By Angela Shelf Medearis
Back-to-school shopping can blow up a household budget. Sometimes the only way a family can save money is by monitoring what it spends each week on groceries.
I’ve got some great ideas for starting off the new school year by shopping on a budget for your weekly work-and-school lunches. Try using some of these tips each week, and soon you should see some relief in your grocery bills while creating healthy, food-safe lunches for the whole family!
- Use washable and reusable containers: Avoid using plastic sandwich baggies. Buy containers in a variety of sizes to fit your lunchbox needs.
- Buy in bulk: Avoid single-serve packaging. You save money when you buy food in bulk and pack it yourself into single servings.
- Do it yourself: Look beyond lunch meat. Slice your own meat or grilled chicken breast and cut it into strips or cubes. Avoid prepackaged lunches, since they are high-priced.
- Send in leftovers: Invest in a good insulated food container to keep food warm. Homemade soup is always a good option.
- Buy what’s on sale and use coupons.
- Buy store-brand food: And be sure to compare unit prices.
- Look high and low: Bargains are usually on the top or bottom shelves, not at eye level.
- Plan ahead: Make a list when you go to the store. The more time you spend in a store, the more money you spend.
- Include the five food groups: A healthy lunch should contain foods from each of the five food groups: carbohydrates, protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables.
- Select protein foods wisely: Use lean meat like chicken or turkey breast, hard-boiled eggs, tuna packed in water, beans or peanut butter. Protein in every meal helps keep blood sugar steady.
- Buy fruits and vegetables in season and serve them creatively: Examples include baby carrots with yogurt dip or other cut vegetables with low-fat dip or hummus.
- Think beyond the cookie: For dessert, try whole-grain graham crackers, ginger snaps, raisins, unsweetened applesauce, homemade muffins or fresh fruit.
- Avoid drinks with calories and no nutrients: Pick a beverage that hydrates, like water, or choose low-fat or fat-free milk for additional protein, calcium and vitamin D.
- Include the kids: Take them along when grocery shopping. Let them pick one new fruit or vegetable each week that they would like to try. Then let them help prepare and pack their lunch.
Try this money-saving recipe for my Rainbow Lunch Wraps. Purchase premade hummus and coleslaw mix to save time.
Rainbow Lunch Wraps
4 tablespoons hummus
2 (8 inch) whole-wheat tortillas
1/2 cup shredded coleslaw veggie mix or any combination of thinly sliced crudite, like carrots, celery, zucchini or red bell pepper sticks (like those used for dipping)
3 tablespoons finely chopped sweet onion
6 cucumber rounds, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
1. Spread hummus evenly over each tortilla. Layer each tortilla with equal amounts of coleslaw mix or the sliced vegetables, onion and cucumber slices. Drizzle with vinaigrette.
2. Roll up tightly, slice diagonally and place in a reusable container for lunch or in the refrigerator if preparing ahead of time. Makes 2 wraps.
Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her website is www.divapro.com.