One of the biggest budget areas I see military families struggle with is groceries. Whether your kid has just gone back to school, or they are still at home, saving money on lunches can be a big deal for your budget.
My son is a huge snacker.
I suppose most toddlers are. I was buying those prepackaged crackers, fruits, and other snack foods and it was crushing my budget.
Paying that much extra for the convenience of not having to slice fruit or divide up a bag of popcorn is just not worth it!
I was surprised by the money I saved simply for taking an extra step to preparing snacks and lunches ahead of time. That, plus a few other tricks, helped me tons of save money (and time) every month!
The thing is; kids like simple.
You do not have to have this big fancy meals prepared. Heck, I can make this big Italian feast of a meal and my kid would rather have buttered noodles.
I don’t know about you, but I like simple. And I love budget-friendly!
Budget-friendly lunch ideas
1. Stop buying prepackaged foods
Buy snack foods like pretzels, popcorn, crackers, etc in those big bags. Buy generic, use a coupon, or find a sale. Use sandwich baggies to divide it up. Do it all ahead of time and store in bins so it’s easy and quick to grab.
You can do the same thing with fruits and veggies. By things like strawberries, grapes, and hearts of celery. These things can be divided up and last a week or so. Make sure to wash them prior to putting them in the baggies.
Depending on the age of your child you can even encourage them to pack their own lunch by choosing from your prepared “snack bags”. Saving money and encouraging independence, win-win!
2. Get creative with leftovers
Use all your leftovers! Even If you don’t have enough for a full meal! Get creative. Maybe you have a little it of pulled pork leftover but not enough for a sandwich– make roll ups! Got some noodles but no sauce? Make macaroni salad! The list goes on.
I sometimes double my freezer meals just to make sure there are left overs for my husband and son to eat the next day! It sounds like it costs more but when you add up the savings from my husband not eating out, it’s worth it.
3. Hit the dollar store
If you are stationed near a dollar store, take advantage! There are so many things you can get there for less, like:
- Plastic silverware
- Juice boxes
4. Back to School Sidewalk Sale
Commissaries are replacing their case lot sales this year with “Back to School Sidewalk Sale”, here’s your opportunity to stock up on some lunch foods for less! Focus on pantry items that last awhile but keep in mind you can freeze meats to make them last longer. To find your location and date, check here.
5. Skip the freezer packs
Yeah, you definitely don’t need to spend money on freezer packs for your kids lunch box (or yours). Just wet a dollar store sponge, throw it in a baggie, and freeze. Make a few of them so they are always on hand when you need it!
6. Stretch your meals (and meats!)
Casseroles are a great way to stretch meats. Because there are several main ingredients, the meat does not have to be the show stopper and a little goes a long way. Plus there’s almost always left overs from casserole dishes.
Roll ups are a great way to stretch meats (especially deli meats)! You don’t need a lot of meat to make a yummy roll up and they are a great lunch food (and healthier than a sandwich!) Get some inspiration here on some awesome, but cheap roll up recipes.
Rotisserie chickens are about $5. You can seriously make a ton of meals just using that one chicken. Dinners and lunches! Check here for a ton of recipe ideas using rotisserie chickens (bonus– they all take about 15 minutes to make)
Ground beef can be stretched too! Either you can cut it with ground pork (cheaper option than beef) or you can get really frugal and cut it with a bit of cooked oatmeal. The texture is similar and when cooked together, you won’t notice the difference. Plus– fiber! Another win-win if you ask me.
7. Skip the gadgets
I know that all-in-one combo avocado slider and de-pitter is pretty neat but you don’t need it. Seriously, it only takes about a second more (or less if you count all the frustration because those gadgets never work right anyway) to de-pit and slice a avocado.
Same rule applies to just about any kitchen gadget. Exceptions: can opener…wine opener…that’s about it 🙂
8. Use all your savings
There’s tons of ways that military families can save money on groceries. Use them! Know your resources and how to strategically implement them in order to save yourself money.
From coupons, to rebates, and exclusive commissary savings- there are tons of ways that military families can save money.
It doesn’t have to be complicated
Again, kids like simple! They are not going to care that they have the same 6 snack options for lunch or that their freezer pack is actually just a frozen sponge.
They aren’t going to notice that the chicken in their roll up is the same chicken from last nights casserole.
But your budget will, and it will thank you.
P.S. Don’t forget to subscribe to our FREE 10-Day Money Saving E-Course and learn about more ways you can save money!
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