Are your kids taking lunch to school to save money?    Have you ever added up what you spend on sack lunches?  If you are buying your kids juice boxes, go-gurts, lunchables and individual portion packaged items (like applesauce or fruit cups) for sack lunches, you are probably spending MORE than what they would have paid for a hot lunch.  That’s all fine and dandy if money-saving isn’t the reason your kids take lunch.  But it’s the reason my kids take lunch.

At the start of the school year when Trevor and Riley saw all the new lunch boxes in the store, they just HAD to have one.  So we made a deal: take a lunch from home three days a week and you can have a new lunch box.  We figured this is a good opportunity to save money AND give the kids some responsibility.

First let me address the money issue:

The trick is to NOT buy things for sack lunches that you wouldn’t normally buy if you were feeding your kids at home.  If you normally eat go-gurt and lunchables on the weekends and during the summer months, then go ahead and use them for sack lunches.  If you don’t, then why are you buying them for sack lunches? 

I suppose there is a price to pay for convenience, but I’d rather do a little work to save a little money- and also save the environment from wasteful packaging.

I can honestly say I have only purchased Go-gurt ONE time in my life- about 5 years ago.  After I priced them out and realized that price per ounce is SEVEN times as much as regular yogurt, I vowed to never buy them again.  I refuse to pay for the name and packaging.

I despise Lunchables.  I bought those about 5 years ago, too….but felt horribly guilty for creating so much waste, even if the tray IS recyclable.  You are paying for the packaging, not for the food inside.   The same goes with those jell-o cups, fruit-cups or cups of applesauce.   Package it yourself using reusable containers….and pay less than 1/2 the price! 

OK, enough on that.  Let’s talk about responsibility.

My 10-year old has been making his own lunch for the past 3 years.  He has some general guidelines to follow, and I know sometimes his lunches are heavy on the carbs and sugar, but overall he’s doing OK.  This year is the first year for my 6-year old to take lunch.  I want both kids to be able to make their own lunch without me standing over them, and I don’t want it to be a dreaded chore.

The purpose of my story is to share something that we started about two weeks ago- and it’s really helping the kids to package ‘better’ lunches for themselves and look forward to making their lunch, too.  It’s a Grab’n’Go drawer.

We have two drawers in the bottom of our fridge- one of them is always full of fruit (apples, oranges, pears, tangerines, whatever….).  The other one is supposed to be used for vegetables, but we primarily use frozen vegetables and keep our fresh veggies in the Tupperware Fridge Keepers.  So that leaves a lot of room in the 2nd drawer.  This is now the kids “Grab’n’Go” lunch drawer.  

This is where my at-home job benefits me.  But I’m sure you can tweek it to work for you, too.  If I’m making sandwiches for the daycare kids for lunch, I make a couple extra and put them in ziplock baggies and put them in the Grab’n’Go drawer.   When I open the gallon can of pears or applesauce for daycare lunch, I make 2-4 servings for the Grab’n’go drawer (reusable Gladware containers- I don’t dare send my Tupperware to school!).  If we pizza leftover, I package up 4 slices individually in ziplock baggies.  Leftover apple crisp or peach cobbler- I use those Gladware containers again.  It’s simply changing how I package up the leftovers.  I’m not really going out of my way to “make” things. 

When the kids ready to make their lunch for the next day, they are eager to check out the Grab’n’Go drawer to see what’s in it!   It’s not everything they need for a complete lunch, but it’s something “from Mom” that they can add to their lunch box.   They don’t feel like they are doing all the work (but really they are!). 

I have also added cheese sticks and yogurt to the drawer.  I suppose I could go out of my way and package up sliced cheese and lunchmeat, package crackers, sliced apples, etc.  But they can do that themselves!

Our Grab’n’Go drawer has turned a chore into something fun- they can’t wait to see what’s new.  (And Jim sometimes grabs something for his lunch, too!)