Monday, December 9, 2013

Single Mom Tips: Kids Lunch Edition

Our Mobile Therapist was over yesterday, he told me to go relax for awhile and he would run the therapy session.  He didn't have to ask me twice, I ran as fast as I could!  After enjoying some soup (and by soup I mean Shrimp Ramen Noodles---they are just SO good) for dinner in peace and quiet, I began to get started on my monthly lunch prep.  As I was working in the kitchen, the Mobile Therapist came out to chat and he was amazed at my system.  I started thinking of all the little things us Mom's do to make our life easier and thought it would be a great idea for some blog posts!  My goal for 2014 is to get systems in place for everything, so it all runs smoothly!



Today I'm going to talk about how I do school lunches in our house.  Right now I only have one school age child who needs a lunch every day (but I always try and set my house up as if I have more since you never know who will be here the next day in the world of foster care.  My younger ones also have "lunch bunch" three days a week at preschool, this is where they can stay for an extra hour after school and eat lunch/play.  On the other two days a week we are often out running around doing errands or appointments.  I found I ended up grabbing food while we were out and wasting money and not eating healthy.  So now I try and have all of us pack a lunch Monday through Friday, if we don't end up being out we can always eat it at home!

Our LUNCH fridge, Excuse the awful unfinished basement :)
 

In our basement I have a "mini" fridge, although its bigger than a dorm sized fridge.  You could easily find a full sized fridge on craigslist to use for this or maybe a shelf in your regular fridge.   This little fridge I found on sale at home depot and it is the perfect size to keep lunch stuff in without having anything else in there to distract little hands.  I keep a basket in the top where the lunch bags stay.  In the morning the boys go down stairs, get their lunch bags and make their lunch.  They take one item from each bin/basket and they are on their way!

Drinks- We have these water bottles that are reusable and are easy to fill up at the beginning of the week.  Matthew takes one a day and puts it in his lunch box, at the end of the day he puts it in the dishwasher.  Matthew isn't a big water fan so I sometimes put lemonade powder in or a juice/water mix.  Lunch bunch doesn't allow drinks, they give them water.  I keep some water bottles in the car if we are out and about for lunch.

Water- Free, Lemonade Powder $.05



Sandwiches-  My kids LOVE Peanut Butter and Jelly they will eat it every meal if I let them.  My school age child is allowed to have PB at school but the preschool does not.  To make it easy I just use 'sun butter' on the sandwiches, so as not to upset the preschool or cause any allergic reactions :) You can buy it in bulk on Amazon.    I also mark on their sandwiches that it is Sunbutter- Allergen Free, PB Alternative.....otherwise the preschool gets all crazy at lunch bunch!  Now despite the fact my kids love PB&J I LOATHE making them, all that sticky gooey mess, ugh.  So instead of making sandwiches every day I make them once a month...that's right once a month I make at least 60 PB & J sandwiches (and about 30 Ham and Cheese).  I will usually buy 3 loaves of bread and a bulk size of tortilla shells or if I see any rolls/bread/tortilla on the day old shelf for a good price I will buy them all!  I spread out the bread and shells and go down the line factory style spreading the sun butter/pb and jelly.  I roll up the tortillas, cut everything in half put them in the cheap sandwich baggies from the dollar store.  Then I put the sandwich bags back in the bag the bread or tortillas came in and stick the whole thing in the freezer.  In the morning the kids pull out a sandwich and stick it in their lunch bag, the sandwich will keep everything cold till lunch and be defrosted and ready to eat when lunch time comes around.

PB- $10/month  Bread-$10/month  Jelly- $10/month  90 sandwiches breaks down to about $0.33 per sandwich which can be even cheaper if you buy the items when they go on sale.  I average about $0.15 per sandwich, we stock up on PB/Sunbutter and Jelly when it goes on sale and this is a great way to buy bread that is on the day old shelf and use it up before it gets stale!


Fruit-  Our fruit bin contains fresh fruit like apples, bananas, or grapes in ziplock baggies.  I also will put applesauce, dried fruit, fruit snacks, fruit cups or fruit "chips" in the bin occasionally if something is on sale.  I also have little containers with caramel or sunbutter or our greek yogurt and honey dip in the bin.  The boys pick one item from the fruit bin (and a dip if they want) and place it in their bag.

Fresh Fruit- $0.10- $.25 a piece

Vegetables- The vegetable basket has fresh carrots, celery, and peas in ziploc along with ranch and sunbutter dips in small containers.  I also have veggie chips and dried veggies available if I see them on sale.  Again the boys pick one and put it in the bag.

Fresh Veggies and dip- Avg $.25 a serving

Snacks-  Ah, now we are getting to the fun stuff!  Snacks!  I typically look for snack foods on sale and will fill this basket up accordingly; goldfish, chips, teddy grahams,, yogurt, etc.  You can buy a larger size for cheaper and then break it down to portion size in baggies.

Snacks- The most I will spend on snacks is $.25 a serving, I prefer it to be around $.10.

Desserts-  We are still working our way through Halloween candy over here!  We are so close to finishing that up!  In addition to the candy, I have things like pudding, cookies, brownies, etc in this basket.  Most of the desert items are homemade. Ill make a double batch of cookies or brownies so we have some for after dinner and the rest for lunch.  If I have a coupon and something is on sale I'll grab them for the basket.

Desserts- Most of the desserts are homemade and a serving would cost me less than $.10 to make.


TOTAL COSTS:  So we are looking at about an average of $1.25 or so per lunch.  In reality by buying things on sale and stocking up it probably costs us closer to $.75 per lunch.  This is way cheaper than buying everyone fast food meals and a whole lot healthier.  Not to mention the effort on my end is minimal as I just check the refrigerator at  the beginning of the week and replenish what is running low!


What about you do you have any great time/money/sanity saving tips?  Id love to hear them in the comments or if you would like to write a guest post contact me through the form on the right.

Next week I'll be posting on easy lunches for us busy MOM's!  :)

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