Monday, October 25, 2010

Pack a lunch or not?

Each weekday morning I get up and pack some lunches, none of them my own. But that's ok because that's part of the whole budget thing. Mr. Bacon does not have the option to buy his lunch at work. To me this is a huge budget saver for us. We are forced to pack a lunch each day for him or he'd go hungry. Or worse yet eat out of the vending machine! So each night after dinner I pack up the leftovers for Mr. Bacon lunch the next day.

That only takes care of one of the lunches I need to make. The other is for Bacon Jr. Being in school every day, he either has to bring his own lunch or have the school lunch. Now I have to say looking over his school lunch menu, it doesn't sound all that bad! BUT, it's cost is $1.75 a day. And for our family to stay on budget, I get up and pack a lunch. Now you're thinking $1.75 a day doesn't sound all that bad. In fact it's cheaper than a lot of other schools out there. But as Bacon jr. pointed out to me, there are 180 days of school each year. Breaking out my trusty calculator that comes out to $315 a school year. Right now that might be manageable, but in 7 years when Bacon bit is in school full time and we have to pay for 4 kids, that comes to $1260 a school year! Add on the other things they need for school like milk for snack, sports, field trips... It's a huge bust on the budget.

Packing a lunch isn't that much work in the morning. Something to drink, a sandwich, some fruit, a cookie sounds good right? One thing to keep a watch for is making sure what you are packing for lunch doesn't cost more than buying school lunch. Making stuff homemade helps and tastes better. To make sure there is some variety Bacon jr has a menu to choose from at home, but last year he didn't want much variety. He was content taking good old PB&J. The catch, he wouldn't eat the crust no matter what I tried. And I hated throwing away half a sandwich everyday. So I needed a solution. I was browsing blogs one day when I came across a post from my friend the little frugalista about homemade uncrustable sandwiches Here. And it was like a light went off, a true why didn't I think of it moment. So I started making Bacon jr. homemade uncrustable's and guess what, he ate all of it. (and yes I save the crust, dry it out and make breadcrumbs in case you were wondering what happened to it)
Now it's no rocket science making one, 2 slices of bread, some PB&J, and a wide mouth canning ring. Spread the PB&J on the bread and use the ring to cut it with (any larger cookie cutter will work too!) Now if you want to really save yourself time in the morning, these can be frozen just like the one's in the store too. One tip for freezing, you want to spread peanut butter on both pieces of bread before putting the jelly on them to keep the bread from getting soggy. You can seal them together by using a fork to crimp the edges too. Wrap them in plastic wrap and stick them in the freezer. Take one out and toss it in the lunch box in the morning and it should be thawed by lunch time.

As for other things to pack, I use a re-usable thermos for kool-aid, water or milk, I put some of my own canned peaches or pears or a cut up apple (another tip, rub some lemon juice on the cut apple to keep it from turning brown and no it won't taste like lemons when it's eaten) in a small container. Toss in a homemade cookie or granola bar and you've got a lunch without busting your budget. Speaking of those granola bars, I make them too, don't they look good! I made a batch today and added some fun halloween sprinkles to the top.

Here's a really simple no bake recipe.

Granola bars:

2.5 cups crispy rice cereal (rice krispies)
2 cups quick oats oatmeal
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup raisins

In bowl place cereal, oats and raisins and set aside. In sauce pan, bring brown sugar and corn syrup to a boil, stir often. Once it's boiling, remove from heat and stir in peanut butter and vanilla. Once smooth, pour over cereal mixture and mix well. Let cool for a few minutes and then stir in chocolate chips ( if you don't let it cool for a bit and add in the chocolate, they will melt!). Press firmly in greased 9x13 pan and allow to cool. Once cool cut into bars. Store in air tight container.

Once again this is a recipe you can change up. The bars pictured above, I didn't put in the raisins. I doubled the chocolate chips to 1 cup and used mini chocolate chips instead. Pretty much you can add what ever you'd like, some chopped nuts and cranberries, just raisins, how about some peanut butter chips or mini M&M's? The possibilities are endless and the best part is the kids LOVE them. I even sneak some in Mr. Bacon's lunch! Go on give them a try and let me know what you think.


  1. would it work without the peanut butter? I assume I'd need to substitute something else liquid but was wondering if you have any suggestions. Our school is nut free but I'd love to make these to send for them if I can modify it.

  2. You could try to make them with honey as well. I'm not sure of the exact substition, but I would try them with 1:1 first. Hope that helps!

  3. Hello! Love the idea of the homemade uncrustables! I was wondering how long you thought they would last in the freezer? Thanks!

