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Should You Pack Your Child’s Lunch Or Let Them Buy at School?

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As our kids head back to school, a lot of us will face the question as to whether we should have them pack their lunch or if we should just let them buy. Believe it or not, from a financial standpoint, you may find yourself in a situation where it’s better to actually let them buy. In most cases though, letting them pack is best. Let’s take a look at which works best for different types of budgets.

Do you struggle with packing a lunch for your child verses buying lunch at school? Here are some things to consider while coming to a decision.

First and foremost, if your child qualifies for a reduced or free lunch program, it is almost always better to let them buy their lunch. Unless you can pack their lunch totally free, chances are that you won’t be able to pack them for cheaper than the forty cents reduced lunch price. If however, you’re using a lot of free items, go ahead and weigh the cost to see if it will work out cheaper.

For those of you that may not qualify for reduced or free lunches, you’ll need to weigh the cost of packing versus the cost of buying. School lunches typically cost between $2 and $4.00 each so usually you will find that the cost of packing is far cheaper. Be sure to account for everything included in their lunches including the baggies that you may be using, and even the lunchbox itself.

Related: 9 Awesome Things to Pack in Your Child’s Lunchbox

After you’ve figured out the costs, you’ll also want to make sure that you consider any health costs. School lunches are not always the greatest so if your child has any specific allergies, eats organic or has any other things happening that the schools may not cater to, you may want to consider packing. It would be far cheaper to pack their lunch than to have medical bills that have come about because of an allergic reaction or just a food that doesn’t sit well with them.


If your child does not have food allergies, but is a picky eater, you’ll want to consider that as well. My daughter is an extremely picky eater. There were times we let her purchase lunch at school because they were having something she liked. Since she is picky, she would only get the main entree, something to drink, and would pick up a string cheese or another small item to help fill her up. The extra items like the string cheese cost extra money on top of the entree to the tune of around $0.50 per cheese stick! When I can purchase a bag of 50 cheese sticks for less than $8.00 at Walmart, it seems much wiser to pack her a lunch of a pizza lunchable on days the school has pizza with a cheese stick and other food items she will eat.

Packing or buying really comes down to a personal choice, but if you’re making that choice for cost? Nine times out of ten, it’s going to be much cheaper to pack their lunch than it is to buy their lunch.

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