The Cost of School Lunch

A newsletter came home from school a few weeks ago that said that the average cost of the lunch that a parent sends to school with their child is $3.43. The newsletter's point was that school lunch at $2/ day was cheaper and nutritionally just as good as what a parent would send.

It got me to thinking about how much I was spending on lunch for Comfort and Joy. I was pretty sure it was less - and significantly less- but I've been working to quantify it. For those of you who know who much I enjoy math you'll get a kick out of this. Yes, I'm using Excel and because thankfully it's doing the math for me.

First of all, I took into consideration the items that go into their lunches everyday. My girls eat the same sandwich every day. I tried to mix it up at first but they're toddlers. They don't like a lot of variety.

Milk [organic] for both girls: $0.96
Juice [organic] for Comfort for snack time: $0.20
Bread [3 slices]: $0.10 [Joy only takes half a sandwich each day]
slice of cheese: $0.09
slice of ham: $0.06
Peanut butter: 0.01 [bought on sale and with a Kroger coupon so I paid $0.45 for a 16 oz. jar. It's lasted almost 3 months so far.]
Jelly: $0.01 [This may seem low but Kroger brand jelly on half a sandwich - the jar has lasted over 3 months so far. I probably have another 2 weeks left before I need more.]

So everyday costs are $1.43 total for both girls.

Then there are the other items I put in which aren't always consistent:
baby carrots: $0.07
fruit cups: $0.22
clementines: $0.47 [this is a whole clementine and they each get half]
Goldfish crackers: $0.10 [I stockup when they're on sale for $0.88/ bag]
cookies: $0.42

My plan for building their lunches is a vegetable or a fruit [not both] and crackers or cookies [not both] and I usually alternate who gets the cookies and crackers each day and there's only cookies twice a week - at most.

So the average cost for "others" is probably $0.65-1.00 at the high end and $0.25 -.45 at the low end. This is a total for both girls/ per day.

And, I don't want to forget the start up costs of their reusable BYO Lunch bags, fruit cups, and cool packs. The total for all of this was $18.49 which I divided by the 180 days of school so it comes to $0.10/ day.

So, how much does it cost me to make lunch for Comfort and Joy each day? I decided to take the most expensive option of 'others' [which would be cookies and fruit cup - not that I'd probably pick that option but there you go] and plug a $1 into the formula:
$1.43 for daily stuff
$1.00 for 'other'
$0.10 for start up expenses
$2.53 = how much I spend each day for two school lunches

Not only is this significantly less than the national average but I think I do a fairly good job of a) sending food that is good for them to eat and b) sending food that they'll eat.

What do you remember taking to school for lunch? What do you pack for your kids lunch? Have you figured out how much you spend on school lunch?


March 24, 2010 at 7:43 PM Dolli-Mama said...

I like our breakdown! I just watched Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, the sneek peek episode on Hulu and was completely grossed out by the school lunch! It was an eye opener, and it was crazy how Jamie Oliver had a hard time making healthy school lunches and follow the FDA and USDA guidelines! After seeing that, I vowed to ALWAYS send my kids lunches with them, unless I know for sure they are getting a healthy meal at school.

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