What should a lunch cost? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 17 Old 12-30-2012, 11:03 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Okay I am looking at my spending and realized that it's costing $67/mo for my 7th grader to buy lunch at school 3 days/week. She brings lunch from home the other 2 days. She attends a charter school and they don't have a proper cafeteria, but the PTA caters lunch from local restaurants. The school makes a very small profit which goes to the PTA fund. The rest is the cost of the food. It seems really high to me, now that I'm looking at it. But the stuff I buy for lunches- I have 2 other school aged kiddos who bring lunch every day to elementary school- isn't cheap, either. Do any of you have price per homemade lunch broken down? What is it costing you to send lunch with your littles? And what are you sending?


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#2 of 17 Old 12-30-2012, 04:53 PM
 
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That does seem pretty expensive.  You should be able to pack a lunch for a couple of bucks or less.  My kids are older now but when I used to pack their lunch, I used to shoot for one vegetable (carrots, broccoli, etc.), 1/2 to 1 fruit (apple slices, orange segments, applesauce from a larger container and put in a container), 1 dairy serving (slice of cheese, mozzarella stick, yogurt), one whole grain (tortilla, roll with butter, small whole wheat bagel with cream cheese) and one protein (they are vegetarian, so it might be 1/4 cup of beans of some kind, some kind of casserole, tofu, whatever.)  They hated the milk at school so they never drank it.  I kept a supply of small rubbermaid containers. 
 

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#3 of 17 Old 12-30-2012, 05:03 PM
 
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Originally Posted by KayleeZoo View Post

Okay I am looking at my spending and realized that it's costing $67/mo for my 7th grader to buy lunch at school 3 days/week. 

 

That's approximately $5.60 per lunch, if you figure it's 12 lunches per month (3 days for 4 weeks). I don't think that $6.00 for a lunch is price gouging but it definitely adds up. I guess it depends on what is included,  If it's a full hot meal with a drink and dessert/snacks, you would pay that amount or more at a lunch counter or restaurant. Likely you can save significant money by sending a homemade lunch since you won't be paying for labour, packaging and transportation costs. My kids often took leftovers in a thermos for lunch - pasta, soup, etc., so it wasn't costly.

 

When you think about profit, don't forget that the restaurant will first make its profit before the PTA adds its own profit margin to the cost that you pay. 

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#4 of 17 Old 12-30-2012, 05:06 PM
 
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My goal for packing my own lunch is under $3. Thats an adult lunch for gluten and dairy allergies.

My 12 yr old eats at home (homeschool) but generally has leftovers and I doubt he eats $3 worth of food.  We have lots of bulk food and such.


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#5 of 17 Old 12-30-2012, 10:22 PM
 
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School lunches here cost $5 each.  That include a drink (juice or milk), a sandwich usually meat or eggs or tuna, and a snack item.    So every month if you buy those it's an even $100.  (We never buy those due to food allergies.) Your quoted price seem a bit high (especially since food is US is cheaper) but not too high.  Our home packed lunch is anywhere from $1 to $5 each, depends on how picky they feel.


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#6 of 17 Old 12-31-2012, 07:13 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the input, ladies! She gets 2 slices of pizza and a cookie on Monday (but brings water and fruit from home), and on Wed it's chicken alfredo and 3 breadsticks (again, she brings water and fruit and a small dessert) and on Thursday it's a turkey sub sandwich (and suppliements the rest of the stuff from home) So I didn't realize it but it's costing the amount we're paying to the school *plus* whatever it's costing to send the extras from home. Ugh. I do like that she's eating something besides a sandwich everyday (she is a sensory kiddo and we have struggled for years to find foods she can tolerate the feel of) and I"m finding that the peer pressure as she enters almost-teenagerhood is helping- she would have never tried chicken alfredo before, but her friends get it and they persuaded her to taste it. I need to find out how to pack lunches more cheaply for all 3 kids. Making more at home and relying less on packaged stuff, maybe...


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#7 of 17 Old 01-01-2013, 01:16 PM
 
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Originally Posted by KayleeZoo View Post

Thanks for the input, ladies! She gets 2 slices of pizza and a cookie on Monday (but brings water and fruit from home), and on Wed it's chicken alfredo and 3 breadsticks (again, she brings water and fruit and a small dessert) and on Thursday it's a turkey sub sandwich (and suppliements the rest of the stuff from home) So I didn't realize it but it's costing the amount we're paying to the school *plus* whatever it's costing to send the extras from home. Ugh. I do like that she's eating something besides a sandwich everyday (she is a sensory kiddo and we have struggled for years to find foods she can tolerate the feel of) and I"m finding that the peer pressure as she enters almost-teenagerhood is helping- she would have never tried chicken alfredo before, but her friends get it and they persuaded her to taste it. I need to find out how to pack lunches more cheaply for all 3 kids. Making more at home and relying less on packaged stuff, maybe...

