Cost effective breakfast and lunch ideas

momof5angelsFebruary 10, 2009

As everyone probably knows, I have 5 children...ages 15, 14, 12, 11 and 9. My children's school system operates on a 45-10 schedule, meaning that they are off for 2 weeks every 6 weeks...and then they have a shorter summer.

Breakfast and lunch for 5 kids can be mega expensive. I was doing cereal with milk and juice for breakfast but milk is almost 5 bucks a gallon here and the kids go through 2 boxes of cereal and a gallon of milk per day. (Around $15 a day just for breakfast when you factor in juice and the fact that I have 4 boys who are not satisfied by one tiny bowl of cereal...) Lunch was sandwiches with cold cuts and cheese and a piece of fruit (various kinds.) Lunch was about $10-$12 per day.

For about a month last year, before I went back to work, we were struggling HORRIBLY. We had no choice but to cut WAY back...Then it hit me. WAFFLES. Waffles are a buck a box or so. Syrup a buck a container. Changing breakfast to a CUP of milk, a cup of juice and a couple of waffles suddenly began saving us a fortune. For lunch, we had to cut back as well. I did some research and went for the old standby. Ramen. Each kid would have a package of ramen (they love the shrimp flavor) and to add in SOME meat, I bought Nathan's hot dogs and we would cut up a hot dog into each bowl. The kids loved it and again, we saved a fortune. We still had fruit with breakfast and lunch but for awhile had to stick with the cheap trusty bananas and rather than having a banana WITH lunch we made it a mid-afternoon snack.

I'd love to hear other parent's ideas about cost saving breakfast, lunch and snack ideas. Financially we are doing better now so we do mix it up...sometimes cereal, sometimes waffles, sometimes toaster strudels (big treat that the kids love.)

You may wonder why eggs and biscuits and sausage are not on the menu. Well, the reason for that is simple. I'm not a morning person. LOL! On occasion I get up bright eyed and busy tailed and ready to make a big breakfast...but unfortunately for my crew (and myself) that is not a common thing. When I get up in the morning no one really speaks to me. They know better. Hahaha!

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I tend to buy in bulk and freeze things and make things also in advance.
Yes, raman noodles are great and cheap....of course we do jam and peanut butter for my kids as well.
Spagetti goes a loooong way, soups and making lasagna as well.
i make a rice dish with veggies.
Like i said, i tend to buy in bulk so it comes out cheaper in the long run.
And yes if you watch serving sizes too it helps.
As well, powdered juices are good as well economically. You just have to check on the amount of sugar in that...gotta be careful for that.
As well on another note, veggies are cheap , i know kids do not like them but i tend to make stirfry's to encorporate them as well.
So basically i bulk up on spagetties, soups, potatoe dishes...
You just have to watch on the fat and sugar so the kids get a balanced meal as well.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 12:30PM
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I shop at Aldi a lot for fruits, veggies, and snack foods because they are pretty cheap. SuperWalmart is really resonable for lunchmeats. I got a pound of ham the other day for $3.99 at SuperWalmarts Deli...same ham was about $8.00 a pound at Jewel.

We also make pancakes and waffles. The kids will also eat bagels which can be really cheap from Aldi or Hostess Outlet. Also our SuperWalmart always has a clearance bread rack with breads that will expire soon. I stock up when they have ones we like and I freeze them. So I can get a big bag of bagels for $1.00.

Another thing is cooking cheaper meats in the crockpot. They turn out soft and delicious because they cook all day. I can get a big package of chicken legs or drumsticks cheaply and then made something in the crockpot with them and the meat just falls off the bone.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 12:43PM
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Buying in bulk, at Sams or Costco is the way to go IMO.

Any kind of noodles, pasta, rice, etc. is good because it makes a lot of food and can be used for leftovers!

I make a dish with elbow noodles, tomato sauce, and lean ground beef. I usually make a big pot of it and then we have leftovers for several days.

Chili is also CHEAP and EASY to make. I make a vegetarian chili with 2 packages of red beans (.88/bag!) and 1 package of navy beans. Then I add in three cans of low-sodium tomato sauce, some chili powder, and pureed carrots. YUM. This makes a huge crockpot full and we eat it forever---even the kids like it!

