Here are some ideas to send your child to school with a nutritious lunch and keep within your food budget at the same time:
Make your own lunch packages and pack them in paper bags or lunch boxes. Try a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread, baby carrots, raisins, vanilla yogurt and 100 percent apple juice. This lunch includes whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and is much lower in fats, sodium and sugars.
Buy baby carrots, broccoli, dried fruits, and crackers in large packages and put in smaller containers or bags. For someone eating 2000 calories per day, a serving of baby carrots is approximately 14 carrots.
Make soups or stews and refrigerate or freeze individual servings to pack in a lunch box.
Prepare fruits and vegetables ahead of time by washing and cutting them so they are quick and easy to pack.
Prepare lunches while making dinner the night before. Cook extra meats or vegetables to be used the next day.
Invite family members into the kitchen to help assemble their own lunches. This is a great time to spend time together and learn about cooking, food safety and healthy eating.
Roast a whole chicken or turkey and use it for several meals. Promptly freeze any that will not be used within a few days. This is less expensive and healthier than processed deli meals.
Fill a small thermos with 100 percent fruit juice or water rather than spending extra money on individually-sized juices or bottled waters.
Fresh or dried fruit and low-fat yogurt make a great dessert alternative to cookies or candy. Be aware that many fruit flavored yogurts are high in sugar. To avoid unnecessary sugar, consider purchasing plain or vanilla yogurts and adding fruit to them.
A lunch package can cost as much as $3.50. For $2.00 or less you can send your child to school with a homemade nutritious lunch and save $7.50 per week on your child's lunches. With a bit of practice you'll easily keep within your food budget and ensure your child is eating a healthy, balanced lunch without a lot of extra effort. Next time you're tempted to reach for a pre-packaged lunch at the grocery store, try a few of these tips instead.
Helen Idzorek is the Nutrition Educator for the UAF Cooperative Extension Service, Juneau District.