Budget 101 idea of the month of September
Brown bag your family's Lunches. Make lunches for school, work. Make and take with you!
You do not have to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day. But with a little planning and preparations you can make a great lunch and save money all at the same time.
Now I make a lunch everyday for my husband. We do live in a warmer climate, so he prefers in the summer months to have the stand by of peanut butter and jelly. I do make muffins, cookies, and such to include in every lunch. His daily lunch includes 2 sandwiches, a baggie full of chips, crackers; something salty and crunchy. He gets a dessert, muffin, cupcake, banana bread, etc. He gets a vegetable, either a salad, or the standby by of carrots, and other veggies. Now my husband does not eat much fruit, but I would include an apple, banana, orange, and other fruit that is on sale or in season, grapes, peaches, plums, etc. He gets one can of soda. He drinks 6-8 bottles of water through out the day, so including a soda for his lunch is a nice treat. Some days he drinks it, and others he does not. I put in a cold pack reusable freezer pack, we have a few and keep them in the freezer. On real hot days I use 2 packs, to keep things cold. In the winter he will get meat sandwiches, and a thermos full of soup.
When sending food that needs to eaten with a spoon of fork, be sure to include that in each lunch. May want to include a napkin, and or a paper towel, moist wipe.
Tip for this is buy cheap plastic forks, spoons, knives and then you will not get lose your families silverware or get accidentally tossed in the trash. I do buy cheap real silverware that is used for just lunches, that way if they do get lost, or tossed it is no big deal.
Another tip: there are many reusable lunch totes, bags to buy or use for packing lunches. Many have pockets. Use the pockets for additional things that need to be sent daily.
I also put a small hand sanitizer in his outside pocket, so he can "clean" his hands before he eats. I also include here his fork, spoon, and his napkins.
Keep it cold. For safety's sake, pack lunch with a reusable ice pack. Better yet, freeze a small water bottle or box of 100% juice. Your child will have a slushy drink to enjoy at lunch and won't have to worry about bringing an ice pack home. Now if the person you are packing a lunch for has access to fridge and a microwave; then you can send leftovers, or food that can be heated up and then eaten.
Fruit and Cheese Plate. Fill a divided plastic container with assorted cubes or slices of reduced fat cheese, easy-to-eat fruit such as apple and pear slices, grapes, berries or melon and whole-wheat crackers. Cottage cheese is a great addition.
Lunch Salads. A plastic container can hold the makings of a delicious salad lunch. For a Cobb salad, fill it with spinach or chopped dark green lettuce, chopped hard-boiled egg, light cheese, and/or lean ham. Or toss in the ingredients for a Chinese chicken salad: dark salad greens, shredded chicken, shredded carrots, sliced green onion, and toasted sliced almonds.
The salad will stay fresher if your child adds the dressing at lunchtime. Put a light dressing into a small container, buy packets of light dressing, or use extra packets of dressing left over from a fast-food meal.
It's a Wrap! Wraps are a nice change of pace from the usual sandwich. Use a high-fiber multi-grain flour tortilla, available in most supermarkets. Spread on mustard, hummus, light salad dressing, or green or sun dried tomato pesto. Then fill 'er up with chicken Caesar salad or assorted lean meats, cheese, tomato, sliced onion, and shredded Romaine lettuce. Just roll it up and wrap in foil. Kids can eat it like a burrito -- by unwrapping it on one end and working their way down.
A few other Ideas:
- Fruit cups (with no sugar added)
- Applesauce in flavors such as pomegranate or cranberry-raspberry (also with no sugar added)
- Nuts or seeds in a shell (if age and allergy appropriate), such as walnuts, pistachios, peanuts, or sunflower seeds
- Raw veggies (ready to pack) such as carrot sticks, sugar snap peas, celery, or jicama sticks
- Cheese sticks -- available in 2% sharp cheddar, part skim-milk mozzarella, pepper jack, and more
- Healthy snack bars (individually wrapped) with 3 or more grams of fiber, less than 10 grams sugar, and no more than 1 gram saturated fat
- Yogurt in individual containers (keep it cold by packing them with a reusable ice pack or a small water bottle that has been frozen.)
Of course brown bagging your lunch can get stale and boring. So be creative and let your juices flow. Do a simple search on the internet and you will get all kinds of ideas just for adults, kids, and such.
So with a little planning and by being creative you all can have a great lunch every day.
Be sure to clean out the lunch boxes each and every night, clean as needed. Put the freezer packs in the freezer for the next morning. Wash all containers, thermos, silverware.
You can prep the lunch boxes each night, get into a routine, after dinner and the dishes done, start to pack the lunch with the non perishable foods. That way in the morning all you have to do is make the sandwiches, pull out the freezer packs, and other refrigerated items.
Brown bagging is easy and will save you money in the long run!