Waffles are good for breakfast. Another thing you can do is make a huge batch of pancakes and then freeeze some---then just put them in the microwave for 30 secs for a quick and yummy breakfast!

Eggs are cheap, too! Scrambled eggs go a long way for a meal. We do that for weekend breakfasts really often---I'll buy some maple sausage and cut it up and cook it in the eggs. Everyone loves it!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 12:46PM
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Thanks, Maria! Soup is a GREAT idea and thinking about it now, we do not do soup that much at all. I'm going to add some veggie soup to this weekend's menu! (The kids have a 4 day weekend...eek!)

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 12:47PM
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Great ideas everybody! Thank you!! I'm making out my grocery list tonight! LOL!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 12:49PM
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We garden :) ... we grow tomatoes cukes peppers onions pumpkins squash radishes lettuce broccoli brussel sprouts cabbage going to try potatoes this year.

I lived in a tenement house for years and grew tomatoes and cukes on my second floor porch in pots.

Buying in bulk saves me tons of money in the long run I hate putting all that money out in one stop but it saves me from spending weekly at the market. Family of 7

I picked up an egg cooker a couple years ago .. makes 6 eggs soft to hard boiled in less than 5 minutes or two poached eggs in 4 minutes... the kids make their own eggs for breakfast...

One saturday morning my ss13 was about 11 at the time came into my room at 5:30 in the morning waking me up because he was hungry ... that was the last time he did that. He makes his own breakfast now and makes for the others as well:)

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 12:55PM
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Speaking of soup we love soup bowls! I get the mini boule breads from my SuperWalmart when it is on clearance ($1.00-$1.50 for a package of 2). I even freeze them sometimes if I see them on clearance but do not intend to make bread bowls in the next day or so.

Anyways, cut the top off the bread and take some insides out. Pour the soup inside. Even our biggest eaters are stuffed after one of those! Makes the soup go a lot further! And makes you feel like your at Panera Bread or something!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 1:00PM
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Can I have your recipe for the elbow macaroni dish you were talking about??

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 1:06PM
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We do Sam's, soups, french toast and of the above.

I am just thrilled to hear of another mom that is not a morning person!!!!!!! My DH and SD are morning people. They wake up with smiles on their little faces, ready to attack the day. Annoys me to no end.....I worked the 3pm to 11pm shift for so many years that my inner clock just stuck there. I can get up early and do what I have to....even worked the 7am to 3pm shift for a few years but I'd rather start the laundry and housework in the late afternoon and evening......God bless the night owls!!!!

We cut back on veggie gardening last summer because of my pain but this year with things being so high I think we will try more container gardening for veggies. It does help. I'd even have chickens if I didn't have to have my dogs. I think it would be great to get your own eggs.

Community gardens are a great idea too....good for the kids to get involved with. If you don't want to can you can freeze a lot of things.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 1:12PM
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I garden as well in the summer! i love to garden!
We grow beans, pumpkin (which i fry up the males flowers and my son loves them!) i grow zucchini, cucumber , tons of tomatoe, various herbs.
My dh wants spinach this year but i dont know how the gardne will handle that...we have tons of squirrels and racoons...soo...i have to plan alot of berry plants and seedlike plants to keep them distracted!
Yup soup goes a looooong way and you can add so much.
My coworker said tons of toast is cheap as well and you can buy huge containers of yogurt as cosco and just divide in small containers as snacks for your kids.
I also make my own bread and freeze it.
I make pasta as well, its so cheap to make....some flour water etc..etc..and you can still make more than the 1$ pasta they sell. And its fun to do with the kids as well. all the extra hands help!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 1:15PM
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Gardening for fruits/veggies.

Oatmeal for breakfast is inexpensive and more filling.

Crock pot chili is really cheap to make: Cook pinto & your favorite other beans (black or kidney) for 3-4 hours. Add a can of tomato paste & chili season packet and cooked ground beef. I also add canned tomatoes too. Cook another hour and serve with cheese or on chips. Makes a great snack, side or meal.

