For children, lunch at school provides a much needed break from classes and a bit of uninterrupted socializing. Though most parents don’t pay it too much attention, there is a lot that goes into providing children with a meal every day. One of the things that all too often falls through the cracks is the cost that comes from buying drinks, snacks, and other goodies for kids, then packing it away for their consumption. Whether it’s cheez-its or twinkies, juices boxes or gatorades, the price of school lunches quickly add up. And because lunch is not an expense you can just cut out, finding ways to save on it are important. To help you do so, consider these tips for reducing the price of lunch.

Buy in Bulk

One of the easiest ways to start cutting into the cost of school lunch is to begin buying in bulk. When it comes to those products that don’t have a pressing expiration date or that your kids gobble up fast, constant trips to the store mean more money coming out of pocket. And then there are products that come at a slightly higher cost like lunch meat or granola bars. Purchasing from a wholesale club will help you reduce the price per unit that you have to pay, while providing you with a greater supply. Something to remember is that just because you have more does not mean your kids are to treat eating it differently. Consuming at lunch and at the usual pace at home will ensure you that your bulk purchase goes a long way.

Get Reusable Containers

Part of putting together a school lunch is finding a way to pack everything. To separate desserts from sandwiches or contain portion-controlled treats, most people rely on plastic sandwich bags. Instead of purchasing these one-use containers, consider buying reusable containers to do the job. These will allow you to stash away all the parts of your child’s lunch without costing you any more than the initial price. Even better, some containers can be repurposed for school lunch. One of the most popular forms of this comes from pre-sliced lunch meat containers. Another reusable product you should consider purchasing is a lunch box. The best route to go with this is generic as not only will it cost less, it will be able to be used for far longer than something child-themed. And as an added bonus, reusable containers help the environment.

Make Your Own Snacks

Instead of buying individualized snacks or even pre-packaged bags of cookies and chips, consider making your own. When we take cooking and baking into our own hands, we are able to spend far less than what we would have for a name brand product. In addition, the amount some recipes make far exceeds what we get when we purchase snacks. And even more important, with all of the sugar and other additives put into snacks, making your own allows you to control exactly what goes into your child’s body. Healthy snacks like frozen grapes or mini muffins are not only delicious, but nutritious too.

Dinner For Lunch

From time to time, you may find that your kids are unable to finish everything on their dinner plate. Instead of throwing it out or wrapping it up for another night’s meal, when you find your kids haven’t finished something put it in a container and pack it in their lunch. This will allow you to extend what you use for meals as long as possible so that you don’t have to waste any ingredients. It will also make the process of planning and packing up lunch for the next day a bit easier as you’ll already have something waiting for your kids. Just be sure they aren’t holding off on eating vegetables only to dispose of them the next day!

Let Kids Pick Foods

One of the worst habits many kids have is throwing out perfectly good food. Whether they’re full or simply do not want it, this waste costs you money unnecessarily. And while you can pack things for your kids and hope for the best, once they’re at school, there is no telling what happens to the food. To save yourself some of the hassle of having to feed kids who ate half a lunch, you may find it helpful to allow your children to pick the snacks that make it into their lunch. This can be done as you navigate the aisles of the grocery store. Allowing your children to select snacks does not mean you relinquish complete control of what they eat. You can guide them to healthy alternatives that both of you agree upon and ensure that nothing gets dumped before being consumed.

As the school year gets underway, school lunch is one of several costs that may trip you up. Make sure that you keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to save all around and don’t be afraid to try new things. Reducing the expense of the year will ultimately come down to what works best for you. Finding just one tip that you can use can mean greater savings all year long.

Douglas Keller has been a financial expert for 20 years, helping people reach financial stability. He now provides personal finance tips on his blog Peak Personal Finance, where he helps people save money on their bills every month.
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