It’s tough enough to stick to a budget and give your kids healthy meals at home. When they’re at school, you really have to be creative to give them something other than a tired old sandwich that will be affordable, nutritious, and survive the trip to school in the lunchbox. All that’s required is a thermos, some sandwich bags, and an ice pack to make sure your child will enjoy lunch at school without breaking the budget. Check out these easy and frugal school lunch ideas.
School Lunch Ideas
1. Pasta salad
This one is super easy and kids love it! You could do the macaroni and tuna type of salad, or the antipasto type of salad with macaroni, Italian dressing, and cheese chunks. This is a great use for leftover pasta. My kids love it when I throw some pepperoni and veggies in with leftover pasta and then add some dressing!
2. Garden salad
My kids love salad. And they love it even more when they get to make it themselves. There are so many great salad-in-a-jar ideas out there, so that’s an easy way to make lunch fun. If you don’t go with a mason jar salad, make sure to put the dressing on the side so you don’t end up with soggy veggies.
3. Spaghetti and Meatballs
Put hot spaghetti sauce and meatballs in a thermos and they can pour it over pasta when it’s time to heat. It will have cooled off enough to eat by lunchtime, but it won’t be too cold to eat.
Using the same method as above, soup is great in a thermos with a half of a sandwich on the side.
Almost anything that goes into a sandwich can go on a wrap – egg salad and tuna salad are inexpensive wrap fillings. We like to get creative at our house. One of our favorite wraps is turkey with spinach, cream cheese, American cheese and apples! Yummo!
6. Homemade trail mix
Premade trail mix is expensive, but if you buy the ingredients in bulk and put them together in a sandwich bag, you’ll save a lot of money.
7. Fruit slices
Depending on what’s in season where you live, apple or orange slices can be inexpensive and healthy additions to the lunch box.
Last night’s dinner can do double duty for lunch today. Chunks of chicken or roast beef are great with a dipping sauce, and we know how kids like to dip!
9. Veggies and dip
Peel and cut your own dippable veggies instead of buying premade to save money. Kids love it and it’s healthy!
10. Cereal and Milk
Just because it’s lunchtime doesn’t mean you can’t have cereal! Milk can be put in the thermos and poured on when it’s time to eat! You can even purchase a Freeezable Cereal Container which will hold your milk and cereal! Best of all, cereal is frequently on sale and lots of coupons are available.
11. Make your own Lunchables
These pre-packaged lunches from the store are full of preservatives and pricey. You can make your own with cheese slices, crackers, and deli meat bought by the pound sliced thick. To make lunches even more fun, I use these Pampered Chef Mini Cookie Cutters to cut out my meats and cheeses. The kids love them!
When you send your child back to school this fall, you can rest easy knowing that they are getting a meal full of love and nutrition, and your bank account will thank you too!
Want to make school lunches even more fun?
Make sure to download these FREE Printable Lunchbox Notes.