School Lunches With Pizzazz

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh

The prices of school lunches, like most other things, are rising. Yet, parents need to question whether these lunches are providing their children with healthy lunch options and whether or not the lunches are worth the money. Some schools pack the trays with healthy a la carte items that are financially friendly as well as healthy. Meanwhile, others are charging $2.25 or more for peanut butter sandwiches, milk, and a celery stick.

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A solution is to pack healthy and fun alternatives that will have kids anxiously opening their lunch packs. It will save money and allow you to better keep track of your child's eating habits. The only cost is a little bit of your time, but by inviting your children to help pack the lunches the night before it will become a family affair. Don't forget to pack the same for Mom and Dad, and save all around.

Pitas to the Rescue!

Pita pockets are fun no matter how you fill them. Try these healthy frugal options:

  • Salad in an Envelope:Create an interesting salad mixture and pack it in a healthy pita pocket. Add lettuce (or spinach for more vitamins!), shredded carrots, shredded or feta cheese, red beets, cherry tomatoes (if in season), and any other yummy veggies that tempt the tummy. Then, drizzle some dressing inside and pack.
  • Rice and Veggies: Turn last night's leftover veggies into tomorrow's lunches. Prepare some brown rice (or use some from a previous meal) and mix in cooked vegetables like broccoli, green beans, peas, corn, beans, or carrots. Mix in some shredded mozzarella cheese and let it melt with the warm rice. Pack the pita full and add some dressing of choice.
  • Tried and True Tuna: Always a great lunch option, a can of tuna goes far. Mix it with some low fat mayonnaise and then add a bit of relish or chopped pickles plus some chopped boiled egg for a delicious tuna salad that everyone can enjoy. Tuck in some lettuce or cheese for an extra hearty pocket.

Creative Sandwiches

Who said a sandwich had to come between two pieces of bread? (Okay, that may be the technical definition, but who's checking.) A pack of tortillas kept in the refrigerator lasts much longer than a loaf of bread. If you don't pack sandwiches often, these are a better choice. They also come in a variety of flavors to match your lunchmeat creations. Try these options:

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  • Make a sliced chicken or turkey sandwich even more special by adding some cranberry sauce to the mayonnaise.
  • Add relish to mayonnaise or French dressing for a special sauce flavor.
  • Don't just make a turkey or ham sandwich. Layer meats and cheeses to create a hoagie. If there's a leftover dinner roll or French bread, make a real hoagie treat for lunch.

Love Those Leftovers

Tortillas are also helpful when leftover chicken, turkey, or beef is in the fridge.

Add slices of cold roast beef or poultry to a tortilla, add shredded cheese, some red peppers, spinach, and a dollop of ranch dressing and you have a sandwich with zest.

Of course, the traditional chicken or beef with some salsa, sour creme, and shredded cheese is a welcome option, too.

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