Money Saving Lunchbox Ideas

by Teri Gault

As CEO of, I work full time helping families save money. As a mom, ITeri Gault have to place high priority on saving time, too. Moms need their rest! 

Cook Two - One of my strategies for lunches is what I call “Cook Two." Last night I made chicken and dumplings for dinner. I only needed 2-3 chicken breasts for the pot, but I chose to stew the whole $5 value pack of chicken breasts, because I always “cook two." By doing that, I made dinner and several lunches at once. After de-boning and dicing up all the chicken breasts, I put half in the pot for dinner and the other half in a big bowl. While the chicken and dumplings were cooking, I diced up celery and red onion to add to the bowl with mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and a little sage. Now, we have delicious chicken salad for two days of lunches!

My concept of “cook two” is always in effect in my kitchen! I never cook for just one meal. Sometimes I make extra dinner to freeze for lunches. It’s super easy once I have everything out and preparing to just make a double batch. This saves money and time! You can do this with Chili, casseroles, lasagna, pot roast with potatoes and carrots, bean soup, and any other one dish meals that you make.

To package up lunches for a busy mom while kids are at school, or to take to work, always make a double batch and freeze at least four individual portions for your freezer. Keep a permanent marker in the kitchen to record contents, and the date. For lunch on the go, pack the frozen homemade soup or entrée right out of the freezer, still frozen. By lunch time, it has thawed a little, but can still keep a beverage cold next to it, ready to be re-heated in the microwave. As a side, I would add a bag of carrots, celery sticks, raw broccoli, or other raw veggie to munch on. Throw in an apple, orange or any piece of fruit for a healthy snack! The frozen entrée keeps the veggies, fruit and any beverage you pack with it cold and crisp.

Every time you make something like my World Renowned Chicken Tortilla Soup make a double batch. One for dinner and then portion out single servings into plastic containers for the freezer. 

Here’s some more of my favorite soups that are delicious, inexpensive, easy, and freeze well:

Sherry’s Carrot Sweet Potato Soup
Easy Peasy Split Pea Soup
Kathy’s Chickpea Soup
Hearty Vegetable Soup – I love this one, because it’s so easy, using canned beans. But with the fresh ingredients added, has nothing but a homemade taste. Super fast!

Be an investor – For all groceries, including lunch items, you need to buy when on sale, before you need it. You know you’ll need things like mustard, mayonnaise, tuna, peanut butter, and more. If you wait until you run out, you’ll pay full price, due to sales cycles.
Instead, learn to buy before you need it, when it’s on sale. For my chicken salad, I used real mayonnaise I had bought months ago for over 60% off. I have two more unopened jars of mayonnaise in my pantry, with the tiny date marked big on the front with a permanent marker. One is good for another year, although I know we’ll use it before that. I also have mustard, tuna, peanut butter, jam, salad dressing, and more. I buy all of these things when they’re on sale. So instead of having to run to the store and pay full price when we run out of mayonnaise, I reach into my store at home. I’m an investor in all my groceries!

Hold coupons for sales –  A good sale is usually half off. A coupon used with a sale is just the frosting on the cake. Lunch meat is expensive unless you know how to buy it. On the week you get a lunchmeat coupon, chances are that lunchmeat will not be on sale. The average coupon doesn’t expire for 9-10 weeks. Sometime in the life of that coupon, that sale on that same lunchmeat should hit, which is when it’s time to “invest."

Combining a coupon with a sale often saves 67%! That’s three times the food for the price of one! makes it easy to combine sales with coupons, with a system that doesn’t even require a coupon file. The website stacks the deals, even Un-advertised sales, which make up 62% of the deals nationwide!

Use your freezer - If you find a great deal on lunch meat, stock up for the freezer. Lunch meat is best when you thaw it in the refrigerator. If lunchmeat isn’t on sale, cook extra like I did for my chicken salad, or check your supermarket’s deli. Whole rotisserie chickens are often only five dollars, and can deliver lots of sandwiches for less than full price lunch meat. While it’s cheaper to cook your own when you “cook two”, this is a time saving and money saving alternative! I love quiche for breakfast, but it also makes a great lunch with a salad on the side! One of my favorite easy quiche recipes is the “Impossible Quiche” made with Bisquick, which I always buy whenever it’s on sale with a coupon! 

For the easiest way to “make” lunch, you can stock up on frozen healthy entrees from the supermarket. Even drugstores have amazing deals on frozen meals. You can snag them for $2 each or less when on sale, and even better with a coupon. This isyou’re your mother’s TV dinner… Now, there are SO many choices, gluten free, low fat, high fiber, and more, among the healthy choices now available. March is National Frozen Food Month, when you should find tons of sales and coupons to go with them! Invest in a day off from making lunch!