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10 cheap and easy school lunch ideas

Gathering dinner for my children this morning was such a pain. It was one of those days when you didn’t seem to have time. With the help of my husband, I was able to cook a decent dinner. But there is no denying that we are late to buy products.

Fortunately, I already have ideas for cheap school lunches to make shopping easier. Before the start of this school year, I created a two-week school food menu that includes foods that my children will enjoy and will eat.

 A 2-week school menu is available

I want to share my secret menu with the world, here it is 10 available school lunch ideas.

Each of these cheap school lunch ideas costs almost $ 1 for a full meal. The prices I quoted are based on my advice on saving for school lunch. Check out this post to learn more about ideas on how to pack your healthy hearty dinners without running out of your budget.

I also included a table of food expenses, as well as a list of purchases for two weeks.

Scroll down this post to get useful information for this school menu. Get to know and use them to simplify dinner planning and make inexpensive grocery purchases!

 Pasta with fillings, $ 0.73 per serving

  • 1/2 s. Cooked pasta with red sauce or Mac’n’Cheese – $ 0.33;
  • 1/4 of a medium or large apple, sliced ​​- $ 0.17;
  • 1 ounce of turkey slices – $ 0.13;
  • 1/2 medium carrot, sliced ​​- $ 0.10.

I know what you’re thinking: Who wants to cook pasta for their children’s morning dinner? No one – so I usually pack this lunch with leftover pasta from lunch or dinner the day before.

If your child does not like cold pasta, heat them in the morning and put them in a thermos to keep them warm for lunch. You can also swap other favorite fruits or vegetables. For example, if your children like green peas mixed with pasta, so you can add these fruits to the pasta, it is delicious and very useful.

 Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich, $ 0.83 per serving

  • 2 slices of wholemeal bread – $ 0.21;
  • 1.5 tablespoons of peanut or sunflower oil – $ 0.16;
  • 1.5 tablespoons of jelly or honey – $ 0.11;
  • 1/2 banana – $ 0.12;
  • 1 ounce of turkey slices – $ 0.13;
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas – $ 0.10.

Combine the first 3 ingredients to make a sandwich – you can add a version with sunflower oil for children, whose menu does not contain nuts.

I also weighed the turkey slices to see how many ounces it would take to make a full lunch. This makes it easier to portion dinner in the future without taking the weight out of the kitchen. However, if you are less concerned about the cost or portion size, you can always avoid doing so.

 Tofu and rice, $ 0.85 per serving

  • 3.5 ounces of tofu (approximately 1/4 block of 14 ounces) – $ 0.37;
  • 1/3 cup boiled rice – $ 0.06;
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas – $ 0.17;
  • 1/4 apple or sliced ​​mango – $ 0.25.

My husband and I have been vegetarians for many years, and most of the time we eat little or no meat. Tofu has long been a favorite in our home and, surprisingly, comfortable for children. It has a neutral taste that is easy to season and goes well with almost any dish. Kids love fried or raw, sprinkled with a little salt or soy sauce.

I understand that not all children are ready for tofu. You can easily replace the same portion with chicken breast, which also contains a lot of protein and costs about as much as tofu.

 Pita bread and hummus, $ 0.92 per serving

  • 1/2 whole-grain pita – $ 0.20;
  • 1/2 medium carrot, sliced ​​- $ 0.10;
  • 1/4 chopped cucumber – $ 0.17;
  • 1.5 tablespoons of hummus – $ 0.23;
  • 1/3 c grapes – $ 0.22.

This lunch includes food activities that almost every child loves: pita bread and vegetables are deliciously dipped in hummus.

Cost note: I calculated the cost of this dinner using classic hummus, which costs $ 2.99. This is the lowest price for hummus that I have found almost everywhere. So I recommend it. If this is not an option for you, be careful with the price, as most hummus is more expensive.

If hummus is too expensive or your children don’t like it, another ingredient may be a good option!

 Eggs and toast, $ 0.93 per serving

  • A piece of toast or homemade bread – $ 0.21;
  • 2 eggs, scrambled eggs – $ 0.20;
  • 1/4 strawberry or 1 clementine – $ 0.25;
  • Yogurt 1/3 cup – $ 0.27.

Homemade cupcakes are a favorite breakfast in our house. I like to pack this option for breakfast or lunch to use and liven up my ideas. If I don’t have homemade buns on hand, just a piece of toast.

