Sarah Deveau: Money Matters


The Cost of Convenience: Homemade School Lunches Make Cents

Homemade Will Save You Money

As a busy mom, I’m frequently tempted to take advantage of the pre-packaged and single-serving lunch and snack options at the grocery store. As a frugal mama, I thought I might be able to shave a few dollars off our grocery bill by switching to litter-less lunches, even though I’d have to carve out a few extra minutes a day to prepare the food.

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The website states that a pre-packaged lunch costs about $4.02 a day or $723.60 per school year compared to $2.65 a day ($477.00 per school year) for a waste-free lunch-a difference of $246.60 per person per year. After wandering through The Real Canadian Superstore armed with a calculator, I discovered that the made-from-scratch version is nearly always less expensive. And always healthier as well!

 Pre-packagedMade from ScratchAnnual Savings (based on five servings a week)
Raisins$1.29 per 100g$0.65 per 100g$166.40
Cheese & crackers$1.77 per 100g$1.03 per 100g (made with real cheese)  $192.40
Yogurt cups$0.80 per 100g$0.26 per 100g$210.60
Fruit trays$0.83 per 100g$0.10 per 100g – 0.54 per 100g$150.80 – $379.60
Juice boxes
 $1.99 per L
$0.97 per L$53.04
Stackable lunches $2.79 each$1.01 each$92.56 (based on one per week)

It’s easy to believe the savings aren’t significant enough to warrant changing purchasing habits when the savings resulting from choosing convenience over homemade are measured in pennies. Those pennies add up quickly though – just the few products compared here result in approximately a $1,000 grocery savings annually on school lunches alone.

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Use those dollars to treat yourself to more indulgent ingredients for meals you have time to savour, or set up a monthly contribution to your child’s RESP. That $1,000 will turn into $1,200 with the government’s 20% matching Canada Education Savings Grant. The numbers above were enough to motivate me to set my alarm clock a few minutes earlier to prep for the day and avoid last minute panicked trips to the grocery store for ready-made items.