Lessons Learned: Saving on Your Child’s School Lunch

This is a guest post by John M. Box, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Education, JA Worldwide. I meant to post this last week while I was on vacation but never got to it. Anyway, I think Junior Achievement is an important program so I’m happy to help them spread the word. This is the first installment of what I hope will be a weekly series for the next month or so. Stay tuned…

Finding the time and energy to make your children’s school lunches interesting, healthy and inexpensive is a challenge that many parents face. By planning ahead, shopping smart and communicating with your children, you can save money and also teach your kids a valuable lesson about saving.

Communicate with Your Children

No matter how healthy or seemingly delicious a lunch may be, if you aren’t communicating with your kids about what they enjoy, you could be wasting incalculable amounts of money on items they aren’t eating at lunch. This by no means gives them total access to everything on the grocery store shelves, but by providing options and getting children involved in the conversation, you ensure that you’re feeding them what they need AND want.

Plan Ahead

After discussing lunch items with your kids, make a shopping list and stick to it. If this means getting a neighbor or sitter to watch your kids while you shop to avoid checkout line tantrums, do it. By setting a weekly lunch budget, making a list and sticking to it, you’ll know exactly how much you’re spending and can look for ways to possibly save even more. Instead of buying snack packs of their favorite chips or crackers, buy in bulk and portion out in baggies every Sunday evening. This is a great activity to involve your children in and then explain why you’re doing it. Who says they can only learn at school?

Shop Smart

Even those shoppers with the best intentions and extensive lists can be thrown by a flashy display or “big” sale. It’s important to be well-informed and be an investigative shopper. Be prepared to change your mind, as long as the sale items are really that. Instead of looking at the flashy price tag, look at the smaller price per unit/ounce also on the tag. That’s where you’ll be able to see real savings. The most important thing to keep in mind though is whether or not your kids will consume it.

If you already keep track of your grocery budget, hopefully you’ll begin to see that number dwindle as you take the above steps. Share with your children how much you are saving thanks to your diligence. Next, discuss a way to use the money to reward you both. Whether this is on a new toy, a special dinner or a deposit into a special college savings account for your children, by showing them the direct rewards that can come from saving, you can help instill this habit in them while they’re young.

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About Junior Achievement® (JA)

Junior Achievement is the world’s largest organization dedicated to inspiring and preparing young people to succeed in a global economy. Through a dedicated volunteer network, Junior Achievement provides in-school and after-school programs for students which focus on three key content areas: work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. Today, 137 individual area operations reach more than four million students in the United States, with an additional five million students served by operations in 123 other countries worldwide. For more information, visit www.ja.org.