 

I pack my dh's lunch every day and none of his lunches would add up to $6. A lot of times he gets leftovers from our dinners in his lunch.

It does not cost much to make pizza, a sandwich or pasta at home. I suppose the real issue is what she will eat that you can send from home not the cost.

Maybe she should bring her lunch 3 days and eat the PTA lunch only 2 days.

 

Some lunch ideas:

http://www.laptoplunches.com/photo-gallery.php


Kim ~mom to one awesome dd (12)

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#8 of 17 Old 01-01-2013, 01:49 PM
 
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That price is too high for the food you describe. I pay $2 per lunch for CATCH-approved meals for my sons: http://catchinfo.org/eat-smart-the-catch-way/

 

We live in a low-COL region, but still, if my kid can eat a full meal with protein, carb, veggie and fruit and milk provided at each meal for $2, $6 for something you have to supplement is too much anywhere. Time to start packing a full lunch. 

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#9 of 17 Old 01-01-2013, 06:39 PM
 
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My middle schooler eats lunch at school daily, and it's averaged about $100 a month. She tends to get extras or the special meals offered instead of the basic, cheaper hot lunch. I don't know what we'd spend on a sack lunch daily, as we don't really ever do that - except for field trips, and then I let the kids pick a Lunchable (I know, I know).

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#10 of 17 Old 01-01-2013, 07:13 PM
 
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My dh work also has local restaurants bringing in food to sell. $5 an entree sounds similar to what he pays.

It obviously isn't a cheap way to have lunch. But school lunches are $. I think my dd lunch is almost $4.

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#11 of 17 Old 01-04-2013, 01:51 PM
 
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Doesn't sound too bad, not cheap but reasonable for a take out meal. You don't mention the gender or size of the 7th grader. If it's a tall, growing boy eating huge portions of decent food that contains high quality protein then it sounds cheap, especially if that is the main meal of the day. If it's a girl who eats half a small portion and the food is from places with low quality standards then it sounds like too much. To put it in perspective that is the equivalent of paying $268/month for one meal a day for a family of four, $335 for a family of five, $402 for six, $469 for seven, etc. Maybe that's on par with your other meals but maybe not. Maybe if they want to buy lunch like their friends offer to pay for one a week and ask them to earn the rest of the money? 

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#12 of 17 Old 01-05-2013, 10:46 AM
 
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Doesn't sound too bad, not cheap but reasonable for a take out meal. 

 

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Someone upthread mentioned paying $2 for a school lunch. Considering the basic costs for quality ingredients and packaging materials plus the labour cost to prepare plus any transportation costs to get it to the school, I think it's unlikely that any restaurant or caterer could prepare a nutritious meal with quality ingredients for that price AND make any kind of profit. Of course, food prices are regional, so maybe it can be done somewhere - just not in my neighbourhood! And of course, if you prepare a lunch at home, you don't pay the costs of labour, transportation and profit margin and you can take advantage of weekly supermarket specials to lower ingredient costs. 

 

I'm not sure if the $2 was for a homemade lunch or a school-provided lunch. If that's the price at a school lunch program, then I suspect the $2 cost involves a subsidy at some point to keep it it that affordable. That makes it a different kind of lunch program than a profit-making venture by the PTA. Different programs, different goals, different prices. 

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#13 of 17 Old 01-05-2013, 07:21 PM
 
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My ds's school does meals from restaurants sometimes. Near every fri is pizza day(we don't participate b-c ds has a dairy allergy and we're veg) but he is taking part in pita day once a month which is $5.00. And they have something called the "lunch lady" where you can get all different entrees. Honestly they're way too expensive. Can't afford it and the amount of food is just not enough for the cost.

 

Ds's lunches are sandwiches(grilled soy cheese,fake pb,egg salad,jam),wraps,leftover perogies,tofu as mains. Usually 2 small cookies,some fruit,veggie slices,raisins. Whatever else is around. Honestly his lunches cost prob less then 4.00 a day and are REALLY healthy. Organic when available.
 


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#14 of 17 Old 01-26-2013, 09:17 AM
 
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Our schools provide two lunch options each day. Much different than your PTA catered lunches, but still healthy and reasonably priced at $2.30 per lunch. If they don't care for the hot lunch, they can choose from the second choice, a "cold lunch" option. Usually contains a fruit, a veg, a carb, a protein (boiled egg, meat, cheese), dairy and a sweet. That is our elementary. The upper elementary (4-5th grades) also have a salad bar option.

