Tightwad Gazette: Lunchbox Basics

I was shopping for school lunch items for my daughter recently. It amazes me how much food items cost.

I know, I know…she qualifies for free lunches and breakfasts at school. But have you seen the school food? In my home, we are trying very hard to eat healthier. Fruits, veggies, 100% whole wheat and grain products. We obviously do not have the money to eat like this 100% of the time, but we are trying to as much as possible.

Her school does not follow what I consider healthy food guidelines, so I send food from home when ever I can.

Zowie is a senior in high school. She has been homeschooled, so this is her first year since she was 7 that she has had to eat school lunches. From what I understand, they have not changed much over that amount of time.

She is signed up for free lunch, so when I can’t send food she will still be able to eat, though she wouldn’t dream of eating much of it. She will, however, eat most of the fruits and vegetables that the school serves.

Zowie uses a brown paper bag to bring her lunch to school. We have a couple of lunchpacks, but they will not fit into her small locker. She also has a non-leaching water bottle and a non-leaching microwavable bowl. Her school lunchroom has a microwave that the students can use.

Convenience is important. Amy would never use convenience foods, but we are just so busy here. I bake bread, make homemade granola bars and items as often as is possible. However, I also use some convenience foods because I have so much to do. I have to have a happy medium.

Zowie’s school does not allow any type of peanut products, which takes a very cheap product out of our grasp.

  • On rare occasion, I purchase her a lunchable to bring.
  • I sometimes purchase juice drinks. Only 100% fruit juice.
  • Apples are always abundant, as is apple sauce. Pears are another good choice.
  • Sandwiches consist of turkey or ham, cheese and lettuce mix, as well as tomatoes, usually on 100% whole wheat bread.
  • Pudding cups on occasion.
  • Crackers. I purchase boxes and she brings them to school in baggies.
  • String cheese, or I have her cut cheese from a block. It depends on what is on sale.
  • Nutrigrain bars or homemade granola bars.
  • Easy Mac if I can get it cheaply. We usually make homemade mac and cheese, but don’t like it reheated.
  • Homemade muffins.
  • Air popped popcorn.
  • Homemade trail mix.
  • Pretzels or Sun Chips, on occasion. Purchased in a large bag. She puts some in a baggie.
  • Sunflower seeds.

We do not generally have a lot of leftovers that are not already reserved for another use, but she can take them to school for lunch when we do.

Amy discusses this topic on page 14 of her book, The Complete Tightwad Gazette.

What meals do you send to school with your children?

For more school lunch ideas, click here.

Shannon

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