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

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

One day, as a math exercise with my oldest, I worked out just how much the average lunch cost me to make. First, the sandwich: two slices of bread (10 cents, if there are 20 slices in a $1 loaf); 2 oz. of deli turkey (38 cents, if it's on sale for $3 a pound); 1 slice of cheese (17 cents). Next, the fruit: a banana (15 cents for an average-size one, if bananas are 50 cents a pound) and a tangerine (26 cents for an average-size one, if selling at $1 a pound). Now the extras: a fiber bar (39 cents each for Target brand; a box of six costs $2.34) and a cookie (a splurge, I realize now -- a Girl Scout Do-Si-Do, $4.00 for a box of 18, making it a whopping 24 cents per cookie). Total price: $1.69. 

But wait: I forgot about the milk. I buy shelf-stable boxed milk so I don't have to worry about how long it stays unrefrigerated. I get it delivered by the case from Gossner Foods in Utah; the 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 includes a choice of two hot entrees, a cold entree, a fruit yogurt, a salad bar with garden vegetables, fresh fruit and milk. (Sometimes they have a cookie, too.) School lunch total: $2.00.

Hmm. Now I just have to get my kids to go through that salad bar ....

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3 comments so far | Post a comment now
estazolam March 12, 2011, 1:51 PM

Good article. Thank you.

Sara March 14, 2011, 6:43 AM

Why are you packing a fiber bar in your kids lunch? Those things are like candybars.

If you stick with non processed foods you’ll save money and actually give your kid a healthier lunch. My daughter gets a sandwich and fruit and I use a thermos for her milk.

Tara Sweet March 19, 2011, 5:35 PM

Thanks for an informative article - I’ve always wondered about the cost of bringing versus bagging it but just never got around to doing the math…

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