Home made lunch kits vs store bought kits

When my kids were in elementary school they used to bug me for these store bought lunch kits all the time. What I hear from parents of young children is that they're still a hit with elementary kids today. That's too bad because, as convenient as they are, they don't pack much nutrition and I think they're pricey.

So what's a parent to do when their kids try to guilt them into buying them because "everybody brings them"?

If you only send these once in a while, it's not a big deal. After all, a not so healthy lunch once every couple of weeks isn't going to cause any nutrition imbalances in a kid that eats fairly well most of the time.

On the other hand, if you find yourself sending the store bought versions 2 or 3 times a week, consider substituting homemade lunch kits on a regular basis.

Get your kids to buy into the homemade version by explaining that homemade lunch kits are more environmentally friendly (leave out the fact that they're healthier and cheaper. Kids aren't generally motivated to eat something because it's good for them and costs less!)

In terms of nutrition and cost, is making homemade lunch kits really worth the effort?

I did a nutrition and cost comparison of a store bought kolbasa kit to a homemade version. For my homemade version, I used:
  • extra lean kolbasa
  • mozzarella cheese
  • round wheat crackers
  • grapes. 
OK...so the store bought kit had a small chocolate bar, not grapes, but when something is promoted as a lunch, it should at least have a vegetable or fruit in it.

Homemade lunch kit

Here's what I found out.

The homemade version had:
  • more protein
  • less total fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium, and 
  • cost much less: $0.58 compared to $2.50! 
You know, you could actually add a bite size chocolate bar to this homemade version and still come out ahead in terms of cost and nutrition.

When I made these kits with my kids, we'd change up the ingredients and use:
  • grapes 
  • cherry tomatoes
  • sliced cucumbers
  • mandarin orange sections or
  • different types of crackers and cheese

And, yes, I did actually buy a store bought kit and kept the container from it. It fit nicely into one of our reusable containers with a lid that was easier to open than tearing off the top of the store bought version.

If you've got ideas for packed lunches, send them along.

Happy lunch packing!

Michele, RD