Cost of living: pack a healthy box lunch for less than $4 a day


The cost of living weighs heavily on families, especially when it comes to food. And school canteens are an increasingly expensive area to run.

But assembling your kids’ lunch box doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. With a little planning and preparation, you can save time and money.

Here are my top 5 tips for making a quick, healthy, attractive, and inexpensive lunch box.

  • Use seasonal fruits and vegetables to cut costs or opt for frozen berries/mangoes over plain yogurt. Stewed apples and pears are also perfect to serve with plain yogurt for a treat.
  • Use a bento-style lunch box and pack bite-sized foods for young children – they’re likely to eat more foods and variety when they’re ready to eat. Bento boxes can often be expensive, but there are some great, cheaper brands out there.
  • Write a weekly menu and ask your children to select what they would like in their lunch box; list different fillers, fruits, vegetables, snacks and a treat. They are much more likely to eat the food if they have a say in it. Older children can help prepare and pack their own. .
  • Include a wide variety in all food groups: fruits and vegetables, cereals (bread, rice, pasta, cereals), milk and dairy products (cheese, yogurt, milk), lean meats and alternatives (nuts, seeds, meat, eggs, poultry, seafood, beans, lentils). Limit foods high in saturated fat, salt and sugar.
  • Chop fresh produce such as celery, carrot sticks and pineapple ahead of time, store in airtight containers in the fridge, so you can grab and go to save time.
Day 1: A mini bread quiche goes well with fruit and rice crackers.

Kathrine Lynch / Stuff

Day 1: A mini bread quiche goes well with fruit and rice crackers.

Day 1

2x mini bread quiche $1

Grapes $0.90

Apple $0.65

Hummus $0.26

Cheese $0.30

Rice crackers $0.22

Carrot sticks $0.10

Total: $3.43

Day 2: A hidden veggie muffin with cheese, popcorn, and fruit.

Kathrine Lynch / Stuff

Day 2: A hidden veggie muffin with cheese, popcorn, and fruit.

Day 2

Hidden Vegetable Muffin $0.59

Banana $0.55

Kiwi $0.20

Celery $0.38

cottage cheese $0.21

Pop corn $0.23

Cruskit with vegemite $0.29

Total: $2.45

Day 3: Fondant pita pizza with frozen fruits and berries.

Kathrine Lynch / Stuff

Day 3: Fondant pita pizza with frozen fruits and berries.

Day 3

Fondant for pita pizza $1.28

Mandarin $0.50

Yogurt $0.44

frozen berries $0.50

1x Apricot Oatmeal Happiness Balls $0.33

Celery $0.38

cottage cheese $0.21

Total: $3.64

Day 4: Teriyaki chicken rice balls with weetbix happiness balls, fruits and cheese.

Kathrine Lynch / Stuff

Day 4: Teriyaki chicken rice balls with weetbix happiness balls, fruits and cheese.

Day 4

Teriyaki Chicken Rice Balls $0.86

Pineapple $0.50

Kiwi $0.16

Cheese $0.30

Cherry tomatoes $0.60

Rice crackers $0.22

Weetbix happiness balls $0.21

Total: $2.84

Day 5: Mexican chicken fondant with fruits, hummus and vegemite cruskits.

Kathrine Lynch / Stuff

Day 5: Mexican chicken fondant with fruits, hummus and vegemite cruskits.

Day 5

Mexican chicken fondant $1.74

Mandarin $0.50

Yogurt $0.44

Apple compote $0.33

Carrot sticks $0.10

Hummus $0.26

Cruskits Vegemite $0.29

Total: $3.66

Additional tips

  • Bake and freeze foods like muffins or scones to save time and money.
  • Pack lunches the night before, if possible, to avoid a last-minute panic in the morning.
  • It is cheaper to buy 1 kg pots of yoghurt than small individual pots. You can buy small reusable containers that are the perfect size to distribute them.
  • It’s cheaper to buy popcorn kernels and pop them yourself, but if you’re short on time, large bags of popcorn are cheaper than small snack packs.
  • Add a new food often to expose your children to a range of different flavors and textures.
  • A food thermos is perfect for sending to school with a hot lunch. Leftovers from dinner, soup, mac and cheese, spaghetti bolognese, or fried rice are all popular with kids.
  • Pack the appropriate amount of food for your child. If you receive a lot of food at home, look to pack less and minimize waste.

Previous SEVENDUST completes the writing of a new "special" album: "The Songs Are Magical"
Next COVID, flu vaccination clinic planned in Reading