Every year, families try to figure out the best way to handle their child’s school lunch. Do you pack their lunch every day or do you let them eat the school lunch? It can be a hard decision when considering the cost. If your family receives EBT benefits, your child is eligible for free school lunches. In that respect, my advice is to take it. It will save you extra money. For other families, there are other issues to consider.
How Healthy Is It?
School lunches have evolved into healthier options than when I was in school. Yet, not all schools offer healthy options. It’s best to ask questions to know what your child will receive. Do they provide fresh fruit and veggies? Is anything processed and coming from cans or boxes? If your child has an allergy, is the school providing meals that won’t trigger them. Will your child eat it? Picky eaters are a reality and if your child won’t eat it, it’s a waste of money.
How Convenient Is It?
You would think that buying a school lunch would be convenient, but not always. A child who stresses out about crowds may not be okay standing in a line. They might prefer to bring something from home so they can sit down right away. Many schools only offer 30 min lunch break. That is not a lot of time to stand in a line to get food, eat it, and get back to class. What are the payment options? A lot of schools have moved to online payment. Does that work for you? Will it transfer in time for your child to use it? What if they insist on exact cash? Consider what happens if you have one child who wants the school lunch but the other doesn’t.
How Expensive Is It?
School lunches have changed a lot. A La Carte menus are popular with the entrees. Even in elementary school, some children can extra stuff to their plate that raises the cost. School lunches are inexpensive compared with eating out. You can pack a healthy school lunch that reduces your expenses in comparison to a school lunch.
What Does Your Child Want?
It is always a good idea to chat with your child about what they want. Growing up, my parents packed me a lunch except on Fridays. Fridays was the day “cool” people ate the school lunch. Something similar could be happening in your child’s school world. Not that I encourage following the crowd, but it’s okay to want to join in with others. For children who get the free lunch, it can be embarrassing if the school culture is to bring a lunch. If that is the case, I recommend allowing the child to bring a piece of fruit or crackers in a bag to eat with their lunch.
School lunches and packed lunches are a hard decision to make when trying to stick to a budget. Do what works best for you and your family.