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Lunch - buy or bag?

March 5th, 2009 at 02:30 am

For me? I brown bag it all the way. Mostly leftovers. Sometimes sandwiches.

We did the same with BM when he started Kindergarten. He is allowed to buy once a week (a treat for him; a break for us).
One week he threw a fit he wanted a second lunch for whatever reason. Dh said it was fine if he paid for it himself. I think the system is good.

BUT, I don't know why, but it just hit me the other day. Is brown bagging it really cheaper? School lunch is a whopping $2, for all the fruits and veggies and everything.

Dh and I crunched some numbers and decided we spent about $1 per day brown bagging peanut butter sandwiches. We tend to do cereal/granola bars/occasional real breakfasts in the morning. Sandwiches (kid's choice) for lunch. & then go all out for dinner. I think this is one way we keep our food bill down. I could eat PBJ every day - I love it. Kids don't seem to mind either. It's a nice round meal (with fruit or veggies).

Anyway, I am sure our $1/day estimate could likely be on the high side. BUT the thing about BM is we make him a double decker sandwich because he is always so ravenous. So we go through a lot of bread - easily a loaf a week with him. Plus he wants it piled high with the PB & the jelly.

That's all we usually pack. Usually a snack (cheese and crackers) and water in a bottle. It's easy and fills him up. HE can buy once a week to mix it up.

So I was thinking. Is $2 a day for a solid meal, some fruits and veggies, and a carton of milk, really so bad? I am sure if we packed the same level of lunch, we would be hard pressed to keep it under $2.

I then wondered why buying lunch at school is so frowned upon by the frugal crowd. I admit it, I am lost!

I've seen the arguments that it's not healthy? I don't know - the school's food looks about as healthy as can be if you ask me. Of course we're not health freaks. I'd say our diet philosophy is "moderation." But it's definitely not the slop they served when I was a child. I am not sure if our school is all organic (nor do I Care) but I thought that it was.

(Reminds me, dh told me he didn't like the idea of dessert every day. Um, who said anything about dessert every day? LOL. I think BM usually chooses Friday for its desserts, yes. That's just Fridays).

The thing about BM is he will eat anything. So it's not like he will pick at his food or pick and choose what he wants. They seem to serve a lot of salad at his school, but he LOVES salad. & really it's hard to pack anything like that and keep it fresh until lunch time. Though it's more the kind of meals we eat for dinner.

On the menu next week:
*Hot Dog/whole wheat roll/beans/carrots/juice/milk
*Spaghetti, cheese bread, salad, trail mix
*Baked chicken/wheat bun/fries/pear/milk
*Mesquite burger/wheat bun/pickles/lettuce/raisins/apple slices/milk
*Pepperoni pizza/salad/kiwi/chocolate milk
(I guess kiwi is the dessert)

BM would absolutely eat it all. Sounds good to me. I think we will switch to PBJ once a week for him. We will give it a whirl anyway. BM is thrilled with this idea. I think he loves his PBJ, but he loves school lunch even more.

I am sure it will cost us more in the end, but I think it will be a better rounded lunch for him. Plus I think this is an area you can get pretty penny wise/pound foolish. Is my time worth $1? To sleep in 10 minutes and not make lunch? Hell yeah! Is he going to accept PBJ for the next 12 years? I hope not. LOL. We'd certainly have to get more creative. I guess this is the easy way. I am usually for the easy way. Wink

A final thought about lunch for the K level - I think it is the same as lunch for the 5th graders. But, um, my kid eats like and adult. So it works. I could see with a lot of my friends it would be a complete waste of money because their kids are happy to eat half a sandwich and call it a day. & then there is my kid with the double decker every day...

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BTW, I am a dork and had no idea our electric meter was digital. Which means basically it is a SNAP to keep track of. We had changed to CFLs and were just waiting until the end of the month to see what difference it made. Then I looked at the meter and saw how easy it was to track - so have been doing just that.

I was disappointed we used 20kwh over 24 hours because our average was like 21 kwh per day, last month. But we'll see... We'll see what the bill is (in a couple of days) and I can keep a closer eye on it going forward. Kind of interesting.

In the 9 hours I was at work today, the fam used 9kwh (with the slow cooker on most of the day). I am sure we use most of our electricity in the evening hours (we don't really use lights during the day - furnace and hot water is gas). I don't expect we use any electricity at night. But for the fridge and all that. IT will be REALLY interesting to calculate usage when we are not home for a weekend, next time. We can kind of gauge our baseline (I imagine would be mostly the fridge and our digital clocks. It will be interesting to see).

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Tax Thoughts...

I found another way to obliterate the tax on dh's ebay income. Since he legitimately does most of the work while LM is at daycare/preschool anyway, we can actually claim the dependent childcare credit in 2009. The credit would be 20% of his income. BAsically would obliterate the tax on his income, in our tax bracket (about 20% fed/state). He'd pay self-employment tax, but a little social security credit isn't the worst thing for him. It's been $0 for quite a few years! Then his "making work pay" credit would be mostly gravy.

Also, I don't think we will be rushing into college decisions or anything for dh (to brush up his degree, get a teaching credential, or whatever he decides). BUT the new $2500 education tax credit is pretty sweet. 2009 & 2010. He may consider school in 2010 as a result. I have also heard that the government intends to extend this credit for longer, which could be pretty sweet for us. I will have to keep an eye on it. For now I don't know all the details, but seems like it would work in our case (from what I do know).