I mainly shop at Sam's Club. Milk is under $2.00 a gallon here but it seems to be rising again.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 1:34PM
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LOL @ believer! As much as I would LOVE to wake up with a big smile on my face, it just ain't happening. I am a heavy sleeper and it takes my brain about an hour each morning to function. I'm pretty sure it's just a medical thing. LOL!

I would LOVE to grow a garden and do have the land for it...but I have to be honest. I can't grow ANYTHING. I've tried so hard...As ashamed as I am to admit it, I literally have killed a cactus!!!

I am VERY interested in an egg cooker though...I am looking into getting one of these myself. I didn't even know they existed. I loved pouched eggs and would love for the kids to have more eggs as well.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 1:39PM
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I make pancakes on the weekend, and french toast, and then freeze the leftovers. Instant breakfast during the week.

I bake chickens two at a time, cut up for sandwiches, dinners, then save the carcass for soup.

If you have fruit trees in season you can freeze the extra fruit and use for ice cream toppings/smoothies in the off season. I make jams and syrups too.

I use my crock pot a lot. Beans, split pea, chickens, big hunks of meat, corned beef (you can get them on sale at Costco here for under $2.00 each).

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 2:00PM
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some cheap yummy things I like (some of these were my boyfriend's great ideas):

-macaroni salad with some tuna mixed in (pasta + tuna = both super-cheap)

-frozen burritos can be real cheap, and you can dress them up with a cheese single and a couple spoonfuls of cheap salsa on top

-a big baked potato or sweet potato on the side with something else or by itself for a smaller meal

-ramen with plenty of canned or frozen veggies mixed in

-beans & rice, beans & rice, beans & rice!

-in general: rice, rice rice!

-oh, and also pasta, pasta pasta!

-and how could I forget generic, generic, generic!

-"puffed" style cereals (in the really big bags) are cheaper than other kinds

-peanut-butter-cinnamon-sugar toast for breakfast is filling & delicious

-"pizza boats" out of leftover hamburger or hoagie buns: add chesse singles and a few spoons of leftover spaghetti sauce (when there's not really enough sauce left to do a whole new round of pasta but there's too much left to feel good about throwing it away)

-buy chicken thighs instead of breasts as they tend to be much cheaper.

-some brands of loaf bread are denser than others and are therefore more filling

-Velveeta is cheap and makes great grilled cheese sandwiches

-a big thing of plain yogurt portioned out into small re-usable tupperwares, with fruit preserves or canned fruit chunks mixed in

-at the grocery store we go to, we can zero right in on the "orange label" meats & fish... that's the color label they use for the discounted stuff. We pretty much never buy any meats that aren't on sale that day.

-some of the pre-packaged corn muffin (and other types of muffin) mixes can be very cheap and make for a good breakfast

-Cream of Wheat is a yummy alternative to oatmeal. One box makes something like 20-25 bowls, and the blandness of it means you can make it versatile. You can 'dress it up' with anything from salt & pepper to fruit preserves to maple syrup (or it's cheaper alternative, corn-syrup "pancake syrup")

-when it's an option, use tortillas to make sandwich "wraps", as they are super-cheap

-when it's an option, use tomato paste or stewed tomatoes instead of spaghetti sauce, or use either of these to augment a jar of spaghetti sauce when there's not quite enough there

-you can also slightly thin down some salad dressings to make them stretch farther (and also be less fattening), especially "Marie's".

-Finally, some of you may balk at this but I prefer not to buy certain condiments if I can grab a few extra packets of mustard, etc. at a fast food place, take them home with me and build up a small collection.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 2:28PM
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I bake LOTS of chicken. We can get a 10# bag of leg and thigh quarters sometimes for $4. Salt and pepper it, throw it in a mega sized baking dish or pan, a couple of cans of cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup, a few bay leaves, milk or orange juice, half a cup or so of sherry if you want to be fancy...bake at 375 or so for 90 minutes, and my kids fight over it. Could easily be done in a crock pot too. Make some rice as a side for the sauce too.

