I'm a busy homemaker who is just discovering the wonderful world of being frugal. My household consists of 6 family members, 5 adults and one 4 year old. To help cut costs, I have decided to start making bagged lunches for the 3 of them that are at work or school for lunchtime.
So I'm looking for reasonably healthy, affordable bagged lunch ideas that are easy to make ahead of time and just take from the fridge. Variety would be good, I don't want them getting bored of the meals and not eat (or go spend $8 at a fast food restaurant). Any advice?
Stacey from Dorr, MI
Make your own fruit and veggie packets ahead of time. Peel, cut, and put into individual bags or containers so that it is easy to grab 'n go. Same goes for snacks. By a big bag and make your own snack bags. Saves money and time. I also try to make lunches the night before so that it is easier in the morning. Many people don't want to be bothered to make a lunch if they are in a rush, but if it is already done then it is a no-brainer. (01/06/2009)
I usually make meals like chili, stews, soups, and some Indian dishes in larger quantities and freeze in individual containers in the freezer, just grab and go and heat it up in the microwave at school or work. You can also purchase plastic containers which have several compartments in one, so you can put several things in there, just like a frozen meal you'd buy in the store (mashed potatoes, veggies, and a protein).
When apples are really inexpensive I make my own apple sauce and store in containers ready for lunches. I do the same with rice pudding. Much healthier and cheaper than the store bought stuff.
Hummus veggie wraps made with pita bread and filled with tomatoes and cucumbers is really good, too. Hummus has lots of protein and is easy and cheap to make. Also looks like something more gourmet than the average peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Good luck. (01/06/2009)
I like to make salads in small containers and put the dressing in a separate small container. All you have to do is add the dressing and shake it to mix it all together. There are so many things you can put on a salad, meats, cheeses, veggies, fruits, and nuts. And there are so many different dressings that you won't get bored having the same old thing. (01/08/2009)
A sandwich with one or two pieces of fruit is a good lunch. You may want to include just a few potato chips or a pickle. Years ago we used to say something sweet and something salty for a packed lunch. My son likes to take a cup of yogurt for his morning's coffee break.
For those who have a microwave to use, leftovers make the best lunches. (01/09/2009)
By Carol in PA
I live in Hawaii and get lots of different influences from different cultures. I also have a very very picky daughter that does not like to eat so I constantly bribe her to take her home lunch to school. So with the Japanese influence and my daughter in mind, I am forced to find an alternative lunch solution.
This is supplying my daughter with a nutritious lunch and it is very organized making her friends envious of her food so she is more than willing to take the food to school and eat it, solving some of my daughters eating problems.
This site and others, google "bento" for tips on assembling and what the supplies you would need. Substitutions for the expensive supplies are mandatory with my tight budget.
There are many more. Good luck. (01/09/2009)
My husband and I smoke chickens and then make chicken salad, and chicken tacos, enchiladas out of the left overs. We usually smoke 3 at a time, and that's just for the 2 of us. In your case, with such a large family, I would recommend 8 chickens. Here's what you do. Chop up some onion and mix with minced garlic and some poultry seasoning. Stuff cavityies of the chickens with this mixture. Season outside of chicken, omitting salt, no salt until chickens are done. Now wrap in foil and smoke for at least 6 hours. Be very careful removing from smoker as juices will scald you. Allow chickens to cool and then debone.
Before I forget, this chicken salad is also excellent stuffed in a tomato or a avocado, for a light meal. Now back to the chicken salad. I chop onion, celery and the chicken, put in a bowl. I actually run my chicken through a old fashioned meat grinder, a food processor will work well for you. Now add some Miracle Whip, a squirt of mustard and a little chopped pickle or some relish. You can add salt now if you like. Enjoy. (01/09/2009)
Here's some good ideas:
Just one little comment: Of course I know your family is using reusable containers and saving their paper bags, right? Even Zip-loc bags can be brought home and washed, especially if what's been in them isn't too messy. (01/10/2009)
My dear husband works physically hard and eats aplenty. Each day I send the following items (keep an eye on the trans fats and sat fat on the labels):
Phew! All of this is packed in a cooler with 2 large blue ice freezies.
To make this possible, on Sunday night, I bag up the veggies for 3 days. The nuts and cookies are already bagged. On Wednesday night, I bag veggies for 2 more days. I'd bag all the veggies a week in advance, but by day 4 and 5, they don't look so great. I keep the veggies in their bags in a special location in the fridge, so they are easier to find and no one makes the mistake of grabbing one to munch (because they look delish!). Sandwiches are made the night before.
When on sale, I'll send a South Beach Diet wrap sandwich to give myself a break.
The granola bars, nuts, cookies, tunas, are kept together, so all I have to do it grab each one and toss it into a plastic shoebox. In the morning, that day's lunch is therefore already gathered and all I have to do is open the fridge and fetch the yogurt, veggie bag, sandwich, and freezies.
And, as I was accused of being too efficient, I did not make it once when I was sick, and received an immediate apology, repeated several times. (01/10/2009)
When eggs come down in price for you (if they haven't already, they have a little bit here). How about a boiled egg? Cheese and crackers?
Apple slices (with or w/out peanut butter dip)? Celery sticks (with or with out peanut butter)? Carrot slices or curles?
You could freeze your own ice pack to keep lunch cool or freeze bottled water to serve a double duty as cold water after it melts a little from morning until noon + as a coldpack. Use small containers for chips or DIY a reusable chip bag that can be washed out to remove grease left by chips. Grapes. Freeze and by noon they will be ready to munch.
Mom always liked to buy inexpensive sandwich cookies (back then it was like 2 lbs. for 50 cents to $1) and we always had those on long trips to save $ instead of buying gas station snacks or from a machine.
Popcorn could be popped the night before and bagged or boxed into a great sack lunch. Or the leftover is usually always good the next morning for breakfast.
Below is a link to DIY a reusable lunch sack from a Fed Ex mailer: blog.makezine.com or you could easily make 6 + extras from a dollar store vinyl tablecloth. Get the largest size and have leftover fabric for other small items. Carefully open the size sack you want to use for the lunch as a free pattern.
You could take this a step farther and make a couple of pockets inside or a false bottom to place a small ice pack in. Use your sewing machine to put the names of the people whom the bags belong to or get out your tube paints or permamarkers. (01/10/2009)
Make zucchini bread or banana bread as cupcakes and freeze them in separate bags. Semi healthy, delicious and easy. (01/10/2009)
PS. I forgot to mention a prewrapped stick of low fat cheese. (01/11/2009)
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