My girls are picky. Youngest usually likes the cold lunch option at school, but oldest takes her lunch from home every single day. It costs much less than $2.30 per day. She takes a Nutella sandwich (with the crusts cut off), a tiny block of cheese, 5-10 grapes, blueberries, or strawberries, a small homemade cookie, and a bottle of water.
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#15 of 17 Old 01-26-2013, 08:53 PM
 
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I just found one of these at TJMaxx for $4.99 and I'm in love with it. http://www.amazon.com/Mulberry-Genmert-Double-Stack-Handles/dp/B009IJEDQ6/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1359261646&sr=8-6&keywords=mybentomeal  It's fabulous for my 7th grader to take to school for her lunch.  It has more than enough room for food to satisfy her and she's a big eater(though my gosh you would never know it.  She's under the growth charts!)  I pack lunches for her and my 2nd grader every day even though they get free lunch at school if we wish to use it.  I follow the typical frugal guidelines in not  buying individually packaged stuff and just portioning out into baggies and making stuff at home like cookies, granola bars, crackers, etc.  If you have the time and desire, I recommend it.  It's not hard at all.  I chose 3-4 items and bake them up on a Sunday when I have about 2 hours and put them into baggies for the week or into covered containers to portion out later.  It keeps the price tag low, the nutrition high, and everyone is happy.  Neither child has been made fun of for their lunches yet and I hope that continues.  Actually most of my 2nd grader's friends are jealous because they get free lucnh and HAVE to get the same stuff day in and day out.  And my 7th grader's friends try to work trades with her and ask her if her mom would pack extra of a certain item next time so they could share.  Because your daughter has sensory issues, it may actually be easier for her to enjoy leftovers from home in her lunches and just order every once in a while.  My girls are allowed one day per week to order.  We get out the school menus and decide together on a day to order because the lunches at their schools are pretty atrocious.  But like you said, it may be beneficial to keep allowing her certain days to order, just maybe not $67/month's worth of ordering.  


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#16 of 17 Old 01-27-2013, 08:41 AM
 
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Our charter school charges $5 a lunch, about $100 month for lunch. It is prepared at a local cafe that buys all produce from the farmer's markets, runs local farmer's markets, and does job training. Meat is grass fed. They have a couple of waivers from the USDA so that they can OFFER poured milk to children rather than serving everyone. They are part of the Edible Schoolyard program (from Alice Waters). It is a ton of work to provide a nutritious, respectful lunch to children and requires a lot of parental involvement. Part of the school's charter is to serve a mixed income community so 35% of the kids get free or reduced price lunch. Which means they provide lunches to all kids but only get reimbursed a miserable amount from the federal government. So...they have some private funds that cover the difference and there is a % of the "regular lunch price" that subsidizes as well. 

 

I could pack a nutritious lunch for less and LO would probably even eat it more happily. But ultimately, they need all the families to participate for the program to be successful and the community aspect of it is lovely.

 

I think there are other factors than just cost to consider.

 

Edited to add: very HCOL area. The good organic, local apples that they use are $3/pound at the farmer's market. They get the smaller ones that don't sell for a reduced rate. Really helps the local farmer's too.

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#17 of 17 Old 01-27-2013, 08:47 AM
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Our charter school charges $5 a lunch, about $100 month for lunch. It is prepared at a local cafe that buys all produce from the farmer's markets, runs local farmer's markets, and does job training. Meat is grass fed. They have a couple of waivers from the USDA so that they can OFFER poured milk to children rather than serving everyone. They are part of the Edible Schoolyard program (from Alice Waters). It is a ton of work to provide a nutritious, respectful lunch to children and requires a lot of parental involvement. Part of the school's charter is to serve a mixed income community so 35% of the kids get free or reduced price lunch. Which means they provide lunches to all kids but only get reimbursed a miserable amount from the federal government. So...they have some private funds that cover the difference and there is a % of the "regular lunch price" that subsidizes as well. 

 

I could pack a nutritious lunch for less and LO would probably even eat it more happily. But ultimately, they need all the families to participate for the program to be successful and the community aspect of it is lovely.

 

I think there are other factors than just cost to consider.

 

Edited to add: very HCOL area. The good organic, local apples that they use are $3/pound at the farmer's market. They get the smaller ones that don't sell for a reduced rate. Really helps the local farmer's too.

 

 Wow, that is really cool.  


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