I have a vegetable steamer that we use a lot and buy the large bags of fresh broccoli or baby carrots. Easy, easy.... Kids love the carrots glazed with brown sugar and butter or even some maple syrup. Just throw it on after they've been cooked and stir.

Casseroles of all types are a good meat extender.

Never bought Ramen. Too much sodium for my taste. I don't buy a lot of prepackaged or processed things just because they're terribly expensive.

OOH OOH OOH!! Biscuits and gravy! Could be made the night before and just warmed up in the morning in the microwave.

Pancakes can also be made ahead and frozen.

I have more....let me think on it....

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 2:37PM
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How many cans of soup..are they the big or smaller cans? And how much orange juice? I want to try your chicken recipe!

We love to buy different rubs in the spice aisle and put olive oil and a rub onto chicken legs and then bake them. We love them and the kids like them. Would like to find a chicken recipe they really like!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 3:00PM
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I keep a zip lock bag full of "extra" condiment packs should we fast food it and not use what we took. They are great to send with lunches for school too.

I will usually ask for extra.

I must admit that I don't try as hard as I could to cut back the grocery bill. This threat is making me think that I should though......Since I have remarried we go out to eat and I enjoy it. When I was a single mom I never got to do that so I hardly say no to it now and it is an after Church ritual on Sundays.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 3:03PM
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Mom2, they're the smaller cans. Can use almost any of the cream soups.

The sherry really DOES a lot for that recipe. You can brown the chicken in a pan first if you want, but I don't usually. I'm too lazy...LOL

Oh, and use the bone-in chicken. It doesn't work nearly as well for the boneless/skinless stuff. It needs the fat I think.

Also, if you use the orange juice, a good side is to just buy Uncle Ben's Long Grain and Wild Rice and use orange juice instead of water when making that. I also will sometimes put orange zest in for a bigger orange flavor, too. Kinda nice for company, too. I've had people literally RAVE over it and it's ridiculously easy! LOL

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 3:32PM
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"Can I have your recipe for the elbow macaroni dish you were talking about??"

sure, but I don't really have a recipe! I just toss it together!

I buy about 2 lbs of lean ground beef. I cook that, and drain whatever grease is in the pan. Then I add in 2 small cans of tomato paste, 1 large can of tomato sauce, 1 medium onion (chopped), 1 teaspoon of garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. I simmer the sauce on low heat for about 10-15 minutes.

Cook 1 bag of elbow (I usually get whole wheat) macaroni noodles, and then pour the sauce into the pot with the noodles. Mix it all up.


I am big on pureeing carrots and tossing them into spaghetti sauce, etc. So sometimes I will put some carrots in the blender, puree them and add them to this meal, as well.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 3:52PM
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momof5angels, are any of your older kids early birds? If yes, why not teach them to make bacon and eggs or sausage and eggs. They are old enough to help you cook and this knowledge will come handy for future as well:)

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 6:22PM
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Love ... that recipe is called "american chop suey" in new england. My SC won't eat elbows with sauce but they looooooove "amercian chop suey".

We add all different kinds of noodles to make that ... add mozzarella cheese with ziti, or rigatoni or even mini lasagna noodles and throw it in the oven until cheese melts and its "baked _______(insert noodle name)". :)

Chicken ... legs thighs wings... I hate bbq sauce so I use equal parts parmesean cheese and bread crumbs dip the chicken in melted butter put in bread crumb parm mix and bake

I cannot grow houseplants I have killed cacti before too. But outside I can grow anything. :) And being a SM it gives me 20 minutes outside watering my garden when hubby is getting the kids to bed ....

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 12:16AM
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punamytsike, my kids are 15, 14, 12, 11 and 9...Plenty old enough to make their own breakfast...however, their attention to detail lacks a they will make WAY too much if I am not there.