  4. Kalysha Thanks for stopping by! If they are wrapped in plastic wrap or baggie I would say one month, if in an air tight container I would say no longer than 3 months in the freezer. If you want to make them last longer I have individually and then place them in a food saver bag. I have done this, I just make sure I seal the bag before all the air is out so it doesn't squish them. Hope that helps!
    Ma Bacon

  5. I too make PB&J's and freeze them. GREAT timesaver! I buy a loaf of bread and use the whole loaf to make PB&J sandwiches. I flash freeze them in the freezer for an hour on cookie sheets. Once frozen solid, I put each sandwich in a ziplock lunch baggie, then put all the sandwiches (in baggies) BACK into the bread bag in the freezer. Then if my son is "starving" while I am busy I can just take out a frozen PB&J, microwave it for 12 seconds (or leave out on the counter for 20 mins)and he is good to go! I never thought of using a canning jar lid to cut & seal DIY uncrustables! Great idea. I can't wait to make up a batch. My son will love it for a change of pace AND I need to make more breadrumbs. Thanks for the post!

  6. Do You have any other cheap ideas for lunches? We too, are on o a food budget(3 people). We will ALL be packing lunches this year( daughter in 4th, me in my last year of classes/clinicals and husband does landscaping). I'd like them to be healthy!

  7. Those granola bars look amazing, I may just have to make some today! Janette, I like the idea of using a whole loaf of bread and having all those sandwiches on hand! I am 13 weeks pregnant and my morning (more like all day) sickness thanks you! I sure love peanut butter, but the smell about knocks me out sometimes. Also, I have this nifty little tool from pampered chef that cuts and seals the sandwiches for me, great for grilled sandwiches too!

    1. Does Pampered Chef still sell this tool and what is it called? Would love to get one.

  8. I just wanted to say, I just came to your blog here from pinterest... you are a genius! My son starts school here in about 2 weeks and its my first one going to school.... this is helping me a lot. :) Thanks!

  9. I am close to brining home three teenagers from Haiti; the adoption process has taken 2 + years. I love all of your ideas and will be implementing as many as I can! I'm a single woman, school orphans for 7+ years they DO eat a lot when they have food and so keeping to a budget will be tough. But making things from scratch will be a way for me to keep costs down and make a lot at once. And I'm sure all three will enjoy cooking, once they get used to running water, a stove, oven and fridge! My son's eyes popped open when I tried to describe we had a machine for washing dishes. Thanks Ma Bacon for sharing so much!

  10. Do the homemade granola bars wind up being cheaper than store bought ones after you buy all the ingredients? I made them yesterday and they are delicious!

    1. Here is what I got for a breakdown for the granola bars. I usually get 18 bars per 9x13 pan.

      Rice crispy (Store brand): 2.39 (18oz box)= .34 for 2.5cups
      Oatmeal (42oz store brand): 2.49= .32
      Honey ( 42oz store brand-replaces corn syrup) 5.89 = 1.47
      brown sugar (store brand) 1.99= .12
      peanut butter (store brand) 2.39=.79
      mini resese pieces 2.39= 1.19
      total for a pan is just over $4 for a pan so not the cheapest snack option out there. But normally I've seen granola bars for generic prices at 1.99 for 8 bars so almost comparable in price. I do like that i know what is going into them. Anything with PB right now is expensive I think! If I add in just rasins or dried cranberries the cost would end up being cheaper. Also I know I can get corn syrup for cheaper than honey and a bigger bottle but we recently switches to honey to help make them slightly healthier. I know the cost for things are different depending on where you are located too.

      One thing I do know is that the Bacon kids will grab a homemade granola bar over a store bought one anyday! thanks for stopping by.

  11. Your enthusiasm and the example you set for your children is amazing. You are teaching them such a powerful lesson. You have certainly lit a fire under me. Thanks!

  12. What would you estimate the shelf life to be on your granola bars?

    1. I'm not entirely sure, they don't last more than a few days around our house! but if they are stored in an air tight container I would guess up to 2 weeks before they would start to get hard. Thanks for stopping by Jen.

  13. oh my gosh I made these yesterday. I ate a bite out of the fridge and thought I overcooked them. Just ate one and they are awesome!!! These are way better than the other granola bar recipes I have tried. Thank you!!
    The hubby loved them and I got 18 servings out of them.

  14. This recipe is awesome! It was a hit with the entire family. My 4 year old ( who won't even eat reese cups because she hates peanut butter )has been nibbling on them all day. I put my 2 little ones to work stirring the dry ingredients. I have found if you want your kids to be interested in the food then let them lend a hand; no matter how messy :) I substituted rice chex instead of rice crispies b/c that is what I had on hand and these turned out INCREDIBLE I can not thank you enough for sharing all you have.

  15. I made these tonight for my husband, son, and son's friend to take on a Sea Scout day hike. I had to make a second batch for them to take because they completely ate the first batch. My husband who isn't really a sweet person ate half the pan alone and told me that I can no longer buy store granola bars! I couldn't keep him away from them.

  16. I can't wait to make these. I don't like the Quaker chewy bars but my kids LOVE them...I would love to make them at home and know they are getting a healthy version even if the cost is about the same.

  17. So how much does a typical lunch cost for Bacon Jr. when made at home?

  18. Just made these and WOW! I used organic coconut palm sugar in place of the brown sugar and honey instead of the corn syrup (I had it all on-hand) and they tasted absolutely delicious! Great recipe!!!!!

  19. What about old fashion oats?

  20. Can you freeze these then "thaw" them?

  21. Very good article interesting and useful

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