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Frugal School Lunch Ideas

8 Awesome Frugal School Lunch Ideas

School is back in session, and cooler weather is fast-approaching. If you’re like me and dread making extra trips to the grocery store during the fall and winter months, now is the time to start stocking up the pantry with school lunch items.

If you’re buying brown bags on a regular basis, it might be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly to invest in a reusable lunch bag, preferably one that keeps items cool so your child doesn’t have to lug around a heavy ice pack all day. These only cost $8-15 on average and can be reused for a couple years if your child keeps them in good condition.


Now that you have a lunch bag, here are some frugal school lunch ideas of items you can pack in it!


Canned Fruit

If you buy a few small Tupperware containers, then adding canned fruit to your child’s lunch is a great way to ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need without paying double or more for the same quantity of fresh fruit (the price of which is skyrocketing thanks to changing agricultural practices and various droughts across the country). Just be sure to find cans that have fruit in natural juice, rather than syrup (which has higher sugar content).


Dollar Store Produce

If you prefer to give your child fresh fruit instead, there is still a way around the high prices you’ll see in conventional grocery stores: dollar store produce sections. Dollar stores tend to sell almost (but not yet) expired produce that regular stores couldn’t sell on their own. The quality isn’t top-notch, but it’s still a great source of nutritional variety and a perfect meal addition for a growing boy or girl.


Pasta Salad

Pasta is extremely cheap – $1 for a whole box in some instances – and combine that with some dressing and veggies like tomatoes, celery, broccoli, or whatever else your child likes eating to make a huge bowl of pasta salad to last an entire week of school lunches.

Frugal school lunch ideas

String Cheese

String cheese is cheap, yummy, and adds variety to your child’s lunch. Some cheeses cost as low as $0.10 per stick, so as long as your child doesn’t have a dairy allergy and their lunch bag has a cooling mechanism, why not throw in some string cheese?

Frugal school lunch ideas

Simple Sandwich

Ah, the classic: sandwiches. Every child’s preferences are different, but with some loaves of bread costing less $2-3, you can probably make an entire school week’s worth of sandwiches for less than $6 overall (including add-ons). Add-ons include peanut butter, jelly, deli meats, mayo, mustard, lettuce…and so on. If your child dislikes the crust, then cut it off beforehand to make sure they’ll eat the entire sandwich.

Frugal school lunch ideas

Chip Packs

Single chip packs, when bought in bulk quantities, can cost as low as $0.30 or so. Check out your local discount warehouse like Costco for the best deals on chip variety packs. There are lots of healthy chip varieties available too.

Frugal school lunch ideas

Homemade Trail Mix

If your child enjoys eating nuts and dried fruits, then why not make some homemade trail mix? This is a better option than buying premade mix from a store because you have more control over the ingredients and sugar content, and can easily customize it to your child’s likes (rather than leave them to pick out things they don’t like, such as raisons for example). Nuts and dried fruit, when sold separately, are not exactly cheap however, so check out your local grocery store’s ads for current deals, or search for coupons on SumoCoupon to maximize your savings on school lunch items.

Frugal school lunch ideas

Canned Tuna

Last but not least, we have tuna. Some kids hate the smell and taste of tuna, while others absolutely love it. If your child falls into the latter category, then you can find bulk quantities of canned tuna for as little as $0.50 per can or single cans for around $1 per can in stores. Tuna is packed with protein and other vital nutrients, so it makes for an excellent addition to any school lunch.

 Frugal School Lunch Ideas 


Frugal school lunch ideas don’t have to mean bland or boring. With a little creativity and planning, packing the perfect lunch for your children can be fun for their lunchboxes without putting a strain on the family grocery budget.



What frugal school lunch ideas do you use with your family? Share with me below or tell me about it at melisasource@yahoo.com.

Frugal School Lunch Ideas 

Wife. Mom. Believer. Writer. Advocate.

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