Saturday, November 19, 2016

Lunchbox Economy

Making lunches for my family has been an important part of my thrifty ways.  The above lunch was for Reese to take to college one day this past week.

This lunch included a white bean burrito with cheese. I would have preferred adding onions, lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers or any other fresh vegetables; no, sadly this is how he likes it. There are a million different combinations of ingredients, but this happened to be what I had in the refrigerator. I roll the burrito up in wax paper then tape the edges shut. It is convenient because he can eat it while working and without washing his hands, afterward he throws the wax paper away. Since he is not always near a microwave, this is something which can be eaten cold. While I had all the ingredients out together, I went ahead and made an extra one then tossed it in the freezer for another day.

The previous day's lunch included a fruit salad. He said it was too much food. Dare I throw it away? Of course not! I recycled it. My men have a saying, "If you don't eat it the first time, you will eat it the second, or third, or fourth or..."  I am proud to say they are right. Since Reese had eaten out of the salad container, no one else would eat after him so it was used to make a "special treat" just for him.  A little milk was added to the leftover fruit salad along with a splash of vanilla, then blended.

The smoothie was sent it in his lunch the next day. It made more than would fit in the drink container so I put the extra in a fancy wine glass and took it to him while he was studying in his room. With a sweet smile on my face, I told him I had made him something special. He was skeptical and eyed it like it contained arsenic, but drank it anyway because he was too hungry to care. My husband wanted to know where was his special drink? I informed him it was made from Reese's uneaten fruit salad and he could have some also. He declined.

Anything with meat is never resent since I fear the lunchbox may not have stayed cold enough. We never take chances with meat. My standards are low, but not food poison low.

Next step is to pack everything into the little lunchbox. It is hard to see the burrito but it is smashed inside the front. Smashing it does not hurt anything, it just mixes the ingredients better.

The second step is to shove the lunchbox into the backpack. The force required to do this varies with the number of books inside.

The potato chips will be crushed in the lunchbox so they go in the right pocket of his jacket so he can grab one with his left hand and continue writing. 

The muffins go into this pocket where they are convenient to reach while in Marketing class. 

But wait you say.  Where does the bagel smeared with butter go?  Well here of course, on top of the defrost vent in the truck so the butter will be melted and the bagel warm and chewy by the time he gets to his first class.

Why do I send such a big lunch? He is always hungry, plus we grow them big in Tennessee.

Now for a detailed breakdown of the savings from packing a lunch and my labor costs.

Reusable items
Lunchbox (a gift when I toured the Titanic Museum in Branson, Missouri years ago)
Cloth napkin (a gift from a friend)
Drink containers ($.99 each from Goodwill)
Blue ice packs ($.99 each from Wal-mart)

Plastic bags, saran wrap and wax paper (These will be thrown away so maybe $.03)
Drinks (Milk $2.00 per gallon. 1 gallon equals 16 cups / $2.00 divided by 16 equals $.13 per cup)
Fruit smoothie (The fruit salad was considered garbage so I am not counting it. I added 1/2 cup of milk so garbage plus 1/2 cup milk $.07)
Tortilla (Aldi 8 per pack for $1.29 equals $.16 each)
White beans (32 oz bag for $1.49 equals $.05 per dry ounce. I guess 1/2 oz so $.02 for beans)
Cheese (One tablespoon??? $.10)
Potato Chips (Aldi Bar-b-que 9.5 oz for $1.49 equals $.15 per ounce. Who can eat only one ounce of potato chips?  $.15 per ounce times 3 oz equals $.45)
Muffins (Wheat was $12 for 50 pounds which I grind myself, the sweet potatoes I added were from my garden, that leaves oil, sugar, and eggs in small amounts. I will guess about $.10 for all of them)
Bagel (I got these at the day-old bread store for $.50 for 8 which equals $.06 for each. I did slather on the butter which I made myself from the $2.00 gallon of milk. I am guessing another $.03)

Adding everything together equals $1.15 which is impressive for one meal, but for math, I am going to round up to $1.50. His college charges $6.00 for one meal so $6.00 minus $1.50 equals $4.50 saved. Sounds good but let's take it one step further.

It only takes a few minutes to fix one lunch but I am adding time to clean out the lunchbox, laundry the napkin and put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, so I will round up to 10 minutes. That means I am making $4.50 for 10 minutes of work which equals $27 per hour. I consider that great pay but let's take it one more step further.

