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Another thing I did last year and will do again this year is make pudding cups. I bought some of those small Gladware containers (you can get about eight for around $2.00). Then I made pudding and spooned it into the cups, popped them into the frig and let them set. It's cheaper than buying the prepackaged stuff. Works with Jello too.
All four of my kids take packed lunches to school. To save money on the snacks that go in, I buy big bags of chips, cheeses, whatever, and bargain sandwich bags, then pack the snacks in them. Saves a lot over buying the individual snack packs that are made to fit into the lunches. I make my own peanut butter crackers too, with saltines or Ritz-type. It takes a few minutes extra in the morning, but it does save money.
I too mostly buy the bigger bags of snacks, cookies and such and then pack myself in the little snack bags or sandwich size zipper bags. I get my bags at Wal-Mart, Dollar General or some place like that so they are pretty cheap. Of course, buying up the individual bags of snacks is very convenient but seems expensive to do a lot. We buy them for trips some times, though.
I too make my own peanut butter and crackers which my son seems to really be eating well at school.
Susan, I really like your idea a lot! Why didn't I think of that. I generally make up any non-perishable items for my son's lunch the night before and then I just add anything from the frig in the am....but to be able to just go to the big container of already made up baggies of stuff. Wow, I would like that, a time saver and just a convenience. I could also use those for just days out with the kids or garage sale day.
Have a one day baking day with the kids, do the cookies from cake batter, mini muffins, mini cupcakes or mini banana bread (I found the mini molds at Dollar Tree, they are silicone and reusable.) When all the items have cooled, slice the bread for serving, mix and match for variety and bag in the sandwich bags and freeze for easy grab and fix.
On the same day, have the kids put together sandwiches on hard rolls or hoagies, meat and cheese. Wrap in plastic wrap, placing the tails on bottom. I heat my waffle iron and rub the bottom of sandwich on iron to seal. Freeze, they will be thawed by lunch if put together with the snack the night before. You can put a dab of sauces in small container or go to Sam's or a restaurant supply and get packages of mayo, ketchup and mustard for small amount or you can always get extra at drive through. This can be done with tacos, burritos, mini pizzas on muffins; just freeze before bagging.
Put any veggies in separate baggie the night before and drop in. Drinks can be the little jugs, they now have half size sipper jugs for milk or juice. Sam's has the mini juices and I have found them in the $1.00 section of my store.
Also you can do leftovers but try to skip the next day or two so you don't burn them out eating what they ate the night before.
I have all grown kids but have taken over for my daughter with the grandkids (4) so she can be ready for work and school and daycare within 30 minutes in the AM.
Like every parent I am looking forward to school. :) Happy days and good luck!
After about 6 months my boss asked me if I would make his lunch too as he was trying to eat a more healthy diet. I have calculated that I can make a great lunch for my boss, my husband and I for $4 for the three.
Save fast food bags that aren't grease soaked to take your lunch in on another day.
The grocery store only sells individual chocolate milk and I didn't like the sugar content. So I take a small, empty water bottle and fill it with white milk. I put it in their lunch box with an ice pack. It saves them time at lunch and saves us money, too!
I often take veggies and dip in my lunches for work. Tonight I was looking for a small container to hold a serving of hummus for my carrots/celery. I came across a small 1 oz. spice container.
My kids are always begging for those packaged dessert snacks like Oreos and such for their school lunches. For a long time I usually said no because a box of 6-10 packages would run up to $6.00 and they were so high calorie.
I finally found a reusable plastic bottle that you can pack in a lunch that won't leak. I washed our used Gatorade bottles by hand and filled them with water. (My son adds powdered drink mix.) You can tip them any which way and they don't leak.
You can save money by bringing coffee to work in a thermos rather than buying it there. Before filling your thermos with coffee, fill it up with hot tap water and let it sit for a few minutes.
When you make dinner, make enough so that you will have enough for leftovers for lunch the next day. It saves on cooking time and saves money because you are not tempted to go out and buy lunch.
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My husband and I pack lunches and snacks every day (sometimes dinner too) using plastic containers and 4-5 baggies per day. I want to cut down on the amount of baggies, yet don't want to use numerous additional plastic containers. We do not have a dishwasher and already have to wash a LOT of plastic every evening. Does anyone have ideas for what might be workable substitutes for the baggies?
Madeline from Oklahoma City, OK
I use unbleached waxed paper bags (sold in health food stores or online). They are a little more environmentally friendly than plastic baggies.
I save glass jars (mustards, salsa, olives) and reuse them. Doesn't work well on sandwiches, they get smushed up (that was a joke). Of course they will have to be washed. Do you have somewhere at work to keep snacks. I keeps nuts, dried fruits rice snacks and crackers in jars in my desk drawer. Also, I sometimes bring in my lunch on a small dinner plate if I am out of tupperware. I am anxious to see what other people have to say about this one.
Lots of people save the empty bags from cereal, crackers, bread bags...you could use those. I like the name brand "Baggies." They have 150 on a roll You could just reuse some of the bags, especially if all they had in them was dry goods.
Use furoshiki style folding to wrap your sandwich in a cloth napkin or flour sack towel or something.
I have seen a lot of different plastic food storage (like Tupperware) that is one unit but has built in dividers to separate the food in sections. I have seen ones with 2, 3, 4, 5 different sections. So all you would have to wash is one bottom and one lid.
