Friday, May 27, 2011

Tips for Saving Money Making Lunches

We make our kids lunches every single day.  We don't let them buy from the school cafeteria because the lunches they serve are ridiculously unhealthy.  We generally put in their lunches either a lunchmeat or peanut butter sandwich, a piece of fruit, a snack like Chex Mix or baked Goldfish, and sometimes a small dessert, like a cookie (only one!).  We often will cut up blocks of cheddar cheese and carrots and put a small baggie of each in as well.  We put Caprisun Roaring Waters in for their drinks.  I read alot about what are the best products to put in your kids lunches in the Eat This, Not That for Kids book and try to stick to those items.  It surprised me how many products say 25% Less Sugar! or Made with Whole Grains! but they still were one of the worst of that product available.  The labels can be very deceiving....

We spend quite a bit of money on the kids' lunches.  Not near as much as we would spend if they bought lunch at school every day, but still quite a bit.  I have been brainstorming lately on how we can save money but not sacrifice the healthiness of the items in their lunch. 

Here are a couple of things we are starting to do differently. 

I mentioned that we use Caprisun Roaring Waters as their drinks.  We never use the regular Caprisun; it HAS to be the water ones.  The kids don't know the difference, as these taste the same as the regular Caprisun, but the regular ones have twice the sugar - 16 grams per Caprisun!  Yikes!  Caprisuns (water or regular) cost about $2.49 a box and will often go on sale for $1.99. I have never seen a coupon for Caprisun.  They recently went on sale as part of the Mega Event at Kroger and you could get them for $1.49 per box.  We stocked up when they were this price, because I think that's as low as they are going to ever get.  We spend about $125 a year on Caprisun.

Well, I tried something new this week.  I bought these Wyler's drink mixes at Walgreens.  I needed a filler so I could use Register Rewards to check out (see my couponing blog entries to know what I am talking about).  These drink mixes are flavored like lemonade and rasberry, and my kids tried them and loved them. 

I checked out the nutritional info and guess what?  They are so much better than Caprisun!  Even the water ones!  Here's how they measure up:

  • Wyler's - 5 calories, Caprisun Roaring Water (RW) - 30 calories
  • Wyler's - 0 carbs, Caprisun RW - 8g carbs
  • Wyler's - 0 sugar, Caprisun RW- 8g sugar
  • Wyler's - 20% daily Vitamin C, Caprisun RW- no Vitamin C
My kids usually moan and groan when I try to get them to drink a bottled water.  Now they are asking for them in their lunch so they can mix their own lemonade. They think it is fun.   

Here's the best part (other than my kids are drinking healthier): they are on sale at Walgreens this week for $0.59 a box (usually $1 a box).    I went back to Walgreens and stocked up (of course!) about 4 months worth after I added up all of the benefits of my new find.  Something to note - some of the boxes have 8 packets in them and some have 10 in them.  I got all boxes with 10 - more for the money!

We have the kids saving their water bottles and bringing them back home, which we are washing and refilling with filtered water from the refrigerator so we don't have to buy any more bottles of water either.  Using these instead of Caprisun in their lunches will cost about $34 a year. 

  • Saving $90 or so a year
  • Healthier for my kids (they are drinking a whole bottled water a day now!)
  • Recycling the bottles
Now, on to the next money-saver I have just discovered...

We spend about $80 a year on ziploc bags.  I hate to think of how much plastic we are throwing away.  I recently ordered resuable bags for us to use instead of ziplocs.  I got a sandwich bag and a snack bag for each of us (me included - I take my lunch to work most days).  They can be wiped out or put in the dishwasher.  They are Lunchskins brand and they are supposed to keep the food fresh.  We should be able to use them for cut-up fruit or carrots, snacks like goldfish, chex mix, etc.  If I find that we need more than one snack sized bag for each of us after we try them out for a while, I will order another set. 

How cute are those?!?  I also thought about how many paper towels we go through by putting one in each lunch each day as a napkin.  So while I was ordering these fun reusable bags, I also ordered a 4 pack of reusable napkins.  We are going to start using them this week (they just got here).  We will wash as needed, but I don't think we will have to wash them more than once or maybe twice a week.  How often do kids really use their napkins anyway?  To be determined...if I am washing them constantly, I will order another set.   

I can't say how much we will save by using the napkins instead of paper towels, but I know we will be saving.  And it really just makes me feel good that we aren't being wasteful by throwing away tons of paper towels and not recycling. 

I should see a significant reduction in the number of ziploc boxes we need to buy too.  I hope we will save at least $50 of that $80 a year.  Small differences, but think about if you could find 10 different ways to save $50-100?  That's a lot of money!  I found two just this week by putting a little thought into the kids' lunches, so I know there are opportunities in a lot of items we buy. 

In case you are interested, I bought the reusable bags and napkins from  I did compare the price on the bags and this was cheaper than Amazon and several other sites I checked.  It was about $15 for a set of one sandwich bag and one snack bag.   

Please leave a comment if you have other money-saving or healthy tips for your kid's lunches.  I'd love to hear them!


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