Reese will often eat the bagel for breakfast, the burrito and chips for lunch, then muffins and smoothie for a snack. Once again guessing, but this one lunchbox meal can feed him for at least two meals. Doing the math again $4.50 in savings times 2 meals equals $9.00 saved by 10 minutes of work which equals $54.00 per hour. I can work for $54.00 per hour every day.  Let's take it, even more, steps further.

From the first to the last day of class for one semester is roughly 100 days. You must buy a meal plan to get the $6.00 per meal price, but if you miss a meal or decide to go home for the weekend, money lost. If you want to buy a lunch for your friend to make up for a lost meal, no way. If you don't buy a meal plan the price of each meal is about $9.00.

This is why our children are leaving college with crushing debt. They are not being taught how to economize. When each of my sons got their first job or started college, I told them I was proud of them and would support them by making their lunches. Each one has come to appreciate the value of this simple daily gift from me. How do I know they appreciate it? They thank me constantly and that is all I ask in return.


  1. I really like your blog! I just read every posting from beginning to end and you made me smile more times than I can count. :)
    I love how frugal you are and how you take such good care of your family. The post about your boys working on your blog site made laugh out loud- what rascals! haha.
    I also enjoyed your post about the sweet potatoes- I love how you used the little ones in the yummy looking casserole you made! It is inspiring to me to see things like that and you taught me a way to cook and peel them that I never knew before. Thank you for that post.
    I also enjoyed the post about the turkeys in your yard. You make me laugh! :)
    So glad I discovered your blog!
    Have a wonderful rest-of-the-weekend! :)

    1. Dawn, you are my very, very, very first commenter ever! It was a pleasant surprise to hear from you. I feared most people would be like me, silently lurking in the shadows reading other people's blogs but never saying anything. Erika on The "Make Do" Homemaker site was the person who pulled me out of my shell and encouraged me to comment.

      I just yelled upstairs to Reese and told him I got my first commenter ever! He skipped down the stairs (he is still young and can do that) so I could MAKE him listen while I read it. His reply, "At least you know someone read it amongst the 500 views listed for your site." (Every time the color of the site was changed, it counted it as a page view.) Then he said, "I suppose since you are blogging now I should watch what I say. Nevermind, you will exaggerate everything so it won't matter anyway."

      He then corrected my grammar and headed to the refrigerator. He hasn't seen the post about his lunchbox yet, so for right now he is still talking to me.

    2. Hahaha- I can tell your blog is gonna be really fun and enjoyable! I started blogging a couple of years ago and I have found that the blogging community as a whole are a wonderful group of people, very encouraging and helpful. I am SO HONORED to have been your very first commenter. Do you mind if I give you a shout out on my blog so that others can find you? If you'd rather I didn't it's ok, I just think that there are many others who would enjoy your posts. I am so glad I found you!!
      Oh yeah, you can tell your son not to worry, he sounds like such a nice young man and he already has fans in blogland and we are looking forward to hearing more about your wonderful family (he actually sounds like an older version of my little rascals- lol.)
      Looking forward to hearing more from you! :)

    3. Yahoo! Another comment! I am on a roll. Please feel free to pass my blog on to anyone at all. Since you have a blog also, I am on my way there to see what you have posted. It is amazing how much fun this is.

    4. Alright, Miss Jeannie... I just put the word out. ;)

  2. Hi Jeannie,
    As you can see, the anonymous feature worked. I'm number two so I have to try harder (lol). Like Dawn, I read all of your posts as well. I love your take on life. Dorothy

    1. Dorothy, I am so glad you are here; however, I must correct you. The computer counted my reply to Dawn as a comment so you are really number three. Sorry. Guess that means you will have to try REAL, REAL HARD!
      I suppose I am getting a bit arrogant now that I have commenters. Do forgive me.

  3. I'll be number four! I found you through Dawn's blog and I've read through from the beginning. I, too, used to pack my daughter's school lunches, from elementary school through undergrad, and it included breakfast, lunch, snacks, and, occasionally, even dinner when she had to stay late on campus. Her lunch bag wouldn't fit into her backpack, though!

    By the way, I loved your flower arrangement and reading all about your garden.

    Looking forward to reading your next post.

    1. Welcome Number Four! Reese's lunchbox does not always fit into his backpack either since it contains so much food. At first he carried it in his hands then decided he didn't like that. He came up with the ideas of putting everything into his pockets and putting the bagel on the defrost vent to warm it up. I fix the lunchbox the night before and put it in the refrigerator. I leave it up to him to figure out how to fit it all in there. He needs to do some work after all.

