Thursday, August 31, 2023

School lunches

Let's talk school lunches.  While sometimes purchasing hot lunches are more convenient they can add up. We've done both hot and cold lunches over the years.  I am not against hot lunches, if you are able to do them go for it.  Or if you qualify for free/reduced lunch then that is more affordable.  However, if you are the in-between and are paying for hot lunches at full price, but want to try and save a little this post is for you. 

     This post includes affiliate links, which means if you click on the link I get a portion of any sales at NO COST to you.  See my disclosure page for more details. 

Recently, we've tried to budget our lunches more and therefore have limited our girls' hot lunches.  So of course, that means that I needed to start thinking about cold lunch ideas.  With subbing, I wanted ones that are quick and easy to make, preferably the night before and with one kiddo gluten free, I needed to make sure that was considered as well.  

Now, I will say, as I stated in the beginning, getting hot lunch is a convenience you pay for, so the times I am subbing long term, we may let there be more hot lunch options.  But otherwise, we will do cold as much as possible. Here are a list of some of our favorite cold meal options that do save money. 

There are a lot of different options when it comes to fruit and veggies.  I do try and use the fruits and veggies that are in season because they are more affordable. 

Fruits: apple slices, applesauce, grapes or mandarin oranges 

Veggies: carrots, celery, frozen peas, green beans (from the garden) or cucumbers 

*Also, for the cheese sticks we don't buy prepackaged cheese sticks, but instead we buy a large block of cheese and cut it up into smaller cheese sticks.  You can check out that post her: Homemade Cheese Sticks. 

  1. boiled eggs  + cheese stick* + veggie + fruit 
  2. tuna salad on crackers + veggie + fruit 
  3. peanut butter cracker sandwiches+ cheese stick* + fruit + veggie 
  4. peanut butter on celery + cheese stick* + fruit 
  5. peanut butter + jelly sandwich + veggies + cheese stick 
How do I know these are not as expensive as a hot lunch.  Well let's break it down. Bare with me we are going to do some math.  Our current school lunches are around $2.50 so let's see what each cold lunch I've planned adds up to.  Now, I will say prices can vary, especially with the fruits and veggies, but if you shop the sales + what's in season that makes a big difference. The following are Walmart prices because that's what we have close at the moment.  Another way to save, would be if you have a Sams Club or Costco nearby, because some of the things you can get in bulk and then it's cheaper. 

Option 1: boiled eggs + cheese stick + veggie & fruit 
    1. eggs = $7.47/60 eggs = .12cents/egg 
    2. cheese stick = $7.32/32oz = .25cents/cheese stick 
    3. carrots $1.24/1lb bag = .25cents/serving 
    4. applesauce $3.52/48oz = .32cents/serving 

SO, if you were to take the first lunch meal your total would be .94 cents.  IF you were to double your egg and cheese stick, it would still only be $1.31. This is also with regular prices of carrots and applesauce, just think if you were to stock up on applesauce when it was on sale. With that, we don't buy the individual applesauce cups/pouches.  Those cost more.  We buy the big applesauce container and pour out in a small cup for the lunch boxes.  You can do this ahead of time the night before, or if you have enough containers and fridge space, you can make ahead what you would need for the week.  Then it's just grab and go in the morning.  Here are some more prices for the rest.  I would encourage you to mix and match your options, but add up the individual prices to make sure.  

  1. crackers = $3.88/120 = .03cents/cracker = .26cents/4 sandwiches or .32cents/5 sandwiches 
  2. tuna salad = $3.52/4 pack = .44cents/serving (1 day's lunch) 
  3. peanut butter = $5.92/40oz = .17cents/serving (1 day's lunch) 
  4. bread = $1.78/20 slices = .09cents/slice = .18 cents/sandwich 
  5. jelly = $2.92/17oz = .12cents/serving 
  6. apple slices = $5.28/3lbs = .66cents/apple = .33cents/serving 
  7. grapes = $3.78/bag = .38cents/serving 
  8. mandarin oranges 
  9. celery = $1.34/stalk (about 8 slices/stalk) = .17cents/slice (2 slices for each serving) 
  10. frozen peas $2.28/2lb bag = .21cents/serving 
  11. cucumbers $1.97/bag = .28cents/serving 
  12. green beans + free from garden 

Using the more expensive fruit and veggie option here are what the totals could be:  

Option 2: tuna on crackers + veggie & fruit 
    tuna crackers .76 cents/5 sandwiches + apple slices .33cents + cucumbers .28cents = $1.37 
    tuna crackers .76 cents/5 sandwiches + grapes .38cents + cucumbers .28cents = $1.42 

Option 3: peanut butter on crackers +cheese stick + veggie and fruit 

    peanut butter sandwiches .49cents/5 sandwiches + cheese stick .25cents + grapes .38cents + cucumbers .28cents = $1.40 

Option 4: peanut butter on celery + cheese stick & fruit 

    peanut butter on celery .52cents + cheese stick .25cents + applesauce .32cents = $1.09 

Option 5: peanut butter and jelly sandwich + veggies & cheese stick 

    peanut butter sandwich .47cents + cucumbers .28cents + cheese stick .25cents = $1.00 

Now let's talk drinks.  If you can find a water bottle that will fit in your child's lunch box, that is the best and most affordable option.  However, if you can't there are options for drinks that still will keep your lunch more affordable.  

