Cost Effective Lunchables

by {Choose to Thrive}


1Cost Effective Lunchables!

Hi CSIers! I’m Nike from Choose To Thrive where we’re making the best of lousy economy with lots of no-cost craft and DIY projects.

I’m thrilled to be here sharing back to school ideas this morning to help me and my six kiddos this year!

So here’s the deal:

I have a love/hate relationship with my kids’ lunches.

I hate shopping trips with my kids begging for all the pricey, pre-packaged lunch stuff that’s loaded with preservatives and wasteful packaging.

Sheesh that junk is expensive.

But the convenience? Oh how I love the convenience.

And there are times of the year when our schedule is so crazy that I cave and load up the cart with lunchables, little bags of crackers and jello packs just so that we can pull a lunch or snack together in two seconds flat.

But no more!

I’m here today to share my plan to eat healthier, save money and still enjoy the convenience that me and my kids crave. And I hope you’ll tweak the ideas below to fit your family’s budget and nutritional preferences.



  1. Love all of your ideas and suggestions! I will def use some of these tips while preparing for school on Thursday! Thank you for sharing and for the homemade fruit snacks recipe…awesome! ~ Michelle

  2. Thanks for sharing all these ideas. I try to avoid all the prepackaged foods but can’t believe how frequently I give in and buy them. With a little planning, I could save money and eat a little healthier.

  3. I do this with my husband’s lunches! I buy the glad 1/2cup containers. I can portion out cottage cheese, yogurt, pudding, hummus and canned fruit for easy lunches. I also wash and cut all my veggies when I get home from the grocery store. I put them in baggies and then I have 3 containers in my fridge: one for whole fruit and veggies, one for bagged veggies and fruits and the other to hold easy to grab containers and string cheese. I can make my husband’s lunch quickly and easily!

  4. I was JUST preparing a post exactly like this and at first was like ..dammit! But really..THANK YOU! lmao Now I can just link! I work in an elementary school and some of the lunches I see are need protein!

  5. While the cost savings is certainly a decent amount, even more so, I love that you’re sending your kids to school with healthy lunches – teaching them good eating habits from a young age! The meat and cheese in those lunchables are nothing but salt. Kids need the real thing! And prepackaged pudding? Why eat that when you can make them pudding from real milk? So you know they’re getting calcium. Good for you! I love these tips.

  6. This is amazing and great! Pinned it in my Pinterest….great reminder that we can’t be lazy. It doesn’t take a lot of work to do this and can save a lot of money. Fantastic!

    Becky B.
    Organizing Made Fun

  7. such simple, effective and easy ideas! I love the little round glad containers. Perfect size and portion for my baby girl’s hands and tummy.

  8. Ziplock makes a fabulous reusable container for lunches. It is divided into 3 compartments: one big enough for a sandwich, one is 1/2 cup and the other 1/4 cup. The best part is that the lid is made to keep the contents of each compartment from spilling into the next. You can put canned fruit or yogurt (purchased in a big tub) in the little compartment without ending up with a soggy sandwich. They fit into even a tiny lunchbox. My kids love when I put something into a muffin cup and add it in the sandwich box. People may think that saving a few pennies here and there doesn’t add up – but it does!

  9. I love this post! We don’t have kids yet but I like to pack my lunch and sometimes one for my husband. Great tips! Also – its more cost up front but it may be fun for your kids if you got a cool stainless steel water bottle. I’ve seen them for less than $5 at Ross or Marshall’s.

  10. Marjorie,
    I used Glad Press ‘n’ seal and it works great. But if you’re nervous about it making a mess, several readers have recommended using the small 1/2c. gladware/tupperware containers with tight fitting lids. Hope that helps!

  11. Fantastic ideas! I don’t have any kids that eat lunch at school yet, but when I do, I am DEFINITELY going to use your tips! Thanks for sharing!

  12. I think this is a great money saving idea. However, this is my one concern. I find that when I buy in bulk, that my family doesn’t go thru the food quick enough before it goes stale or expires. I feel like I am wasting money by throwing out more food then we can eat. So, in my opinion, buying the individually packed snacks is saving me money. Maybe this will work when my kids are of school-age.

    • Freeze everything! I freeze lunch meats, cheeses, milk…you can freeze all kinds of stuff you never would think you could.

  13. I love, love, love this post! You are so brilliiant! I am so with you on packaging your own foods at home! Angie

  14. How about going another step further and buying a refillable thermos or water bottle to RE-USE instead of filing up the landfill with more plastic bottles.

