Monday, January 9, 2012

Fifteen Dollars

Ok, technically....$14.25.  Any guesses to what that is?  No, it isn't a pony.  Or what we spend on coffee.  Or any other frivolous spending.  It is what we spend on buying school lunches PER WEEK.  Say what????  I know!  I was as surprised as you were!

The kids have the lunch calendar, and on Sunday night they write which days they would like to buy lunch (which is $2.25) and on the other days they bring a packed lunch and buy milk ($0.50).  In an average week, they each will buy lunch 2-3 times.  On a rare occasion, Bossy will buy 4.  Sassy is much more picky, and can usually be counted on to buy on Friday (Pizza day), but is inconsistent how many times she buys.  She really is more of a PB&J girl.

Typically I would write a check out for lunch tickets for the kids each week (we have to buy tickets for the week).  Because writing ONE check confuses them, I would write two checks.  Usually one check is $7.75 (3 hot lunch, 2 milk), and the other varies. I never really thought about it much.  Maybe because each check was small.  Maybe because it was just routine.  But I just did it each week.

One of my goals this year is to use less checks.  So I took out $20 last week when I deposited my paycheck, and we broke it into small bills.  This morning I put the cash in each child's lunch money envelope, and the remainder in a third envelope to roll over to next week.  And I only had $5 left!!!!   WHAT??!!!!

This was an eye-opener to me.  We have never limited how many times the kids buy lunch because 1) for K, 1st, and 2nd, it was only Sassy who bought lunch, 2) we are working on oral eating with Bossy, so if he wanted to buy lunch and would EAT it, we were all for it, and 3) it was easier for us in terms on having to prepare lunch for them.

If we limit them to 2 hot lunch a week (plus 3 milk), that is $6.00 a week per child.  Forty weeks of we are up to $240 for the year, per child.....or $480 for both.  Almost $500 just for lunch!  And that is if we limit them!!!!  If you use the $14.25 we spent this week....we are up to $570.

Holy cow!!!!  Granted, if you add up the ingredients for home-packed lunch (sandwich for her, turkey for him; chips; fruit; other snack item for "snack") I am not sure how much we are spending on that. I am pretty sure it is less than what we are spending on buying lunch.

I am a little torn, mostly because of Bossy.  I want him to EAT.  So I would rather not limit his buying.  Sassy buys less than him, but I would hate to limit her even further just to to balance out his purchases.  

Anyone else ever sat down and figure this stuff out???  How much are school lunches by you?  Suggestions for me??

ETA:  We have been paying this all along, so I am not worried about cutting it back.  It was more of a surprise when I actually looked at the numbers.  And I was curious if we were typical.  And in case you were wondering, no....we don't qualify for reduced lunch.


  1. I have never actually sat down and figured it out because we do not buy school lunches at all. However, our packed lunches are probably more than that. I am kind of a food snob, so our kids get higher end things.

    That being said, if I had a child with issues like Bossy, he could buy if wanted no matter the cost.

    My recommendation is to let this one go. If they are eating good and it is easier for you - then this is an area not to rock the boat.

  2. $2.25 is a great deal, especially if the food there is tasty and as nutritious as a school lunch can be. Not a chance I could feed my kids from home for that, including a drink. Not really a issue for debate here as we don't have lunch programs at our elementary schools. Just my opinion.

    I forget if you are US based. Canadian food prices are higher in most regards.

  3. You're right though....either does add up.

  4. This brings me back to some people who say they feed their whole family at a cost of $3.00 per person per day. I don't believe a word of it. Lunches cost money, and I believe if you don't pay $2.25 for packing your own lunch, you'll spend close to that. So go ahead and let him enjoy the school lunch. One of my kids was recently buying every day (at $3.00 per day) and I was glad when he decided to discontinue that - and the PB&J and apple he typically eats must cost less - but he makes up for it when he gets home from school.