By "attention to detail" lacking, I am referring to those important details like turning off the stove caps or oven...or taking the fork out of the bowl before putting it in the microwave. Or using the timer so that food doesn't burn. I have tried SO hard to teach them to pay attention to these things but after nearly 3 house fires, I had to make a "no baking for frying rule..." Especially since 4 of my 5 are up by 6:00 on the weekends and I don't get up until 7:30 or so. Their use of household appliances is limited to the toaster and microwave. I also have to set limits. Three waffles, one cup of juice and one cup of milk for breakfast. One banana. If I don't do this, one child will have 8 waffles and the late risers will get nothing. This makes it very difficult to buy in bulk. I shop often. No less than once per week...because if I shop for 2 weeks everything is still gone in one week. I blame this on the fact that I have 4 boys who could eat themselves through a brick wall. LOL!

The macaroni dish is one my mother fixed when I was growing up. I have wanted to try it here but I'm afraid to. Two of my kids are very very picky...I think I'll try it this week though. I always LOVED that dish!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 10:06AM
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Momof5 my son was a PITA when it came to food if it had onions in it he wouldn't eat it... I got very slick (so I thought) cutting up the onions very small or using onion powder. When we had american chop suey when he was little I would take a bowl full of pasta and put it aside a bowl of sauce to the side and the meat to the side ... he would eat it all separate but not mixed!! It was only the two of us so it was easier to please him.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 11:17AM
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My DD and SS do not like mushrooms or onions. The onions in the chop suey (and yes, my DH is from Maine and I got the recipe from him and he calls it chop suey!) don't seem to bother them because I use a chopper and chop them up soooo finely, you can't tell they are there. But when we have fajitas or any other recipes that call for onions, I make a portion without for the kids.

Same with the mushrooms---I make spaghetti sauce and keep a portion of it aside without mushrooms.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 11:30AM
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love ... my mom made a dish when we were kids she called it "bullets" ... it was meatballs in a broth ... I have tried to make it a zillion times it never comes out right ... does your hubby remember anything like that? she rolled the meatballs in flour thats all I remember about the "recipe".

My mom passed away when I was young so I never got the recipe for that or her thanksgiving stuffing ... which she called dressing but it contained no bread was just a meat mixture.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 11:55AM
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My DS15 was SUPER picky when he was a toddler. When he was 4, he refused to eat ANY meat except for chicken. He would get a bite of steak in his mouth and literally chew on it for 30 minutes, refusing to swallow...Then it hit me. Just tell him it's chicken. I made beef one day and he immediately said "I don't want that!" I said "But it's funny chicken!" He just tilted his head and said "Funny chicken? Really?" He then ate anything I put in front of him...just so long as I called it "funny chicken."

He is almost 16 now and to this day when he asks "What's for dinner?" I will occasionally say "funny chicken..." He doesn't fall for it anymore. :o)

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 12:12PM
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Psuedo, Your post about not having your late moms recipes brought something I read to mind...A married woman was wanting to make her late moms recipe for something, and remembered a box of her moms old cookbooks that she had never opened..She found a note in the cookbook that said, Pammie, your husband will love this recipe..Pammie was 5 years old when her mom made the notation..She made the recipe for her husband that night, and he did love it...Just kind of stuck with me, thought it was such a sweet story....

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 1:11PM
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my mom used to make that same elbow macaroni dish!! She would put frozen corn in with it, or sometimes green bell peppers and sometimes do it with ground turkey instead of beef. But same thing, no recipe... but one of my favorites!! Thanks for the memory :)

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 1:26PM
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I have a fairly high grocery bill in the winter, because I am a vegetarian in Saskatchewan.

But here are a few tips from me, some are echoing other posters.

- The more packaging, the less value. AKA my grocery store mantra "Over-packaging is bad!"

- Whole grains are more filling. Brown bread costs the same as white, but you eat less of it. Brown rice costs only a little more than white, but you eat WAY less of it, so it works out cheaper.

- Make a meal plan for the week and only buy the items you need for your planned meals. No more, no less.

- Don't take the kids to the grocery store!

- Divide and conquer - buy it in the big pack, and then portion it out as needed. Freeze what you won't eat right away.

- Soup! Homemade soup is very inexpensive and quite nutritious.

- The more food groups in a meal, the more filling it is.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 8:06PM
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