5 Meal Prep Tips to Save You Money On School Lunches

It’s back to school again, which means you need to think again about what to pack for your child’s lunch. While it’s one more thing on the seemingly endless to-do list, prepacking your child’s lunch at home can be a win-win situation: “Preparing lunch at school is a great way to save money , and also a way for parents to promote healthy eating outside of the home, “says Lorie Anderson, owner of parenting blog Mom Informed. There are plenty of easy lunch recipes you can try at home without breaking the bank – or spending a lot of time doing them.

Set aside a day to prepare meals in advance so you don’t have to think about them every day. Plus, not only does the packed lunch save you money, it can also be something you can do as a family. Let your kids help put lunch together or pack their snacks – they’ll be more likely to eat it, says registered nutritionist Nadia Charif. Here are meal preparation tips that will save you time (and money) on lunch at school.

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Buy ingredients that you use frequently in bulk.

Purchasing large quantities of the ingredients you use frequently can save you money and make meal preparation easier. “Buy ingredients that are on sale or stock up at the end of the week when items are generally selling at lower prices,” says Megha Gaedke, mother and founder of the keto diet platform Keto Connect. Buying multiple items when they are on sale – whether it’s pasta, rice, beans, or any other ingredient you use frequently – can save you money by reducing your trips to the grocery store. Look for grocery vouchers to maximize your savings even more.

Cook large servings of meals and freeze them for later.

Finding time to cook lunch each day can be difficult. Charif suggests cooking large portions of your meals and freezing small portions to wrap them up for lunch. “This eliminates the daily cooking and you can let your children choose their food the evening before and have time to defrost for the next day,” says Charif.

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Ali Van Straten, owner of maternity and lifestyle blog Champagne and Coffee Stains, says she makes her own non-crispy sandwiches once a month and freezes them for her children’s meals. “I like to cook popular children’s dishes to save money,” says Van Straten. She adds that the hack also saves her time as the sandwiches are ready when she needs them.

Try to use the same ingredients every week.

Sticking to the same ingredients is a great way to save money on your groceries so that you don’t have to pay for a bunch of different ingredients when preparing your lunch. “This might look like the same type of sandwich for all kids ‘first week lunch, the same pasta for all kids’ second week, and so on,” says Kelsey Riley, nurse and founder of the Planted in the Kitchen blog. This simplifies your shopping list and also makes it easier to prepare meals. Move up the menu every week and choose foods that you know your kids will love so they actually eat their lunch, says Riley.

Save groceries by buying multi-purpose groceries that can be used at home and for school. “I buy and use food for lunch at school that I would use at home – like pancakes, fruit, oatmeal,” suggests Sara Lundberg, mother of five and the owner of budget and lifestyle blog Budget Savvy Diva.

Reuse leftovers from dinner.

Speaking of food to use at home, tonight’s dinner can always be tomorrow’s lunch. Leftovers save money and time in the kitchen. “I often make a little extra out of a casserole at dinner because I know it’s a light lunch for the next day,” says Lundberg.

However, children can be picky and may not want to eat the same thing anymore. If so, try converting your leftovers into another meal for lunch the next day. “When it comes to saving money for school lunch, one of the best ways to keep your dollar going is to reuse leftovers,” said Siobhan Alvarez-Borland, mother of two and founder of the Family Funding Blog, Budget baby budget. If you’re in a restaurant, bring a reusable container with you to take home leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch, suggests Gaedke. Add a snack from home and your lunch is ready for the next day.

Pack smaller portions to avoid food waste.

Yes, you want your child to be full after lunch, but don’t overdo stuffing their packed lunches – especially if there’s a chance they won’t eat everything, Lundberg says. Wasted food is wasted money. So try to buy foods that are more likely to result in an empty lunch box – and pack smaller portions.

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