Guide To Cheaper, Easier & Healthier School Lunches | Refresh Financial

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A Step-by-Step Guide To Cheaper, Easier and Healthier School Lunches

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With all the nut allergies and the rising costs of healthy food, packing a school lunch for your school-aged kids can be one of life’s greatest puzzles. Just think you find the perfect snack, there is a peanut warning on the label and you’re back to square one.

Lunches don’t have to be difficult, though. I’ve put together a point-form guide for saving money on healthy school lunches your kids will love. If you follow these points, packing their lunches will become a breeze.

1. Freeze juice boxes

Use them as an ice pack in your child’s lunch. Just pull it from the freezer in the morning and pack it in their lunch bag and by lunchtime, it’ll be a slushy, cool treat for them to drink. Using this trick also opens up many new lunch options you may have been worried about before - essentially, you’re turning your child’s lunchbox into a cooler with ice, so feel free to send that egg salad sandwich!

2. Replace peanut butter with other butters

Some kids love almond butter, others love hazelnut butter, but if your child’s school has a strict no nut policy, you can try coconut butter, sunflower seed butter or even pumpkin seed butter. There are a ton of alternatives to peanut butter and you might be surprised to find out that some of them are so much better!

3. Pasta

I swear, sometimes I feel like this is the miracle food. It costs pennies for a child-sized portion and fills little bellies full faster than most things. The greatest thing about pasta is that there are a ton of cold recipes out there your kids will love. Toss the pasta with a little cheese, olive oil, red wine vinegar and cherry tomatoes. Even leftover homemade mac and cheese is delicious served cold.

4. Edamame

If every attempt to send vegetables with your child's lunch fails, and those veggies come right back home again every evening, you need edamame. Every kid loves sucking those little beans out of the pod, and wouldn’t you know it, they’re even better cold! Cook them up the night before, sprinkle with some salt and your kids will have a healthy, extremely inexpensive snack for lunchtime.

5. No pre-packaged, processed snacks

Stay away from these snacks marketed for use in kid’s lunches. These are not only horrible for your child, as they are usually packed to the brim with sugar, but they are also very expensive and often leave your little ones feeling less than satisfied. You’re feeding them empty calories that cost three or four times as much as non-processed foods, and they’re still hungry afterwards. Plus, they’re going back into class pumped full of sugar and lacking the proper nutrients they need to focus on class and learning. We get it, these snacks are easy, but they are not worth it. Not even remotely.

6. Fruit

This seems like a no-brainer, but if you actually stopped in at an elementary school at lunch, you’d be horrified at the overwhelming lack of fruit. There is zero excuse for this, considering fruits are nature’s version of the easy, grab-and-go pre-packed snack with the added bonus of real nutrition. Plus, fruit is cheap and kids love it!

7. Bagels

Kids love ‘em and they’re cheap and filling. Get some multigrain bagels, slice them in half and slap some cream cheese on it. Your kids will love it and their tiny bellies will fill with all sorts of goodness.

8. Get your kids involved

If they are younger, do it with them, but at age 10, 11, 12 and onward, there’s no reason kids can’t make their own lunches. This is the perfect opportunity to teach them about budgeting and nutrition while giving them responsibility. Plus, it saves you time!

If you follow these steps, school lunches will no longer be a headache. It’ll be a breeze, it’ll cost you less, and your kids will be getting some fantastic nutrition.

Are there any other tips for making school lunches you know of? Let us know in the comments!

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