School lunches: Try cheap and delicious this year!

Savings Angel

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Running out of ideas for packing school lunches?

Why hot lunch is no bargain

Buying hot lunch at school is convenient, but many parents are questioning whether the food doled out by the lunch lady is healthy. It’s not cheap either for that matter.

Let’s assume the average school lunch is $3.00 – that’s about the amount the government will reimburse schools through the National School Lunch Program in 2014-2015. At that price, you’re paying $540 a year for just one child to eat, assuming there are 180 days of instruction. Throw in a couple siblings, and school lunch can quickly become unaffordable.

Plus, you might have good reason to question the food’s quality. The organization School Food Focus reports less than half of the cost of a school lunch is spent on food. About 55 percent of the price is spent on labor, including administration, and supplies.

50 cent school lunches

If you think there’s no way you can compete with a $3 school lunch, think again. In the past, I’ve been able to pack lunches for my kids for as little as 50 cents a lunch.


It’s simple. I use Enlightened Shopping on to match coupons with sales and then stock up on lunch supplies.

That means I have a freezer full of lunch meat and bread I bought at a deep discount that will make nearly free sandwiches. I add some seasonal, sale fruit or veggies as a side and pour some milk in a thermos to drink. If you want to be really frugal, have your kids drink water.

How to save on your kids’ school lunches

Maybe your kids aren’t into sandwiches. That’s ok. There are plenty of other ways to save. Try these tried and true strategies.

· Use the coupon match-ups as a guide: Just as you use the coupon match-ups to guide your menu planning (remember how we talked about that two weeks ago?), you need to do the same with your lunches. See where the deals are in the store and use those sale items as a basis for your lunches.

· Stock up on sales: Likewise, buy extras when you spot a great deal and freeze what you won’t use immediately. Bread will thaw on the counter top and lunch meat in the fridge. If properly frozen, taste and texture should be the same.

· Skip single servings: Unless there is an awesome coupon match-up making an item practically free, skip the single serving items. Same with the Lunchables. You could buy boxes of crackers and slice up chunk cheese yourself for way less than those lunch packs cost.

· Think outside normal lunch fare: One frugal – and tasty! – way to step outside the sandwich rut is to make extras at dinner and send the leftovers for lunch. Some schools provide microwaves, but even if they don’t, many leftovers are good cold too. Next time you have an extra chicken breast from dinner, slice it into strips, send it to school with some dipping sauce and see what your kids think.

Don’t let school lunches make you poor. Rather than subjecting your child to mushy peas and mystery meat, pack some homemade goodness for your child to eat this year!

The best couponers save hundreds of dollars every month at the grocery store. However, extreme couponers can end up living very extreme lifestyles to get those savings. For over five years, has equalized the playing field – giving extreme savings to busy families who don’t have the time or ability to be an extreme couponer. Each week,’s over 70 angels combine over 2,000 products on sale at local grocery and drug stores with an enormous database of over 2000 different manufacturer coupons. These combinations result in our members getting access to over 300 products each week for 50% off or better. Simply log in, choose the deals you want, print or clip only the coupons you need, and save hundreds of dollars a month at regional and national stores. Our angels will personally work with you to craft a plan that will help you buy healthier food at lower prices – helping you keep $200 to $400 in savings each month.

Josh Elledge is chief executive "Angel" of, a website that teaches consumers how to save money through a free money savings video eCourse and podcast. SavingsAngel also provides hundreds of 50% off or better deals each week to members by matching local grocery and drug store sales with its free database of over 5,000 accessible coupons. A husband and father of three, he now appears each week on television, in eight newspapers, and a number of radio stations across the country teaching families how to cut their grocery bill in half using the Internet. Elledge created the technology found on through the need to save his own family’s money. Successfully able to cut his own grocery bill from $600 a month to less than $300 a month, his message has reached hundreds of thousands of families. is now growing rapidly throughout the country. You can watch a short video at that will explain more information about how to cut your own grocery bill in half with the help of!


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