I always wanted to get a Masters (more for personal growth; though it wouldn't hurt my resume) when the kids are older. If dh doesn't take the credit, I have to say I may consider it. Wonder how much classes are these days. They were literally $750/class and paid by my employer (10 classes?) when we lived in San Jose. I had to do long distance learning at a private university for $1500/class when we moved here. Nothing close and I left unimpressed. I'll take public university any day. (Fair enough it could have been the internet format that didn't impress me. The cost didn't impress me much either). $2500/year FREE MONEY for college is tempting. I had long considered commuting once a week and taking classes at my alma mater. Tax Masters aren't even offered at any of the big universities up here.

I may faint if I saw the current prices though. (okay, I peeked, and courses are now $1200/unit. $12k versus $7500 in 2001, for a MASTERS). Hmmmmm, not bad! PRoblem is it would probably take me 10 years to finish... Not sure how long that credit will be around. But much to think about.

13 Responses to “Lunch - buy or bag?”

  1. disneysteve Says:

    I always pack lunch. Sometimes a sandwich, sometimes leftovers, sometimes a frozen TV dinner, whatever. I get the TV dinners on sale for $1.99. I certainly couldn't order out for that price. Sandwiches and leftovers are even less.

  2. Amber Says:

    For me I save sooo much taking my lunch, I even pack snacks so that I am not tempted to buy from the snack machine

  3. miclason Says:

    For me, it's a matter of TASTE... the food at the cafeteria is "so-so", and leftovers can be yummy... (of course, there are days when leftovers are yucky!...nanny decided to be creative/take on a challenge today and tried to make lasagna...why do I say TRIED?... ever heard of a meat lasagna with nothing but meat and pasta?? No sauce, no cheese?? We had it for dinner, but I felt as if I were trying to eat a brick! yuch! I fixed a little sauce and grated some cheese on top of everything, which helped make it EDIBLE, but, definetely not enjoyable...hmmmm... I need to ask for a couple of days off to teach her a couple new recipes...)

  4. boomeyers Says:

    For me, it's the bag! Even my kids prefer bagging it. Our school lunches are $2.60. I may actually even try for free/reduced price next year. We qualify. A batch of $1.00 brownies divided into baggies on Sunday. A can of Pringles split isn't much. DD1 takes a bottled water and piece of fruit, DD3 takes a gogurt, yogurt or sandwich and a capri sun and DD2 is my costly one. She will only eat those Smuckers Uncrustables and Gatorade. On the whole, I find they go for "seconds" when they buy lunch and that costs extra, so bagging works for us.

  5. debtfreeme Says:

    hmmm...what is this education credit? Do you have to be enrolled in an actual program or just taking a few classes? I am always taking a class or two usually ofr fun and something i did not get to study when going through school. Where can i learn more?

  6. North Georgia Gal Says:

    We buy lunches. It makes our evenings and mornings smoother not having to worry about it. Plus the kids don't like the same thing every day...so getting the variety would be a problem. Luches here are $1.75/day and includes breakfast.

  7. Caoineag Says:

    My parents had me buy my lunch at the cafeteria for the same reason. Unlike most kids my age at the time, I adored vegetables. I used to go back for 2 or 3 servings because so few kids wanted them so the cooks were glad to give it to me.

  8. frugaltexan75 Says:

    I am interested in this education tax credit - may be quite helpful to me the next couple years. Smile
    For $2 your son's lunch might be a better deal then bagging it every day. Maybe go to a 3/2 schedule - 3 days school lunch/2 days bagging it and see how it works?

  9. ihate2work Says:

    When I went to school, my family qualified for discounted lunches so I always ate the cafeteria which was a treat for me as because this was my only exposure to American comfort foods. Now I pack lunch twice a wweek versus doing 5 days a week like I used to. I pack on schedule days I know I will me be on my own for lunch, but I think it is important to spend some time out of the office with mates discussing no work related stuff.

  10. Shane Says:

    @Electricity Usage

    I've cut my bill from $100 to $75 in the past few months. Most of this is no-doubt the electric thermostat that runs the AC at 78 when I'm at work.

    But I've also been conscientious about how much power gets sucked from chargers (laptop, phone, etc) even when the device is not plugged in. I keep them all unplugged all the time now.

    I run my dishwasher on Power Save mode and I run it in the AM, so it has all day to air dry and I unload in the evening.

    I turned on the "dry sensor" on the dryer so it stops as soon as the clothes are dry regardless of the cycle.

  11. my english castle Says:

    DD prefers the school lunch to my tired choices. She used to be a bit of a picky eater (an abomination to my husband), but now she eats almost everything. They get a fairly rounded meal, no dessert, and a choice of "brown, white, or pink" milk for $1.95.
    It's helped her be a better eater--and frankly it's at least as healthy as some of the packed lunches I see her friends eat.

  12. MICLASON Says:

    LOL! Yesterday, there was nothing to eat for dinner...and next to nothing to cook with (we do our shopping on Saturday, so, come Friday, we are almost out of everything!)... I told Ale and she said: "I could buy lunch, I'll just make sure I get the healthy option"... (they have 2 choices, for Fridays, its generally pizza/soda or stewed chicken with rice/fruit juice)... I ended up cooking a potato casserole for her... I didn't have the $2.50 on me... (I did have a $10 bill)... but, it's nice to see her making a point of eating something healthy (especially since they DO have a special event at school tonight, and they're having dinner there... PIZZA!)

  13. monkeymama Says:

    Caoineag - interesting point. He may get some extra veggies - hehe.

    Sorry - I just SAW all the replies here. Interesting. I was curious what others thought as far as school lunch. If be both worked - school lunch ALL the way. I can't imagine packing up lunches in that case. Well, I would if it was considerably cheaper. But being able to take my food and put it in a fridge and have access to a microwave is not the experience of our children, so it's just different. The adults in our house are brown baggers all the way - to be clear.

    I will have to do a post on the education credit. I haven't seen a lot of info on it yet, so I don't know. But I will share as I find more.

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