If you ate eating more like sandwiches and such then there are wipeable Wrap n Mats:
Or make your own...
When packing lunch for my daughter I used the unbleached natural waxed paper bags also (as Meredith posted). The brand is "Natural Value". I get them at Whole Foods. They actually worked for almost everything except liquids or liquidy stuff. I put sandwiches, wraps, cut up veggies, most fruit, nuts, etc in them.
They were great because I didn't feel guilty when she threw them out, they didn't get left in her locker for ages (as did the containers) and I didn't have to wash plastic containers everyday. What was neat was that when she got older and environmentally conscious she chose to take her lunch in reusable containers. Even got her self a "cool" retro style lunchbox.
You can get a big roll of butcher paper-ask your local meat market where they get theirs. It is like waxed paper-can be used for anything except very wet or liquid.
I buy a huge roll of plastic wrap from Sam's Wholesale Club. It is called Food Service Wrap and comes in a box. It is 12 inches wide and 300 feet long and the price is about $10.00. It sticks to itself and to plates and bowls much better than the brands that you find at the grocery store...like Handiwrap, Gladwrap, etc. I bought the box I am now using in mid July of 2007. And I use it for lots of other things as well. For example....I belong to PaperBackSwap, and I always wrap my books in this plastic wrap before I wrap it in paper to ship. I wrap a lot of meats indiviually, like hamburger patties before I put them n the freezer. Then I put them in Zip Lock bags, but the plastic wrap helps avoid freezer burn, and I can take any number I need for a meal from the package. I use a lot less plastic bags than I used to. I used to pieces of onion in sandwich size bags, but now I wrap them in the plastic wrap.
Harlean from Arkansas
I was looking for ways to reduce my plastic bag consumption and I became bento obsessed in the process. www.ichibankanusa.com is a Japanese dollar store and they sell tiered bento boxes for an incredibly low price. They are held together with this elastic band and you can get insulated carriers for them. Very green, very easy...the only downside is you just can't throw them in the dishwasher. You can also pick up bento sets on ebay or if you are lucky enough to have a Asian market nearby, you could go to one of those.
Of course you can save, wash and re-use the baggies but sounds like you've got enough hand washing to do. You could wrap items first in a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap and then slip into a baggie. The baggie will stay clean and then can be re-used. The idea of a multi compartment plastic container sounds good to me as then you just have the one item to clean. Tupperware does make items like that but I think you may find some at Dollar stores as well.
Depending on what you put in each plastic container, washing it every use may not be necessary. My husband and I each have a container for pretzels and another for cookies, and will reuse that container throughout the week for lunches, refilling it each day and washing it on the weekends. Neither of those items will "go bad" in the container. For our sandwiches we use fresh containers each day.
As for myself, I've been using the same widemouth glass pint jars for decades.
Food containers to brown bag my lunch? I currently use GladWare containers, but don't have enough (we seem to keep losing them). Any suggestions on what I could use/re-use instead of buying more GladWare? Thanks so much.
By Bella Swan from Forks, WA
Go to your local thrift store. They have lots of reusable containers at very reasonable prices. I recently shared a purchase of a bunch of real Tupperware with my mother-in-law. They were 50 cents to $1.00 a piece.
How do you lose your gladware? Do your kids throw them away? Does your husband leave them in the car until they get moldy? Learn to treat your plasticware like your plates or glasses and you won't need to keep replacing them.
When I was a kid, my mom made me bring home my ziplock bags so she could wash them and reuse them. I thought we were really poor (we were) but I didn't know she was also reusing and recycling them!
Two things. Garage sales are great place to get containers for 10-25 cents. You can pay more, but why?
Second, if people aren't old enough to remember to bring them back, they aren't old enough to use them. I know that sounds hard, but gee whiz, when are people going to grow up about our resources?
I had a young person who was staying with us, take a nice stainless bowl which was part of a set, to work and leave it there. No amount of reminders worked. So I dropped in where she worked and had people look for it in the refridgerator. They couldn't find it but she did and brought it home that night, probably because they all reminded her. Sorry about being an old rag, but I am getting older by the day, and don't have replacement money. I want the things I have to last till I croke.
My son used to leave his lunch bags at school on purpose because he wasn't eating the sandwich and didn't want to hear about it when he got home! Just postponing the inevitable! He quit "forgetting" when his teacher made him clean out his locker because it was so stinky, and I made him clean out all the moldy containers and his stinky book bag!
I don't pitch out the moldy containers; I find that running them through the dishwasher gets rid of the smell 99% of the time.
If you have someone who simply refuses to bring back their lunch containers, put their sandwiches in a bread bag, and don't give them anything that can't be sent in an already recycled bag. I also wash and reuse sandwich bags, so I wouldn't even use those for the "forgetter".
Whatever happened to the days when a person simply wrapped a sandwich or two in wax paper and added some fresh fruit etc in the lunch box/bag of choice each day? And wax paper is environmentally safe unlike plastic.
There is no need to buy those expensive prepackaged lunch kits for your kids or yourself. Choose your own meats, cheeses, crackers, and other components for a better and less expensive lunch. This is a page about homemade cheese and cracker lunch kits.
This is a page about packing salad for lunch. Many delicious combinations of vegetables, fruits, cheeses and/or meats can create a fresh healthy lunch.
ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.
Tips for saving money on food that you pack in a lunch box as suggested from the ThriftyFun community.