Is it Cheaper to Buy or Pack School Lunches?

cheaper to pack or buy school lunches

It’s no secret that the price of school lunches is rising. Schools must now charge more money, since they are required to serve healthier – and more expensive – foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

With the increase in school lunches prices around the country and the new school year just around the corner, many parents may now be asking themselves “Is it cheaper to buy or pack school lunches?”

Let’s take a quick look at the math…

  • School lunches in many areas are now hovering around $2 or more.
  • Children go to school about five days a week, and 180 days each year.
  • At $2 per lunch, it will cost parents around $10 each week, $40 each month, and $360 per year to buy school lunches for each child.
  • The price of buying school lunches goes up with each additional child. Buying school lunches for three kids at $2 per lunch would cost around $30 per week or $1,080 per year!

So, is it cheaper to pack or buy school lunches? That’s not always an easy question to answer, since every child, family, and household is different. What works for one family may not work for another family.

There are a few things you should consider when trying to determine whether it’s cheaper to buy or pack school lunches

Price of School LunchesĀ 

Trying to figure out if it’s cheaper to buy or pack school lunches? You’ll first need to have a price in mind of what school lunches will actually cost you. Multiply the price of school lunches in your children’s schools by 5, the average number of days a child will attend school each week. That’s the amount you can expect to spend on each child each week if you were to buy school lunches.

Number of Children in School

If you have more than one child in school, the cost of buying school lunches increases tremendously. When you pack school lunches, however, you can usually buy lunch items, like chips and drinks, in bulk, which can save you a load of money in the long run.

Your Household Situation and Income

Are you considered a low-income household? Many areas and schools have programs in place to help low-income families afford school lunches. Depending on your income and household size, you may qualify for reduced-cost or free school lunches.

Your Children’s Eating Habits

You may not consider your children’s eating habits when trying to decide if it’s cheaper to buy or pack school lunches, but you should. If you have a picky eater, for instance, you may simply be wasting your money if you buy school lunches. When your picky eater gets something in school that she doesn’t like, there’s a good chance she won’t eat it. By packing school lunches yourself, you can make sure she’s getting lunch items that she enjoys and will eat.

Your Own Shopping Habits

One of the biggest factors when it comes to deciding if it’s cheaper to buy or pack school lunches is your own shopping style and habits. Are you a super frugal shopper? Can you rock a stack of coupons like there’s no tomorrow? If so, then there’s a good chance that packing school lunches will cost you much less. You can keep your cost of packing school lunches by keeping your eye out for sales, using coupons, and stocking up on items when you find a smokin’ deal. Keep in mind that individually packaged items, like snack size bags of chips, will usually cost you more than packaging single serving sizes from larger packages. Also, don’t completely discount using leftovers when packing school lunches. Even hot school lunches are possible with the right packaging.

What about you – is it cheaper to buy or pack school lunches for your kids?


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