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Home > School Lunches Are not Cheap!

School Lunches Are not Cheap!

August 23rd, 2014 at 06:28 am

It is omg $3.50 a day for a school lunch. Geez. That is $17.50/week! Eek. Talking with friends whose kids are starting kindergarden both thought it was cheap. But were tempted by the price because it's less than what they spend daily to pack lunch.

I freaked out that they think they spend $5/day to pack lunch for their kid. But then I pointed out what they are packing is that expensive because NO WAY IN HELL is a public school going to give kids what they are giving their kids. I'm going to guess to make the school lunch it would cost $1. They were horrified, but I'm pretty sure I could do it.

First off milk is not organic horizon boxes, probably regular milk. Second they aren't doing Annie's organic cheddar bunnies, probably no snack to save money. Third the fruit given is probably not organic be it apple, grapes, etc. Fourth, the meat in sandwiches or entrees is definitely NOT applewood farms organic deli meat or any sort of organic chicken/beef/pork. Fifth the bread is definitely not whole grain, no HFCS wheat versus plain white bread. Finally for sure they aren't giving their kid yogurt smoothies at $1.25 each everyday!

So of course lunches for kids are $5 a day when you spend $1.25 yogurt, $1 milk box, $1 cheddar bunnies. But seriously I pointed out you can't compare what you pack with what you are buying. To be paying $3.50 for what they give you is a lot! I think it can be done for $1, but no it is cheaper than what you pack.

But if you pack $5 100% organic lunches now, how can you reconcile paying $3.50 for non-organic lunches? I don't get people.

I pack lunch to save money and because what I pack I am certain is healthier and more fresh than what my kids would be served. I know I do it for less than $3.5 and with some organics like milk and fruit. People nowadays have no idea how to cook, no idea how to grocery shop, and probably never read labels.

Is school lunches cheap where you are? Do you buy or pack? FWIW my DH 95% of the time packs a lunch as do it. It's being frugal and being lazy to go out.

12 Responses to “School Lunches Are not Cheap!”

  1. rob62521 Says:

    School lunches are a little less here in Central Illinois, but I think they are somewhat subsidized due to the high poverty in my district. But I agree with you, folks do not know how to shop and don't think things through.

  2. MonkeyMama Says:

    Our school lunches are only $2.50. My kids buy a couple of times a week. The school lunches are infinitely better and more healthy than anything I am willing to pack them. A deciding factor for me is that my kids are not picky. At school they get a full salad bar and I my oldest child in particular LOVES it. I wouldn't buy them lunch if they were going to pick at it and just toss it.

    As to dh and I, we mostly never eat out. I don't know where to get a high quality meal out for only $2.50. Wink

  3. MonkeyMama Says:

    P.S. Yes, definitely school lunches are heavily subsidized in our district.

  4. My English Castle Says:

    Middle school has been difficult for our lunch budget. DD usually buys her lunch, but they are offered "a la carte" items that, if not monitored, can really rack up the bill. Regular lunches vary between $2.750-3.25, but extras they can buy include chips (75cts), fruit snacks ($1!), and other expensive add-ons. We're going to try a new budgeting system this year. DD can have whatever we have at home in addition to the healthier main dish--including cookies, fruit snacks, etc--if she packs her lunch. Otherwise, she's got to have the regular menu at $2.75. Last year she was spending $100 month on lunch. Too much!

  5. creditcardfree Says:

    My girls have each had a school lunch less than five times. They always pack a lunch. They simply don't like the school food. I would guess we easily pack for less than $3.50 and probably even $2.50.

    Why would someone who seems to value all those organic foods, suddenly switch to a school lunch which are definitely not for the savings of $1.50 a day? Yep. Don't get that either.

  6. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    The schools have just this year started offering free lunch to every student, though I would guess 85% qualify for the federally funded free lunch anyway. If students want to get seconds, elementary kids must pay $1.10, or $0.40 (more for middle and High school) for another milk. I suppose that is the cost of a lunch.

  7. frugalredhead Says:

    School lunch here is $1.95, which isn't bad. However, I still figured out that I could pack my son's lunch for less than that. A turkey and cheese wrap, some baby carrots or applesauce, and a Thermos of water and a piece of candy from the never-ending candy bucket (from Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's day, etc) costs me about $1 a day. I do let him pay at least one day, sometimes 2, a week that he wants to buy lunch. He loves when they do grilled cheese and tomato soup, and corn dogs.

    Like others mentioned, the biggest expense is when he grabs a $0.65 bag of chips or goes back for a 2nd drink. If I can pack him some chips or crackers that he likes, I avoid that expense altogether. He used to buy every day, but I have definitely saved money by packing his lunch.

  8. LivingAlmostLarge Says:

    I will have to see because no way do I spend $3.50 on my kids lunches now. Even with a bunch of organic stuff I can still get away pretty cheap.

  9. LuckyRobin Says:

    It's about that here, but we won't buy it. And I can do organic lunches for cheaper than that. I'll roast a whole chicken or a beef pot roast and then use it to make quesadillas or wraps. They'll take a piece of fruit with them and a wedge of cabbage and their refillable water bottles. In the winter I may send them with homemade soups and stews. Or they'll take leftovers from dinner. It works out to about $2 per kid per lunch.

  10. PNWMom Says:

    Not sure what they are here anymore since both my kids are in college. In elementary, they were allowed to buy once in a while when something was on the menu they liked. In middle and high school, they almost always packed a lunch because the lines were so long, by the time they even got their food, it was time to go back to class. Both my girls at one time or another had a free period either before or after lunch so in essence, a long lunch and once they started driving, came home to eat. We are about 2 miles from the high school. I definately think packing is cheaper than buying at the school in any grade.

  11. CB in the City Says:

    Your comment about the pro-organic mommies switching to $3.50 lunches because it's cheaper amused me. I suspect a lot of mommies are on the organic band wagon to follow the crowd and not because of any deep-seated commitment.

  12. LivingAlmostLarge Says:

    LuckyRobin, I definitely think even 100% organic lunches can be had cheaper. But it takes planning and perhaps not individual portioned out lunch snacks as well.

    PNWMom good points about it taking so long to get lunches.

    CB I know a lot of people spending a lot on organic food but still eating junk.

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