Frugal School Lunches
Tips For Busy Parents

First Tip: Don’t tell the kids that your making frugal school lunches for them. That’s the first rule in getting your children to enjoy their packed lunch every day whilst on a budget. If they know that it didn’t cost much they will assume that it won’t taste good, but how wrong they will be.



The battle to ensure that your kids are eating well everyday seems to be getting harder and harder for parents these days.

Especially now that fast food takeaways seem to be on every street corner and charging such a cheap price for their version of food. Its no wonder children find it so easy to get their chip and grease fix everyday.

But as we all know, child obesity levels are at an all time high and studies have proven that children who do not eat well have lower concentration levels and find it harder in the classroom.

Gone are the days when we can rely on the school canteen to provide a nutritious meal every day. So how do we make frugal school lunches not only nutritious and cheap on the pocket but also something we know our kids will enjoy?

Frugal living is for the whole family and the benefits are not only financial but also can be beneficial to your family’s health.

Provide Frugal School Lunches They Will Like

Kids and adults have different ideas about what tastes good. It will be a complete waste of time and money if you pack lunches for your kids that they end up throwing away once they reach school. Instead do a little recognisance before you plan yourgrocery list.

In many situations parents may find that their children have a very limited range of foods they like to eat when asked. However this is normally because they have not tried many items and even ones that they say they don’t like can be dressed up and disguised in interesting and colourful ways.

  • Find out from your kids the sort of things they would like to eat at lunchtime.
  • Treats such as crisps can be included in their frugal school lunches a couple of times a week. Healthier versions such as baked crisps are now available at a similar price as the ordinary ones.
  • Find out if the school has a microwave, which is accessible to the children – this will enable you to provide meals that need to be heated. A great way to use leftovers. Even if a microwave is not available it is still possible to send your kids to school with a hot meal by using a thermos flask.

Frugal Lunch Box Suggestions

Hot School Lunch Ideas

Hot meals - Using leftovers from the nights before meal is a great and healthy way to provide your child with a hot meal the next day. Make sure you buy a good thermos that will keep the food hot until lunchtime and comes with a wide top. The lids are great for use as either a cup for stews and soups or as a bowl. Some ideas of hot frugal school lunches are:

  • Stews and soups
  • Chilli (provide Pitta pockets or wraps to be filled with the chilli)
  • Hot dogs (provide empty rolls or rolls with mustard and ketchup already in)
  • Noodles or spaghetti (make sure you chop up these before you put them in the flask)

Fun Salads The Kids Will Love

Salads – A salad need not look boring and can contain many different cheap ingredients. A few suggestions for salad frugal school lunches are: 
Cold Pasta salad (use interesting pasta shapes for variety and colour)

  • Rice salad (dress brown rice up with colourful chopped up tomatoes and peppers)
  • Crisp Lettuce leaves (can be used instead of bread and can be filled by the child with either hot of cold fillings. Keep lettuce fresh inside a thermos or freezer bag.
  • Root vegetable fingers (peel and cut carrots and celery into sticks. Great for munching on)
  • Fruit salad (make your own by peeling and chopping up variety of different fruits. Make the selection different according to what’s in season for the cheapest option. Keep fresh in a cool sealed freezer bag)

Sandwiches & Wraps

Sandwiches and wraps – keep sandwiches simple and not sloppy. By overfilling them with different things they will go soft and soggy by lunchtime. Another good trick is to cut the sandwich up into small bite size squares, much easier to eat and more visually appealing.

  • Wraps are best left unfilled; provide separate fillers for your child to create their own sandwich.
  • Toasted sandwich (toast a simple sandwich and allow to go cold, put it in the fridge to keep fresh, a great alternative to a simple sandwich)

Feel Good Snacks For the Kids

Snacks – by providing your kids with something that they can nibble on between meals is a good way to stop them spending more money on sweets during the day. The less they spend the easier it is on your frugal budget.

  • Bread sticks (these now come in small handy finger sizes, great with a dip or on their own)
  • Pretzels (often available in big bags from the pound shops)
  • Crackers (spread soft cheese on a cracker and then place another cracker on top, a great little snack)
  • Raisins (don’t buy the handy individual boxes, buy a large bag and put them in a small paper bag)
  • Popcorn (pop some kernels the night before and keep them fresh in a sealed paper bag)
  • Drinks (fill a reusable drinking cup with lid from a large carton of juice. Kids love the colourful cups now available, they are quite cheap to buy)

Fun Lunch Container Ideas

Be creative with the children’s suggestions and present the frugal school lunches in such a way that will appeal to a child visually. Plain old sandwiches can look very boring after a while.

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