Preparing healthy lunches for kids, week after week, that don’t take a big bite out of your grocery budget can be a challenge. If you’re saving on a tight budget, try these money-saving tips for making nutritious lunches for your kids.
Freeze Food Bargains for Later Use
If you aren’t freezing grocery items for use later, it’s time to start. You can cut your food bills in half by buying in bulk when something’s on sale, planning ahead, cooking meals and then freezing them in meal-sized amounts. Once you get used to creating freezer meals you might find investing in a chest freezer – to give you more space for your frozen meals and other bargains you buy in bulk – will save money in the long run.
Use a Slow Cooker
Slow cookers are a great way to create home-cooked meals on a budget while you are at work, or even overnight. Wake up in the morning to a pot of delicious chili, soup or stew, and use thermal containers to pack a satisfying, warm lunch in the fall and winter. Slow cookers let you to save on groceries since they turn cheaper cuts of meat into tender pieces. Think Irish stew, beef stroganoff, and pulled pork, all made with inexpensive cuts of beef, lamb or pork. There are plenty of vegetarian dishes that benefit from long, slow cooking, too.
Master the Art of Leftovers
Before you put away the food and do the dishes after dinner, have a peek and see what you can repurpose for lunch the next day. Use leftover cooked meat for next-day taco, quesadilla or sandwich fillings. Cooked vegetables can be transformed into veggie patties or veggie burgers. Make breadcrumbs from stale bread, smoothies with aging avocados, and pancakes or cookies with brown bananas. About 40% of the food produced every year in Canada goes to waste, and Canadian households on average waste $28 worth of food each week, most of which is still good to eat.1
Make Budget-Friendly Substitutions
Many foods are pricey but have cheaper alternatives. Canned salmon and tuna are easy to use instead of fresh fish and cost less. Instead of using canned beans or legumes, try buying dried ones that can be soaked overnight and cooked. Nuts are healthy but often expensive, but you can substitute seeds that have many of the same nutrients. Sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds can be mixed into cookie dough, sprinkled on top of yogurt parfaits, or roasted and salted as healthy snacks.
Be Your Own Prep Cook
Buying food that is pre-cut is more expensive. If you make a habit of washing and cutting up fruit and veggies as soon as you bring them home from the store, you will save money and time when packing lunches in the morning by having cubed melon, cut-up carrots, sliced cucumbers or pineapple chunks ready to go.
With just a little planning, you can make good lunches for kids that are healthy, easy to make and budget-friendly. Make sure you check with your school about any food restrictions due to allergies.