5 Tips to Pack Healthy School Lunches on Budget

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Don't you love it when there's something on your "To Do" list and then you find out somebody else has come along and done it for you? That's sort of what happened with this week's column.

I was trying to figure out what sort of consumer advice I could share with you today, and then -- ding! -- an email appeared in my inbox from the woman I think of as my Grocery Guru: Chrissy Pate of BeCentsAble.net.

Chrissy says the number one question she's getting from her followers right now is how to pack healthy school lunches on a budget. This speaks to me, because my daughter just started "big girl school" and we keep running out of ideas for what to pack her, not to mention managing to save money on it.

Chrissy to the rescue!

For school lunches, Chrissy uses the classic grocery savings techniques that I've described in past columns, like Creative Couponing and Price Matching, but she also suggests some "out of the lunchbox" ideas for how to save that I hadn't heard before.

Here are Chrissy's hot tips in her own words:

1. Use daily deal sites.

This week I got a daily deal for $60 to Ecomom.com for only $21 shipped. That is $60 worth of organic lunch box food for just $21 shipped!

2. Use Amazon.

They run lots of hot deals. Use "subscribe and save" to get free shipping and get 15 percent off. You can cancel later. I score lots of deals on juice and milk boxes here.

3. Shop discount grocery stores.

These stores will sometimes sell things that are about to expire or damaged items. (Note from Elisabeth: freeze items that will soon expire and you can extend their life for weeks or months because freezing stops the clock.)

4. Shop outlet stores.

I always buy my bread at the bread outlet store. I get 100 percent whole wheat name brand bread for around a dollar a loaf! I go once a month and fill the freezer.

5. Watch for hidden deals.

Look for unadvertised sales at your store. Ask the manager if they mark things down on a set day.