Packed Lunches for Less: Five Tips

How to keep things delicious, nutritious and low cost when packing lunches that align with Canada’s Food Guide

With September just around the corner, we begin to think about what we still need for the new school year.

Parents may even consider the kinds of packed lunches they want to send to school for their busy and active children.

In order to set your family up for success, we have provided five helpful tips to assist you in assembling high nutrition, low cost lunches. These lunch box hacks will help you save on groceries, while also feeding your kids the foods recommended by Canada’s Food Guide.

The most recent rendition of Canada’s Food Guide suggests having the following at mealtimes: plenty of fruits and vegetables, a protein component, and whole grains. They also recommend that the drink of choice is water. This is not only a low cost option but replaces juice and other drinks high in sugar. Canadians are being advised to avoid products high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat.

Here are some ways to ensure that the food your family is consuming is healthy and doesn’t break the bank:

Make informed choices about products by using their food labels.

Food labels provide critical information about what ingredients are used in products, can help you compare and choose the best option, and keep you in the know about what you are consuming. The Nutrition Facts table shows you serving size, calories, nutrients, and the percentage (%) of daily values. This percentage indicates whether the stated serving size has a low or high amount of nutrients. Below 5% is low, whereas above 15% is high. You can also find an Ingredients list where you will find the products ordered from those used most to least in the product. Also be aware of nutrition claims, food allergen labeling, and data labeling (such as expiration dates).

Plan your shopping list and stick to it.

Set a grocery budget and plan out your meals for the week. Organize your shopping list on reebee and browse available flyers to find the best offers. When shopping, stick to your list. This will significantly reduce impulse purchases and act as a clear guide as to what you need (versus want) to make your planned meals. Lastly, try to avoid shopping right before mealtime (ie. when you are hungry). This can often lead to purchases that are time- rather than cost-efficient.

Utilize sales and stock up.

When meal planning, browse deals on reebee. Let the sales be your indicator as to what you will eat that week, then find creative recipes online that use those on-sale products. In stores where price-matching is offered, be sure to use reebee to get the lowest price available.

Skip the individually-packaged products.

Although it can be convenient to pack lunches using individually packaged products (eg. bags of crackers), it is more cost-efficient and environmentally-friendly to buy in bulk. Bulk products can then be divided into your own reusable, washable containers. Additionally, avoid highly processed foods as they are often low in vitamins and minerals and can cost more. It is always good practice to prepare meals at home and stick to the perimeter of the grocery store for most of your shopping. The centre aisles tend to be where highly-processed packaged foods live.

Consider seasonal items.

Fresh produce is typically less expensive when in season. Use seasonal fruit and vegetable guides to direct what you buy each month. Find out what’s in season and look up creative recipes using those items. Many produce items can be frozen while they are in season to use at a later time. Alternatively, frozen fruits and vegetables can be purchased at a lower price than fresh during winter months.

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