Cut cost of kids' lunches by up to 75 percent

August 22, 2011 4:13:06 PM PDT
It's back-to-school time and you may have been one of the many parents scrambling to make your kids lunch. If you were, then this Stretch Your Dollar will help.

Second to getting breakfast on the table is getting your kids school lunches. It is one of the biggest stresses that parents face at the beginning of the school year. So while convenient foods are a great way to save time, it's also more expensive.

Grocery stores are packed with foods that make life easy -- perfectly packaged fruit cups, individually wrapped string cheese, and vegetables and fruit all perfectly sliced. Many foods are targeted to parents who are on the go.

"You want them to eat healthy and have a lot of energy," parent Rebekah Fong said.

But shopping for convenience food is pricey. A package of individually wrapped string cheese sticks is $6.27, sliced carrots and celery $3.97 each and a single pint of sliced fruit is a whopping $3.97.

"It can be pretty high, like $5 for just a small container. You can buy more fruit with just $5, so get a whole lot," parent Julie Gonzales said.

So we know you are going to pay a lot more for convenience but exactly how much more? We put some products similar to the ones that are pre-packaged and see how much money we are going to save.

Remember the fruit cups for $3.97? We made our own fruit cup. Our version is $1.46 a serving. Apple slices cost $3.98 for five individually packs. Our version sliced and bagged were just 41 cents a serving.

Remember those mozzarella string cheese slices for $6.27? We sliced and pre-packed our own cheese for 27 cents a serving.

Lunchables are a popular lunch box item with kids. The price is $1.38 a box, but we packed our own version for half the price.

Sometimes convenience is not always the most expensive. For example, we found a 9-pack box of some cookies for $4.50 but when we did it yourself, this was $3 for only five. So the better bargain is definitely the convenience pack.

And while slicing and pre-packing your own lunches takes extra time, parents says they like idea of controlling the portions.

"When you do it yourself, you know what you are getting; you know what you are putting in," one parent said.

The bottom line is we found that we saved 50 to 75 percent by packing and preparing our own lunches.

When it comes to organizing, get your kids involved. Pick one day a week to slice and dice fruits and veggies. Keep in mind if you are going to be packing lunches that need to be kept cold, be sure to use blue ice packs or an insulated bag.

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