Personal Finance, World Changers

How to Save a Little Money at Lunch Time (So You Can Have a Lot at the End of the Year)

August 18, 2017 | Posted by Karina Rovey

We all get hungry at school. And unfortunately, at school, we do not have our kitchen cupboards at our disposal. So, anything to curb your hunger you have to bring from home.

Or buy.

I normally bring my food from home. Occasionally, I’ll end up buying a cafeteria lunch or purchasing a snack from the vending machine. However, I try not to because I’ve always heard that school food is much more expensive than bringing food from home.

However, how much truth is there to that? I decided to do the calculations and find out for myself how much it truly costs to buy food from school. Hopefully, lunch or snack prices at my school are fairly comparable to yours.

Up first: lunch

The total for a home-made lunch is $2.05. That includes: 

  • Peanut butter & jelly sandwich on white bread
  • Cheese stick
  • Single-serve bag of chips
  • Apple
  • Two Oreo cookies
  • Juice box

The total for a school-bought lunch is $2.75. That includes:

  • One protein entree
  • A serving of vegetables
  • A serving of fruits
  • A serving of grains
  • One milk or juice

So, overall, a school lunch at my public high school is $0.70 more than a home packed lunch.

Now, that may not seem too significant. However, those 70 cents do add up fast. Also, you’re not guaranteed to like what the cafeteria is serving (especially if you’re a picky eater like me). But, if it really is more convenient for you, maybe that extra 70 cents is worth it to you.

Next: vending machine snacks

Here are some snacks in my home, and how much they cost:

  • Stacy’s pita chips – $0.60
  • Surf Sweets gummy worms – $1.95
  • Veggie straws – $0.90
  • Honest Kids juice box – $0.40

Now compare that to the vending machine snacks in my school:

  • Stacy’s pita chips – $1.25
  • Surf Sweets gummy worms – $2.25
  • Veggie straws – $1.50
  • Honest Kids juice box – $1.00

As you can see, the vending machine snacks are considerably more expensive than snacks from home. Even though my data is from my high school, I find this to be true most places I go.

So given these prices, what’s the best things to do? Buy school food or bring food from home? I say it’s your call, but just think how much money you would have at the end of the year if you brought your lunch from home and saved the difference in cost.

If you do choose to bring your own food, I do have two big tips that save money and make it easier.

Stock up on easy-to-grab food

Buy single-serve, pre-packaged snacks (think bags of chips, cheese sticks, granola bars, cracker packs, etc.). It is so much easier to grab something and go in the morning than having to pack food into tins or baggies.

Keep a snack stash in your backpack

I never know when I’m going to have to stay later than expected after school. So, I find it helpful to always keep a stash of snacks in my backpack. That way, I always have a little something there if I find myself needing a little energy!

In the end, it’s your decision whether you bring food from home to school or purchase it there. I hope my price comparisons and tips have helped you decide what’s best for you.

Karina Rovey
Hi there. I’m Karina and I’m a sophomore in high school from Tennessee. I love Jesus, acting, playing guitar and traveling with my family. I am honored and excited to be a part of the World Changers team!