 Pancakes and Peanut Butter, $ 0.94 per serving

  • 2 pancakes – $ 0.40;
  • 1 egg – $ 0.10;
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut or sunflower oil – $ 0.15;
  • 1/2 sliced ​​apple – $ 0.29.

Then another version of breakfast appears for lunch. I like peanut butter as a delicious filling for apples and pancakes.

Having prepared pancakes for breakfast, I cook a few for lunch the next day. You don’t have to use Kodiak Cakes Mix – any pancake mix will do. You can make your pancakes or pancake mixes to reduce the cost of one serving by $ 0.20 or more.

If you use Kodiak cookies and add a hard-boiled egg, it will be a high-protein dinner.

 Tuna and Rusks: $ 0.94 per serving

  • 2 tablespoons of tuna (optionally mixed with mayonnaise) – $ 0.15;
  • 14-18 thin salted or wheat rusks – $ 0.29;
  • 1 ounce of diced cheese – $ 0.19;
  • 1/2 medium carrot, sliced ​​- $ 0.10;
  • 1/4 s. Frozen strawberries – $ 0.21.

My daughter loves this lunch and loves to eat small tuna sandwiches at school. If your kids don’t like tuna, you can wrap a sandwich with other ingredients instead (for example, meat at lunch)

 Crackers, $ 0.95 per serving

  • 14-17 crackers, such as Saltine, Wheat Thins, or Ritz – $ 0.29;
  • 1 ounce of cheese – $ 0.19;
  • 1 ounce of turkey slices – $ 0.13;
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce – $ 0.17;
  • 1/6 red pepper, sliced ​​- $ 0.17.

Lunch has been a “nice dinner” since childhood, and little has changed. I love this do-it-yourself version. Just pack a stack of rusks with thinly sliced ​​cheese and sliced ​​lunch. Then your children can make them and enjoy extremely tasty and nutritious food.

I usually add a pack of apple sauce and vegetables – this version has red pepper, but apple sauce is also delicious.

 Quesadilla and beans, $ 0.96 per serving

  • 1 cake – $ 0.18;
  • 1 ounce of cheese – $ 0.19;
  • 1/4 cup canned beans – $ 0.17;
  • 1 average clementine – $ 0.25;
  • 1/4 cucumber – $ 0.17.

This dinner is quite simple: heat a frying pan in the morning or even turn on the microwave to make a quesadilla. You can throw beans, depending on your child’s preferences.

Also, pay attention to the size of tangerines or clementines. The price depends on the weight.

 Very tasty mini-pizza, $ 0.97 per serving

  • 1 English muffin or bagel – $ 0.28;
  • 1 ounce of grated mozzarella or cheese of your choice – $ 0.19;
  • 2 tablespoons of red sauce – $ 0.08;
  • 1 clementine – $ 0.25;
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas – $ 0.17.

These mini-pizzas are a delicious, simple lunch option. Cut the bun or bagel in half, pour over the red sauce and cheese and fry for about 2 minutes for the perfect mini-pizza.

If you don’t buy bagels or English buns at home, you can use pita bread or even French bread instead.

About lunch menus

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you want to try this menu.

I’m not a nutritionist: please evaluate the diet and caloric content of each of the dishes described here; you may need to adjust these dishes to your child’s caloric intake or other daily nutritional needs.

All of them are portioned for a child aged 6 to 7, so older and older children may need more food. You can double portions of some foods to make dinner for an older child or teen. You can do this by saving less than $ 2 for lunch.

Lunch prices are only approximate: as mentioned earlier, I used my tips and tricks, which I shared to save money on school lunches. This made it easier to keep portion prices as low as possible.

Although these dinners reflect how much I paid for the lunch described here, the cost of the products depends on where you live, how you buy the products, and what is sold or not. So keep this in mind when preparing dinner and shopping.

This menu is flexible: apart from it, it’s just ideas. You can always replace or adapt these dinners to your budget and the taste of your children.

For example, a reasonable option would be to buy only 2-3 fruits or vegetables instead of what I used here and replace them. You can also choose bread and cakes instead of English buns.

About Author

The article was prepared and written by Lina Jones, a highly motivated and talented writer who strives to provide clients with an excellent, personalized solution to academic writing without plagiarism. Besides, we are pleased to support the goals of universities in educating young people, bloggers, and students who encourage problem-based learning and innovative thinking. Lina has traveled around the world studying research and education to participate in community conservation and wildlife, which she has restored.