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What's the REAL Cost of My Kids' Bag Lunch?

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Recession Mama: I used to always pack my kids' lunches, secure that what I could give them was healthier than what they would get at school and was saving us money, too.

mom packing food

One day, as a math exercise with my oldest, I worked out how much an average lunch cost me to make. First, the sandwich: two slices of bread (10 cents, if twenty slices in a $1.00 loaf); 2 oz. of deli turkey (38 cents, if on sale for $3.00 a pound); 1 slice of cheese (17 cents). Next, the fruit: a banana (15 cents for an average-size banana, if bananas are 50 cents a pound) and a tangerine (if $1.00 a pound, 26 cents for an average-size one). Now the extras: a fiber bar (39 cents each for Target brand, box of six for $2.34) and a cookie (a splurge, I realize now -- a Girl Scout Do-Si-Do, $4.00 for a box of 18, so a whopping 24 cents a cookie). Total price: $1.69 -- but wait ... the milk. I buy shelf-stable box milk, so I don't worry how long it stays unrefrigerated. I get it delivered by the case from Gossner Foods in Utah; total cost is 34 cents for an 8-ounce box. That brings the total for my school lunch to $2.03.

Fantastic! Then I remembered that our public school lunch offers a choice of two hot entrées, a cold entrée, and fruit yogurt, and includes a salad bar with garden vegetables, fresh fruit, and milk. Sometimes they have a cookie, too. School lunch total: $2.00.

Hmmm ... Now I just have to get them to go through that salad bar.

next: Make a Break for It: How to Get Your Run On
9 comments so far | Post a comment now
ashley June 5, 2009, 9:13 AM

Yeah, it really does turn out to be the same cost. Especially since my son gets a lunchable once aweek and those cost 2.98 plus you have to add in some fresh fruit. He also likes canteloupe in his lunch which is expensive (except in summer when there is no school!). I make a batch of mini blueberry muffins every week and he loves those and a box of mix from Jiffy is only 40 cents and you can add healthy stuff in like flax seed and wheat germ. In the end though he prefers to take his lunch for 2 reasons: 1) if he buys it then he doesn’t have enought time to eat 2)he thinks my cooking is legendary!!

naomi June 5, 2009, 11:29 AM

well here in california, my daughter’s school lunch is $3.50. all she wants is a sandwich and a water. so it ends up being WAY cheaper for me to make her lunch.

muddin mom of 2 June 5, 2009, 1:42 PM

if i only sent my kids a sandwich and a water….they would think their FATHER packed the lunch!

chris June 5, 2009, 2:36 PM

I volunteer and work sometimes in my kids school and it amazes me how little of their lunches that the kids actually eat. I have always packed my kids lunches so I know that get want they like and will eat it but the kids who buy lunches may spend $2.00 and only get a slice of pizza and milk and then only eat a bite or two of the pizza and threw the rest away. If you get a chance to go by your kids school at lunch time, do it and you too will be amazed that the amount of wasted food that ends up in the trash cans.

Stacey June 5, 2009, 4:37 PM

I want to know where in the country can you get a loaf of bread for $1?

Gail June 9, 2009, 6:59 AM

I find it cheaper to pack their lunches. My younger kids only have 1/2 sandwich, a couple cookies, and a juice box or yoohoo OR a string cheese, cheese pretzels, fruit cup, and drink. Packed lunches range from about .60 (yup that’s 60 cents) to about 1.50. The hot lunch is $1.85 a day so it can really add up to a lot of savings.

Gail June 9, 2009, 7:02 AM

Stacey, have you checked out your stores clearance bins? Mine often have loaves of bread for 50 cents and we go through it so fast I grab extra if I can. They also have bulky rolls and buns as well as sweets (the only way I will indulge), although the sweets aren’t as abundant.

Recession Mama June 12, 2009, 2:58 AM

We are in California, too, but our school district’s lunch price is $2.00. I buy my bread on sale at the supermarket, at the 99 cent store and believe it or not, my local Big Lots sells Sara Lee 100% whole wheat bread for $1.00. It is close to the expiration date, but bread freezes very well!

tabletki na pryszcze April 3, 2011, 7:24 AM

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