This is a re-post and perfectly timed for Back to School, enjoy!
The following is a weekly feature brought to us by Sumiko from Near to Nothing. I’ve asked her to share tips and tricks (and recipes!) that show us ways to replace the items we’d typically buy canned or frozen from scratch at home for less! You’ll find a new From Our Pantry post each Monday.
Most moms cry when their little ones start preschool. I have to admit that I was ecstatic when my twin boys started preschool this past fall! I now have two mornings every week with just the baby at home–I didn’t realize how many usable hours there are in the day! And the boys are really in need of some outside-of-the-house-without-mommy time.
This does make Tuesday and Thursday mornings quite interesting. My 2nd grader can pretty much get herself ready for school, but the boys are another story. More than ever, we need organization and efficiency in our mornings.
I have to admit that packing school lunches is one of my least favorite things to do. I currently only have to pack two lunches (one for my daughter and one for my husband), but someday I will have to pack five. Just thinking about it makes me tired. Last year I kept finding myself scrounging around the kitchen every morning trying to pull healthy lunches together at the last minute while trying to make breakfast and help my daughter get ready for school. Can we say “frazzled”?!?!
To save money and feed my family more nutritiously, I do not buy pre-packaged snacks. Though individually packaged snacks are super convenient, they can cost three to five times more than if you bought a regular package and divided it up yourself. For example, I checked the price of goldfish crackers at WinCo a while ago. If you buy the 100-calorie packs, you will pay over $0.70 per ounce. However, if you buy a big box and divide it up into little containers or bags, you will only pay $0.21 per ounce. The same is true for just about all pre-portioned snacks: raisins, applesauce, fruit cups, pudding cups, crackers, chips, cookies, cheese, and drinks.
To be a little more environmentally friendly, I try to use cheap reusable plastic containers. I love these Glad containers. They hold ½ cup and are the perfect size for snacks. I bought this pack of eight for only $2.22 at Wal-Mart. Before sending them to school with my daughter, I used a permanent marker to write her name on them. Hopefully we’ll end the school year with almost as many as we’re started.
Packing snacks like this does take time. That’s one reason why my mornings used to be so hectic. But I am not willing to pay the extra money for convenience. I decided I did not want to continue in this manner for the next 17 years so I came up with a system for preparing school lunches:
Sunday night: prepare and package up all snacks for the week
Each night: fill lunch box/bag with non-refrigerated items (including napkin and utensils); fill thermos and put in fridge
Each morning: add refrigerated/frozen items (including ice pack)
By packaging up all the snacks on Sunday night, the rest of the week is grab-n-go. There are some things I cannot do on Sunday such as cut fresh fruit and vegetables for the entire week—I usually portion these out on Sunday and Wednesday nights.
I usually send my husband with dinner leftovers for lunch. I simply package those up for him as I am putting the leftovers away. And I have the added benefit that my daughter’s school allows the kids to microwave their lunches.
Good school lunch ideas (all can be made ahead of time and frozen!):
- Bean, rice, and cheese burrito (I can make 5o burritos for well under $20!)
- Grilled cheese
- Peanut butter and banana sandwiches
- English muffin/bagel pizza
- Macaroni and cheese
Good school snack ideas:
- Crackers and peanut butter
- Hummus with pretzels or pita bread/chips
- Grapes, sliced apples or peaches, or orange slices
- Cheese sticks (cut from a block to save money)
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Whole wheat noodles
- Carrot or celery sticks (ants on a log!)
- Homemade trail mix/snack mix
- Raisins or other dried fruit
- Granola bars
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 to 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup wheat germ*
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup mix-ins (see below)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
- Dried cranberries
- Chocolate chips or peanut butter chips
- 1/2 cup peanut butter (plus some chocolate chips, of course!)
- Dried fruits (apples, bananas, cherries, blueberries, etc.)
- Pretty much anything your heart desires!