Saving Money by Packing Lunch

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Saving Money Packing Lunch

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Packing lunch at home is one of the most effective ways to save money on your grocery budget while eating healthy food. Whether you’re planning adult lunches for the office or children’s lunches for school, making it yourself will almost always cost less. You can also control what you and your children are eating by packing lunch at home. This is important because whole foods aren’t always readily available at cafeterias and other lunch restaurants.

At my children’s elementary school, the cafeteria lunch costs $2.25. The offerings aren’t great, but they do provide some whole grain products and they avoid trans-fats and hormones in the milk and the meat. Fruits and vegetables are part of the daily school lunch, but when I volunteered in the lunch room one day last year, I saw many children throwing away the healthier items that came on their trays. The school also offers flavored milk, which I find very frustrating because of all the unnecessary sugar. I’m much happier feeding my children food that’s been prepared at home with a water bottle on the side.

Saving Money by Packing Lunch

I’m outlining 10 healthy, affordable packed lunches with cost breakdowns. Each meal costs less than $2.00, and they all include whole grains, protein, and fruits or veggies. It’s easy to fall into the trap of sending a sandwich every day, but there are many other lunch configurations that fulfill nutritional needs while keeping things interesting. We use the leak-proof Ziploc divided containers (shown in photos above), and they’ve held up well. If you’re wondering how I break down the cost of each lunch, you can click on the individual recipes and consult my price chart to see what I pay for grocery items here in Massachusetts.

Lunch #1

frugal lunch

Baked Tortilla Chips: $.26 for 8 chips
Hummus: $.12 for ¼ cup
Fruit Salad: $.59 for ¾ cup
Vanilla Yogurt: $.48 for ¾ cup
Total Cost: $1.45

Lunch #2

lunch collage 2

Roasted Chickpeas: $.18 for ½ cup
Granola Bar: $.57
Babybel Cheese: $.50
Cherry Tomatoes: $.50 for ½ cup
Total: $1.75

Lunch #3

lunch collage 3
Vanilla Almond Popcorn: $.05 for ½ cup
Pesto Cream Cheese on Akmak Crackers: $.99 for 2 “sandwiches”
Blueberries: $.50 for ⅓ cup
Half an Apple: $.42
Total: $1.96

Lunch #4

lunch collage 4

Peanut Butter Granola: $.49 for ¾ cup
Vanilla Yogurt: $.48 for ¾ cup
Chocolate Popcorn: $.13 for 1 cup
Strawberries: $.50 for ½ cup
Total:  $1.60

Lunch #5

lunch collage 5

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites: $.36 for three
Cream Cheese and Raspberry Jam on a Whole Wheat Biscuit: $.65 for two
Watermelon: $.17 for one cup
Total: $1.18

Lunch #6

lunch collage 6

Mediterranean Potato Salad: $.62 for ⅔ cup
Ranch Dip: $.39 for ½ cup
Cherry Pie Tart: $.70
Carrot Sticks: $.09 for a carrot
Total: $1.80

Lunch #7

lunch collage 7

Pumpkin Muffins: $.56 for two
Banana Larabar: $.37
Cucumber Spears: $.38 for ¼ lb.
Babybel Cheese: $.50
Total: $1.81

Lunch #8

lunch collage 8

Fiesta Popcorn: $.08 for a cup
Cheese Quesadilla: $.51
Corn Salsa: $.55 for ½ cup
Fruit Salad: $.59 for ¾ cup
Total: $1.73

Lunch #9

lunch collage 9

Gazpacho: $.82 for a cup
Biscuit: $.07
Hard-Boiled Egg: $.25
Half an Apple: $.42
Total: $1.56

Lunch #10

lunch collage 10

Macaroni and Cheese Muffins: $.46 for two
Blueberry Banana Oat Bar: $.28
Maple Nut Snack Mix: $.38 for ⅓ cup
Watermelon: $.17 for one cup
Total: $1.29

I’m always looking for new inspiration, so please share your suggestions for packing lunch in the comments!

Check out the other posts in my “Saving Money on Real Food” series:
Saving Money with Homemade Snacks
Saving Money with Homemade Staples
Saving Money with Vegetarian Dinners
Saving Money by Joining a CSA
Saving Money with Reduced Produce

10 Comments

  1. Thanks SO much for this awesome post! My daughter is starting kindergarten next week and I have to pack her lunch daily because she has celiac. So your ideas are super helpful!
    -Dana

    1. Thanks, Dana. Good luck with the transition to kindergarten! Your daughter would be much better off with lunch packed at home even if she didn’t have celiac.

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