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Lunch-the Frugal Way

Contributed by: Cyn Roberts

It seems that school starts earlier every year. So it's time to start thinking about what to put in those school lunches every morning.

It's also a good time to start making your own lunch to take to work if you don't already. Did you know that by taking your lunch 3 days a week instead of eating out, you could save as much as $800 a year?

But it does take some time and effort to make a lunch that is nutritious and tasty and not just the "same old thing".

If we let ourselves, we can spend a "lot" on individual servings, lunchables, and treats for lunches. Here are a few ideas to help you meet the "Frugal Lunchbox Challenge".

Go to the Dollar Store and buy a few of those individual serving-size storage containers. These are very inexpensive and they are worth every penny.

These are great for making your own fruit cups and pudding cups. Or use them to hold dip for carrot or celery sticks or fill with peanut butter and pack a zipper bag of pretzels for dipping.

While you 're at it, you may want to pick up one or two of the small "blue ice" cold packs. They will help keep lunchbox items cold and safe. Sandwiches such as egg salad or tuna salad need to have a cold pack. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, on the other hand, can be packed without one.

Those zipper bags we all love come into their own when packing lunches! Watch for sales and stock up. They can hold vegetable sticks, popcorn, crackers, homemade cookies, etc. Almost anything!

Here's an idea:

Spread cream cheese on a tortilla, add a little salsa, and top with sliced turkey or ham. Place another tortilla on top, cut in fourths and put in zipper top bag.

Also, I have read that you can make up a cake mix and store the batter, covered, in the fridge for up to two weeks. Bake up a few cupcakes when you're preparing dinner.

When the weather turns cool, a small thermos will come in handy for homemade soup or chili. I see lots of these for sale at garage and yard sales, sometimes for as little as 25 cents.

A thermos is also handy to hold whatever drink you or your child likes to take.

Try to put some fun in the lunchbox: keep a stash of small, inexpensive toys, cut sandwich bread into cool shapes with cookie cutters, write little notes to your child, cut out funny cartoons. Children love surprises.

A good routine to get into is while you are cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, put leftovers in the storage containers, or make sandwiches and place in the fridge in a designated area for lunch items. Get your kids to help--the more they are involved, the better!

Put napkins, etc. in lunch boxes or bags and place them where all anyone has to do in the morning is fill with the prepared items. Now you can all be out the door in minutes!

Here are a few recipes that will help get you started this school year:

Halloween Fun

Cover lollipops (with the wrapper on) with a Kleenex to resemble a ghost. At the top of the stick,(where it meets the lollipop) wrap and secure the Kleenex with orange or black yarn or curly ribbon. Draw on eyes with a marker.

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Apple-Cinnamon Muffins

  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups biscuit baking mix
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease bottom only of 12 muffin cups. Beat egg slightly, then stir in remaining ingredients just until moistened. Pour into muffin pan. Bake about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Fish in the River

Make stuffed celery using cream cheese tinted green if you like! Top with Goldfish crackers.

"They take great pride in making their dinner cost much;
I take my pride in making my dinner cost so little."

- Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

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Helping you live the good life...on a budget! Cyndi Roberts is the editor of the "1 Frugal Friend 2 Another" bi-weekly e-newsletter and founder of the website of the same name. Visit to find creative tips, articles, and a free e-cooking book. Subscribe to the e-newsletter and receive the free e-course "Taming the Monster Grocery Bill".



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