  5. Wow that's a lot! I don't have kids, but I bring my lunch nearly everyday to work and I save a ton of money.

  6. Our school lunch is $2.55 but this year with 3 kids in school I applied for the reduced lunch and actually got it. It's $.40 a lunch which is a big help. My one daughter refuses to buy lunch anymore because the first time she did she ran out of time because her class was one of the last to buy. She ate her lunch in the classroom. We have an electronic system so I send in money and the kids enter a code at the register. Last year I didn't get leftover money back and it didn't rollover to the new school year.
    What kills me the most is they pay $.40 for the lunch now but a snack size bag of chips that they buy costs $.70. I just hope they actually eat something at school.

  7. I think there is a difference in an adult taking lunch to work and saving money and packing kids' lunch for school. It is much more economical for an adult to take their lunch because they can take leftovers. While a child most likely will not have access to a microwave to heat up their food. With the cost of lunch meats and peanut butter skyrocketing (at least they are here in Ohio), I would have no problem spending $2.25 on a school lunch. That is less than what I would spend to make a lunch that my daughter would eat, and since Bossy has food issues, I would do what I could to make sure he is eating and if that is the school lunch then I would pay the $2.25 a day. I also wouldn't limit Sassy's lunch buying to make up for it. If you are looking to save money, I would try to look elsewhere to cut back, not on this.

  8. Man you get a good deal. At my kids' school, lunch is $4.50 each kid, each day. So what I do is use it as a reward. They have sticker charts that when they fill up, they can trade in for buying a school lunch. At one point, I did the math and if I bought Lunchables on sale, it was cheaper than the school lunch so I did that a while. Nowadays, they're getting almond butter and jelly sandwiches. I got the almond butter cheap, the jelly free, and the bread was buy one get one free. They can't eat peanut butter at the school-- it's not allowed in the lower grades because of allergy issues.

  9. @MSM - $4.50??? DANG!!!!! My son has peanut allergies, and he sits at the "allergy" table. They still allow PB in our school. Sassy would starve if they didn't!

    Oh, and we stock up on this week is B1G2 free!

  10. We let my older son (he's in kindergarten) buy hot lunch as a special treat only. Mostly because I don't feel like he's old enough to moderate his own selections, and I know he would be eating fries + chocolate milk for lunch. :-) Hot lunch is also $4.50 at our school. I pack lunches for both of the kids every day. I need to add up how much it costs/child. I typically send: a cheese sandwich (no nuts of any kind allowed at school, which sucks), a yogurt ($$), a piece of fruit or a vegetable, and a snack of some kind (Pirate's Booty, a fruit snack, etc). I'm thinking maybe $3/kid?

  11. We always had the older 2 pack lunch, but the younger one ate at school at least 2 times a week at school. I think it is a wash. By the time you by snacks and bread and meat and fruit and they still buy milk. Factor in your time, will they truly eat it?

  12. My kids eat school lunch everyday because we get reduced lunch (which is free at our school). If I were to buy it it would be $3.50 a day per kid. No way! I have 3 kids and would never pay $10.50 a day for lunch. I could go to Costco and stock up on all of their favorites for far less. If the time comes that I have to start paying for lunch, I'll just start packing like I did before their school offered a lunch program.

  13. In my county, school lunches are $1.50 (elementary) and $1.75 (middle) for students. High school is a bit more complicated as they have various options. They don't list a price for the high school so we'll ignore it.

    That is $7.50-$8.75 a week per student (if they eat every day and aren't on reduced lunch). The annual cost would be $270-$315 per child. It wouldn't be impossible to beat that price but it wouldn't be easy.

    Also, due to economic conditions, a large portion of our students are on free and reduced lunches.

    It still adds up. $2.25 doesn't seem that horrible.

  14. I get mad everytime I look at my checkbook register. "lunches","lunches","lunches". I feel your pain. I logged into my daughters account the other day and she had been getting seconds, bottled water, pickles. You name it. She was getting something extra everyday. It seemed like she was blowing through her lunch money much faster than my son but he takes his lunch often so it's hard to keep up. I found some great lunch ideas on pinterest to keep the lunchbox interesting but haven't taken the time to try any of them. I just keep signing checks!