  15. My daughter will only eat veggies, fruit, crackers and cheese for her lunch. I never have enough room in her lunchbox to pack them all separately. I didn’t even think about using one of the trays and press n seal. Great ideas. Thanks 🙂

  16. YOU ARE AWESOME!!! Our lunch prices went up again this year, so I told my kids they are taking lunches pretty much every day. If they’re not going to eat everything on their tray, they’re not having hot lunch. My kids keep begging for lunchables but then they’re either still hungry afterwards or sone of them doesn’t like the crackers or something. This is perfect! We can make them bigger meals and the stuff they like and without all the preservatives. I love all the other ideas, too. And I’m definitely going to check out the homemade fruit snacks, my kids can go through those crazy fast!

  17. These ideas are great, my daughter is always asking me to buy lunchables for her when we are at the grocery store, & I am a mean mommy cause I refuse to spend the $$ to get them 🙂 Now I can be the nice mommy and send them for her using a little DIY ideas!

    I also love all the other ideas and pinned both this post and the fruit snack post. We have a garden every year and are always over run with Zucchini and I have to end up giving a lot away so it doesn’t get wasted.

  18. oh and another great idea for the drinks-I use a drink container I bought them at target and have use the same type (I have only bought 4 of them over the yrs) since my son started Kindergarten & he is in 4th grade and now I also have my daughter in school. I fill them up with what ever they want to drink at night stick them in the fridge then put a few pieces of ice in them in the morning when packing their lunches. They stay cold all day and most of the time will have ice in them still when they get home from school so they are awesome. They are Thermos brand usually have some sort of character or something on them & have a flip top lip with a straw, they are about $12 which is a bit pricey but the money I save by using them every day instead of a juice box make the cost in the beginning worth it.

  19. You are a genius!! As as kid, my mom never allowed me to get lunchables – too expensive and too much sodium she said. I would have thought I was something if I had your homemade lunchables! This really puts into perspective how much money you save by packaging your own snacks! Thanks for sharing this!

  20. Love it, but Stauffers Isn’t a generic brand. They are a smaller lesser known company, but there is a difference between that and a generic (your fish cracker segment).

  21. a good start. now IMPROVE on those ingredients.

    So replace your sat-fat rich cheese with nuts, your high-fat ham with medium-fat tofu (grill a bunch of cubes with honey), and your crackers (full of chemicals! yuck) with oat-clusters (oats, real PB, honey, a FEW choc chips; mix and form — no cooking)… and send ONLY water — as soon as your kids taste the sugary fruit juices they won’t want to go back, so never let it into the house. yes, even 100% fruit juice is 100% sugar, and it’s really bad for anyone to drink that stuff — cut up an orange into wedges instead.

    A 10-year-old kid needs only 30 grams of protein daily. A one-ounce serving of cheese, a cup of milk, an extra-large egg, two tablespoons of peanut butter or one-half cup of beans provide six to eight grams of protein each, which is about the same amount in each ounce of lean meat, fish and poultry, except that the former do not break down blood vessels — watch Forks Over Knives on netflix to understand why it is important to start veggie habits young in life.

  22. I’m about a year late, but THANKS SO MUCH!! I started to really get into packing my kiddos lunches last year, often utilizing leftovers of things she likes. I didn’t think of making the fruit cups, or pudding or whatnot! I also loved that you used the milk jug to make dividers! I use the silicone cupcake wrappers, but your idea is much easier!! (It’s hard to keep cleaning those suckers! LOL) Thank you so much for your ideas.

  23. Have 5 kiddosn &I buy the plastic cups w/ lids, $30 total for a 500 count, buy carrots & celery at the farmers market & put my own peanut butter & ranch in my little cups w/ lids. Bought wax paper bags for sandwich slices. Heading for the 5lb bucket of p. butter next!

  24. I just started making “lunchables” for my son who is such a picky lunch time eater. Your ideas are great. Especially the idea bout using a lid from a spice container as the cutter for the ham. I love it! Thanks.

  25. Thanks!!! Love the milk jug separator idea. I use the smallest biscuit cutter for the lunch meat. 🙂

  26. Just FYI, the lunches you are packing from “homemade” lunchables are not any healthier than the Lunchables themselves. Generic crackers, deli meat, and pudding is full of crap, GMOs, and things that are not healthy for children.

  27. Thanks so much for these suggestions! I will be incorporating these ideas into my son’s lunches this school year! =)

  28. Wow I really appreciate the time and effort you put into this for us parents that want to change how we feed our kids at school. I am a new school parent. my son started kindergarten and I did not like what I seen as far as what they ate. This was very helpful! Thank you again.

    ~Lashawnda Smith

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