla into the lunch bag and your bambino is ready for a fiesta!

Of course you could also serve cold lunches in the thermos. How about tuna salad, macaroni salad, or spaghetti salad? Or fill it with antipasto – variety of meats and cheeses. Don't forget about celery and peanut butter or crackers and cheese. Roll-ups go over well, too. There are a couple different variations: Cream cheese spread on a slice of salami, with a sweet pickle inside; or instead of rolling up a slice of salami, roll up a tortilla that is stuffed with ham and shredded cheese.

Forget those pre-made lunches in a cardboard box. Forget the standard PBJ. Think out of the box. Economical can also be fun. Your child's friends will try to trade their lunch for the fun meal you packed!




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