Healthy School Lunches on a Budget
When it comes to making your child's school lunch, most parents find themselves facing a difficult challenge: How do you make healthy meals that come in under budget that your child actually wants to eat? The good news is, with a little planning, you can come up with creative menus that are heavy in nutritional value but light on your pocket. And don't forget to load up on free coupons before trying a few of these lunch ideas!
- Pasta salad: This is a great lunch idea for many reasons. Pasta is inexpensive, and you can make multiple servings at once to save time. Use whole wheat pasta to up the nutritional value, and from there you can add veggies and seasoning based on your child's taste preferences. Throw in some cheese for protein and you'll have all the four food groups covered in one easy meal!
- Peanut butter and apples: This is a slight twist on a classic lunchbox dish. Jelly tends to be high in sugar and lacks the nutritional value found in real fruit. So switch it up by replacing jelly with apples, served on whole wheat bread. Or, just throw in some sliced apples with peanut butter as a protein-filled snack. The best part? These ingredients don't cost a lot, and can make over a week's worth of lunches.
- Fruit: Lunches just aren't complete with a little something for the sweet tooth, so give your child some fruit in place of a cookie or candy. You can purchase frozen fruit like blueberries and strawberries for a fraction of the price, and it will provide plenty of servings. Mix them in with a little plain yogurt for a kid-friendly snack.
- Use leftover meat: Lunchmeat is pricey, and it's often high in salt and low in nutritional value. Instead of making bologna sandwiches, use leftover meat to make healthy sandwiches that won't take a bite out of your budget. For example, shred last night's chicken and mix it with some olive oil-based mayo. The result is a chicken salad sandwich that any kid is sure to enjoy.
- Wonton pockets: Kids can get bored of having sandwiches every day, so break up the routine with wonton pockets. Just fill wonton wrappers (found in the produce section) with whatever ingredients you have in the fridge. Some ideas include pizza sauce and cheese, turkey and cheese, or pork and barbeque sauce. Cook them until crispy, and throw them in the fridge to have on hand.
- Hummus and salsa: A typical lunch might include a bag of chips as a side, but these offer little in the way of nutrition. Replace the chips with veggies and hummus or baked tortilla chips and salsa. This is a great way to introduce veggies and healthy fats in an appetizing way, and you can stay on budget by surfing CoolSavings for coupons on your favorite brands.
- Homemade pizza: What kid doesn't like pizza? But since store bought pizza comes loaded with preservatives, take the healthy route and make your own. Start off with a whole wheat crust, and then add all your favorite toppings. Try using leftovers as toppings to stretch your food budget as far as possible. The great part is you can freeze the pizza, so you always have a fast and healthy lunch on hand.