There are so many options for saving money on back to school supplies. However, you’re missing out on savings if you only focus on notebooks and pens. That’s because one of the biggest school expenses is the cost of lunches. Fortunately, you can also save money on back to school lunches.
Children need tasty, nutritious lunches every day of the week. Some children also need an extra snack or two packed in their lunch bags. Savvy parents need to learn how to shop smart when it comes to the food that goes into those lunchboxes.
1. National School Lunch Program
First, see if your family qualifies for the National School Lunch Program. This program provides free and low-cost meals to families below a certain income level. This may be the most affordable option if you qualify.
2. Create a Family Meal Plan
The key to saving money on food is planning ahead. Take the time to create a family meal plan for the week or month. Use this meal plan to create your shopping list before you head to the store. When creating your plan, remember:
- Include all food that everyone will eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
- Look for ways to repurpose meals. For example, schedule lunch on Fridays to be Thursday’s dinner leftovers.
- Choose meals that utilize the same ingredients. This way, you can buy them in bulk.
- Make a shopping list that includes every item that you need.
- Search for coupons and deals for each item on the grocery list.
- If you see a great buy, think about ways to change the meal plan to accommodate it. If you can’t, then don’t buy it.
3. Buy in Bulk with Coupons
Whenever possible, buy in bulk. Make sure that you use coupons to further reduce the cost of bulk items. For example, you can save money at Costco with coupons. This allows you to purchase a lot of food for the week at a low price.
Do you want to buy dry goods that you don’t need in bulk? Check with other families to see if they’d like to split the cost of bulk goods that are good for school lunches.
4. Take Advantage of Other Coupon Deals
You won’t be able to buy all school lunch food in bulk. For example, you want to include lots of fresh fruits and veggies so that your child has a well-balanced meal. When purchasing items like this, make sure to consider all of your coupon options to get the best deal. For example, shop at stores that accept double stack and triple stack coupons.
5. Invest in Reusable Utensils
Don’t pay again and again for things like sandwich bags and plastic forks. Instead, invest in a sturdy set of re-usable school lunch supplies. Look for coupons to buy:
- Durable lunchbox with separate compartments.
- Durable containers that can be washed and re-used.
- Re-usable, re-sealable snack bags.
- Water bottles including one for drinks and another to freeze to keep lunches cold.
- Thermos for leftovers and hot meals.
Additional Tips for Saving Money on Back to School Lunches
Here are a few more things to remember:
- Look for back-to-school grocery deals. However, don’t assume that they’re always the best deal. Do your research.
- Don’t purchase single-serving items. For example, buy a big bag of carrot sticks then portion them out yourself.
- Choose dense, nutritious, high-calorie (but healthy) foods. Hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter, and avocado are a few.
- Think outside of the box. We can get in a rut making the same school lunches. Use deals to inspire new meals.
- Involve your child in meal planning. This makes it more likely that she won’t just throw away what you pack.
Saving money on back to school lunches is a key part of budgeting during the school year. Use all of the tools at your disposal!
Do you have any tips for saving money on back to school lunches? Let us know in the comments below!