Kids' Bag Lunches: Really Healthier and Cheaper than School Lunch?


Recession Mama Michele Ashamalla: I used to always pack my kids' lunches, secure in the idea that what I could give them was healthier than what they would get at school, and that it was saving us money, too.

One day, as a math exercise with my oldest, I worked out just how much the average lunch cost me to make. First, the sandwich: two slices of bread (10 cents, if there are 20 slices in a $1 loaf); 2 oz. of deli turkey (38 cents, if it's on sale for $3 a pound); 1 slice of cheese (17 cents).Next, the fruit: a banana (15 cents for an average-size one, if bananas are 50 cents a pound) and a tangerine (26 cents for an average-size one, if selling at $1 a pound).

Now the extras: a fiber bar (39 cents each for Target brand; a box of six costs $2.34) and a cookie (a splurge, I realize now -- a Girl Scout Do-Si-Do, $4.00 for a box of 18, making it a whopping 24 cents per cookie). Total price: $1.69. 

But wait: I forgot about the milk. I buy shelf-stable boxed milk so I don't have to worry about how long it stays unrefrigerated. I get it delivered by the case from Gossner Foods in Utah; the cost is 34 cents for an 8-ounce box. That brings the total for my school lunch to $2.03. Fantastic!

Then I remembered that our public-school lunch includes a choice of two hot entrees, a cold entree, a fruit yogurt, a salad bar with garden vegetables, fresh fruit and milk. (Sometimes they have a cookie, too.) School lunch total: $2.00.

Hmm. Now I just have to get my kids to go through that salad bar ....


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