Back to School means back to packing lunches. It doesn’t matter if your child’s school has a cafeteria. The question is: Is the food there any good? And its follow up: Will your child eat it, even if it is?
For moms who answered “No” to any of the above questions, the next nine months will be filled with late-night evenings or frazzled mornings trying to figure out what you can slip into a lunch box or bag that won’t be traded or, worse yet, tossed. And how much all of it will cost you.
Because we’re the NY Frugal Family Examiner, we’re here to help.
In an exclusive interview, Alex Frecon and Molly Stankovsky, a pair of recent college grads who have been touring the Northeast all Summer, preaching the gospel of tasty, low cost meals for the Save-A-Lot Fuel Your Family Road Trip program, offered a variety of tips just for New Yorkers!
NY Frugal Family Examiner: What is your favorite school lunch to pack for under $1?
Alex: Here are a few of the lunches we demonstrated throughout the Save-A-Lot Fuel Your Family road trip. Molly’s personal favorite is the pinwheel sandwich, though she swaps in turkey.
Lunch 1: An affordable “lunchable.”
Kids love lunchables, and this is a less expensive option that lets kids pick their favorites, and mom controls the healthfulness.
Turkey slices, trimmed into cracker-sized pieces
Coburn Farms American pasteurized cheese singles, trimmed into cracker-sized pieces
J. Higgs Buttery Round Snackers crackers
Fresh grapes or Tipton Grove 4oz fruit cup with plastic spoon
Sweet M’s Lemon Cream cookies
Bottled water or Splash Out pouch, chilled or frozen; this doubles as an ice pack but thaws in time for lunch
Lunch 2: Send the kids to school with a hot lunch.
Especially where we’re from—Minnesota—and here in New York, as well, it’s nice to have something hot for lunch. This is an easy way to do that and is also completely customizable.
Kaskey’s Tomato Soup
Kaskey’s Chicken Noodle Soup
Pasta Pronto’s Lil Bitty Beef Ravioli
J. Higgs Saltines
Fresh fruit: apple slices, strawberries or banana—let the kids pick their favorites depending on what’s in season
Packet of Fruit Flips
Lunch 3: Ham pinwheels.
Kids really have fun helping make these and picking and choosing their favorite combinations. Peanut butter and jelly is an option here, too—and really affordable.
Fairgrounds honey ham
Coburn Farms shredded cheddar cheese
Fresh baby carrots
Coburn Farms low fat peach yogurt, frozen
Sweet M’s iced oatmeal cookies
Splash Outpouch, frozen
Spread mustard lightly on tortilla; layer ham and cheddar cheese on top; roll tightly and insert three toothpicks to hold; cut in three slices.
Overall, what foods give you the most bang for the buck in terms of nutrition and taste?
Colorful fruits and veggies—whatever your kids like and are in season, whole grain crackers and low-fat sliced or string cheese.
NYFFE: New Yorkers live in a particularly expensive city. Do you have any tips especially for us on how to cut down on our food bills?
Molly: Shop for foods that can be used for multiple purposes. For example, tomatoes can be used in spaghetti sauce or on burgers, and frozen. Or fresh spinach can be used for salads or in an omelet. Speaking of them, frozen or canned veggies are very affordable and just as nutritious as fresh. Last, beans—especially low-sodium black beans—are extremely affordable and can be tossed into chili, tacos or salads to really fill you up.
NYFFE: What kind of dinner can a family of four have for less than $5?
Alex: This is actually easier than you might think. We worked with Save-A-Lot’s dietitian to come up with three dinners that are easy, fun, healthy—and under $5 person.
Dinner 1: Turkey Tacos
Ground turkey (4 oz.)
Senora Verde Taco Dinner Kit (1 serving – 4 in kit)
Senora Verde Salsa (2 tbsp.)
Coburn Farms shredded cheese (1/8 cup)
Dinner 2: Burger Night
Ground turkey burger patties (you can use ground beef as well, depending on what your family prefers)
Wylwood Cut Green Beans (1/2 cup)
Fresh strawberries (1 ounce) mixed with grapes (1 cup)
Dinner 3: Spaghetti Night
Boneless, skinless chicken breast
Del Pinos Spaghetti (2 ounces)
No sugar spaghetti sauce (1/2 cup)
Green salad with fat-free Italian dressing on the side
NYFFE: What are the most cost effective snacks that are frugal, nutritious – and taste good enough for kids to agree to eat?
Molly: Raisins, whole-wheat crackers and low fat cheese-sticks. We kept these in the car throughout our road trip and they gave us the fuel we needed for the day.
NYFFE: Which common foods are simply not worth the money, why, and what can they be replaced with?
Alex: Sugary cereals are often expensive and don’t provide energy for the day. Instead, opt for oatmeal with applesauce for more fiber and sticking-power.
For more on Alex and Molly’s Road Trip, including local recipes and colorful stops, visit: http://fuel-your-family.com/