1. Orange juice packs $4.46/6pk = .74cents/bottle 
2. Apple juice packs $3.96/6pk = .66cents/bottle 
3. Milk at school .35cents 

So one last adding. Again I'm taking the most expensive of each item so there will be times that it will be less.  I also wouldn't plan orange juice for each one, but would rather make sure water or milk were their first options, with the orange juice and apple juice here and there.  But, I wanted to show you how even with the more expensive drinks, the whole lunch is still cheaper.  Some buy 15 cents others more.  

Option 1: boiled egg(2) + cheese stick + veggie + fruit + orange juice = $1.80 
Option 2: tuna on crackers(5 sandwiches) + grapes + cucumbers + orange juice = $2.16
Option 3: peanut butter on crackers + cheese stick + grapes + cucumbers + orange juice = $2.14 
Option 4: peanut butter on celery + cheese stick + applesauce + orange juice = $1.83
Option 5: peanut butter sandwich + cucumbers + cheese stick + orange juice = $1.74 

With that, if you wanted to toss in a homemade cookie here and there, you'd be able to and still stay in budget.  

That was a lot, I hope it gives you some help if you are trying to save some money this school year.  It's definitely something that takes a lot of time to organize, but if you get most of the items ready ahead of time, it won't take long afterwards.  For example with the cheese sticks, we've made them so much now I'm in a rhythm of cutting up the block within the first day or two of buying it from the store.  Then I freeze most of them and have them ready when needed. Pick a couple things to start and do a couple cold lunches if you can, then add more in as you're able. 

Also, don't forget, even if you do hot lunch here and there, the times you are making cold lunches saves you and that adds up over time.  

One more thing before I finish.  Anything you can do ahead of time to help the morning be more efficient the better.  As I said with the apple sauce, if you can make them ahead for the week, then you or your kiddo can just grab one and go. Check out the amazon link below with great options.  

You can also do this with the cheese sticks, throw in what you'll need for the week in the fridge and then they can grab in the morning.  Make a menu for the cold lunches for the week so everyone knows what they are having.  The veggies, fruit, eggs and cheese sticks can all be ready to go for the week.  A little bit more time in prepping saves those busy mornings. 

Don't forget to check out the links below: 
1. The first link are the cups we have and I really like them. We had bought the lunch box containers that they came with and so  they fit in our lunch box well. 
2. The 2nd option I haven't tried yet, but when I was looking at buying more containers this one stood out. I like how they are stackable.  I also like how I could get three different colors, so each of my girls could have a color and know what one to grab in the morning. AND, I could use them for fruit, veggies, the boiled egg and maybe even the crackers with pb.  
3. This option would be nice to pair with one of the other two above options.  Then you have a space for the large meal (sandwich, crackers, etc) and two smaller containers for the veggies, cheese stick or eggs. 

Thursday, August 24, 2023

10 things you can make homemade

Homemade.  Making things homemade is not only more affordable; in most cases, but it also it usually a lot more earth-friendly too.  In the last 5-8 years I've become more and more earth conscious.  I personally feel God gave us this planet and as He states in Genesis; "we are to be stewards of the earth", and therefore, I'm am doing my best to do just that.  So with that, here are 10 things you can make homemade, save money and help out our planet as well.  

     This post includes affiliate links, which means if you click on the link I get a portion of any sales at NO COST to you.  See my disclosure page for more details. 


1. Hand Soap 

I recently shared on my IG account my homemade hand soap recipe.  Making homemade hand soap is so easy.  Plus you can make it to fit your needs/wants.  For example, in the winter I usually add little extra aloe vera juice to help with the extra dryness. Also, I like to switch out my essential oil smells with the season as well. 

I would also invest in a good foam hand pump.  It makes this recipe work well + last a long time.   

My basic recipe: 

  • 1/4 cup Dr. Bronner's soap
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil 
  • 1 Tbsp Aloe Vera Juice 
  • Fill the rest with water 
  • optional 2-4 drops of essential oils. (I like lavender for Spring and Summer and orange or Rose Geranium for Fall/Winter. ***Make sure if you are making this soap for kids you use caution with what oils to use, I like the books "Just the Essentials" and ""Naturally Bug Free" as references for appropriate eo ages. 

2. Shampoo 

I have two posts on homemade Shampoo: 

  • Save on Shampoo has a recipe that use Dr. Bronner's soap, essential oils and a few other ingredients. 
  • Homemade Shampoo has a how to recipe using very basic ingredients; baking soda and water. 