  4. I just wanted to stop by and say hi!! I found you through Dawn's blog so now you are rolling in comments. I am also a super frugal person who packs all of our lunches and snacks!! I hand my husband water and snack if he is walking out the door with my son just in case they run later then expected. Why not?! I have the popcorn already made and if you need it, it is way better to have it in the car then not!! Sadly, I always make my lunch the last priority and don't often have my lunch because I run out of time. I am going to read through the rest of the posts next!!

    1. Welcome Alison! I just love frugal persons. I used to think I was the only one in the world. People do not realize just how much it cost them when they grab a snack while out running errands. Years ago when the boys were small I wrote down (on a scrap of paper in my wallet) every time I bought them snack for one month. When I added it up I was SHOCKED at how much money had disappeared.

    2. I thought of you today and I shoved two muffins in my bag because I was heading out of the house. Did I think that I would need them...NOPE!! Just doesn't hurt to be prepared and what should have been a quick hour turned into 3 hours out of the house over lunch so those muffins were my lunch!! LOL!!! Of course, I also had some ice tea and those two things helped me not stop...that and I would have a heart attack spending so much money on stuff that I shouldn't be eating in the first place. Getting stuff out should be a treat and not just a lack of planning in my book!! I want to use that money for something I really want instead of wasting it when I didn't plan ahead. I just finished your last post and came back to the beginning :)

    3. Your two little muffins and glass of tea probably saved you about five or six dollars. I just finished fixing mine and Reese's lunches for tomorrow morning. We will be both be working and need to leave the house at 6:30 am. I even made my coffee and put it in the refrigerator. Who cares if it is cold? I would prefer that to sitting in line at McDonalds drive-through.
      It feels so good to not feel like I am alone.

  5. You can save so much making lunches and it is way healthier too! Thanks for sharing!

    1. It seems to be the small things in life that makes the biggest differences.

  6. I like your thrifty style. I always pack food for road trips though my kids are much younger ages 7, 6, 3, 2, and 4 months. It is completely out of necessity. Last time we visited my parents (aprox 5.5 hour trip at least)I packed chicken and cheese quesadillas, chips, raisins,and fruit snacks, and juice boxes for the kiddos. I made up individual plastic gallon sized bags that I could hand out in the car. I then grabbed a bag of store brand cinnamon toast crunch, a bag of mini marshmallows, and a bag of pretzels. I made lunches with food we had in the house. The fact that we have the lunches with us in the car saves us sanity, time, and money. We eat in the car on our own schedule and snacks follow when necessary. We only stop for bathroom breaks, or when otherwise necessary (like a coffee break for the driver). It works wonderfully.
    My blog is actually brand new after one that I had for a year the site the site license ran out and it went dark.

    1. Jennifer, welcome! I have just been reading your blog, MORE CUTE BABY PICTURES!
      Keep being frugal and spending your money wisely. It is worth the effort.

  7. Thanks I've been working on a post for this week. Let's just say last week things didn't exactly go as planned. Stay tuned....

  8. I make dinner for my family every night four grown children 3 grandkids and hubby and myself. I ask for thanks the only one I get it from is Hubby.

    The others think it is ridiculous I ask for thanks for doing the work. One day when I am gone they will understand the gift.

    You did forget to factor in the bit of water and electric for the amount of dishes . But yes the time is very valuable you also save them waiting in line and waiting for the meal to be plated etc. at school this time alone adds up as well allowing them hours more over four years to study etc.

    1. Good points. I do save them time standing in line. I didn't think about adding the cost of water and electricity because I have well water. I forgot to factor that in. When we lived in the city and water was expensive, the water usage was always on my mind.

      I also do not wash the dishes after I have cooked a meal. My motto: Your father bought it, I cooked it, you ate it, you clean it.

      If they don't thank me, I don't do it again.

  9. In addition you save because you never know when a worker would be sick and pass it on through the food or the food sat out too long in the cafeteria and gave them food poisoning all things that happen.

    1. My oldest son recently became violently ill from a barbecue sandwich he purchased from a food truck which visits his office regularly. He loved the sandwiches and looked forward to their visits. After becoming so sick, he vowed never to buy from them again. Food poisoning is dangerous and not worth the risk. My kitchen is not perfect, but I am more careful than any restaurant because I am eating it.