3. Bath Soak 


4. Laundry Soap 


5. Brown Sugar 

6. Hot Chocolate 

7. Pizza/Pizza Crust 

8. Homemade Breads

9. Baby Food

10. Chicken Broth 

11. Burritos


12. Bubbles 

13. Ornaments: 

Up-cycle Ornaments 

Homemade Ornaments 

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Teacher Gifts (Back to School edition)

 School is almost here, what a great time to show those teachers we are so blessed to have them in our kiddos lives.  Gifts don't have to be elaborate or cost a lot, actually most schools don't want gifts for teachers due to maybe leading to favoritism and such.  So with that homemade gifts are really best.  

Here are a few ideas for some homemade beginning of the school year teacher gifts. 

1. Potted plant 

If you've started to have more plants, then you know they often have babies that you need to find homes for.  What better home than in a classroom.  

2. Homemade canned goods 

If you have a garden and can your own produce this is a great homemade gift. Pickles are a favorite of ours to give. Or give a small basket of some of your freshly picked tomatoes, beans, squash etc. 

3. Name plates  

There are so many fun craft ideas out there for your teacher's  name.  I recently, saw one of scrabble letters glued to a scrabble plate that spelled the teacher's name. 

4. Supplies 

How often do teacher's donate their own money to extra supplies for their classroom.  If you followed my last post on ways to save on school supplies (you can check it out here) then you already have some extra supplies on hand.  Make a small package that includes: a folder, a notebook, glue bottle and a box of crayons to give to your child's teacher.  This gift can be a double gift; helping out a student who many not be able to get supplies and the teacher who already supplies a lot of the materials in the classroom.  

5. Flowers

This is one I've mentioned before for Teacher Appreciation week, you can can view that post here with more ideas. But back to flowers, using the flowers from your new flower garden, you can pick a free bouquet to give to your child's teacher. 

These are just a few ideas to get you started.  What are some ways you show your child's teacher you are happy to have them as their teacher this year? 

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Homemade Shampoo: Baking Soda & Water

I know a few weeks ago I shared about making your own shampoo, but I wanted to share this simple recipe that a friend shared with me.  This is an easy and affordable way to wash your hair.

What you will need: 
Baking soda (1 TBsp)
8oz bottle for water

The easiest way is to start with the Tbsp of baking soda in your bottle and bring it in the shower with you.  Then, fill the bottle in the shower and shake well.  You'll want to add it to your hair as soon as you mix it.
Use whole bottle each time to wash your hair.  Make sure to apply to wet hair, let it set a minute or two and then rinse.  Helps with dandruff too!

Another tip use Apple Cider Vinegar for conditioning:
Dip ends of hair into the Apple cider vinegar and then just rinse off.

It's that easy.  And imagine how more cost friendly this is as opposed to buying shampoo and conditioner.  Plus for all of you out there who are like me and are trying to stay healthy, green and chemical free, but don't want to break the bank, what better way than to use basics such as baking soda and apple cider vinegar?

If you liked this post, then you may also like

Household Items (Ways to use baking soda and vinegar in the home)

Save on Shampoo (More options on homemade shampoo) 

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Great Reads


I've shared a few books over the years and I wanted to make a spot for all of them.  I'm sure I'll add to them, but for now here is a great list of books to help you not only save money, but also do better for the planet as well.  

This post includes affiliate links, which means if you click on the link I get a portion of any sales at NO COST to you.  See my disclosure page for more details. 

1. Naturally Bug Free

This book has many recipes for ways to deter or kill bugs, rodents from your home, pets, self and more. She breaks down the recipes along with the supplies you will need.  She also does a great job of giving you guidelines for what essential oils to use based on age or pets.  At the end of her book she has a great list of resources for where she purchases and more! If you are looking to try and swap your chemically based bug/rodent deterrents this is a great start! I liked this book so much and was trying to use so many recipes I ended up buying my own copy.  I would recommend buying this one instead of just checking it out, but in my opinion always check it out first then buy if you are finding you are using it a lot. 

 2. Just the Essentials 

This is another book that I would recommend owning, just because there are so many different recipes to use and try.  In this book Adrina helps break down essential oils, their potencies and how to use them.  I really like how she helps guide what oils are save for kids and what ones are not.  She has a great collection of homemade recipes for things as simple as perfume all the way up to homemade toothpaste ad deodorant.  If you are looking for ways to switch a lot of your household and beauty/self care products to more natural and homemade, this is a great book option! 

3. Vegetables Love Flowers 

I recently shared this one in my post: Grow Your Own Flower Garden Thanks to this book, I was able to successfully plants flowers in my garden, harvest them for inside enjoyment and help my vegetables grow by having flowers for the pollinators in my garden.  A great resource to have for beginning flower gardening that you want to make work for your garden and inside.  She shows how to cut, when to cut, what to plant and more.  Buy your own copy or check out your local library!