There’s a lot to consider when you’re grocery shopping for back-to-school food, including nutrition and convenience.
You have to think about what your kids will eat, what’s easy to grab and go and, of course, how to make sure they’re eating a balanced diet when they don’t have you to look over their shoulders.
It’s not as difficult as it sounds, though you will have to resist the urge to reach for that overpriced yet oh-so-convenient package of single-serve junk food.
Here’s my advice on packing your kids’ lunch boxes with healthy foods, and how to save money doing it.
Opt for real fruit
With artificial coloring, unnatural ingredients and heaps of sugar, fruit snacks are just about the worst thing you could throw in your kids’ lunch sacks, as far as nourishment goes. But you can still get that gummy texture that kids love in real fruit products.
Trader Joe’s Fruit Bars and Fiberful Bars are a great alternative to fruit snacks, and you can buy them individually for cheap.
If you want your kids eating raw fruits, try packing bite-size fruits such as berries and grapes. They’re easier for kids to pop in their mouths throughout the day.
Piggly Wiggly has the best price on grapes this week at $1.18 per pound. Blueberries and raspberries are two for $5 at Publix.
Create your own lunch kits
Kids love to feel like they’re creating their own meals, which is most likely why packaged lunch kits are such a crowd pleaser in the cafeteria. But the grab-and-go lunch kits on the shelves that feature crackers, meats and cheese are highly processed and aren’t worth the money.
Make your own kits for kids to take to school to make sure they’re eating quality foods.
The cheese cracker cuts at Trader Joe’s are natural and reasonably priced compared to other grocery stores’ selections.
Find Hillshire Farm lunch meats on sale at Publix this week for buy two, get one free.
For crackers, go for something like Trader Joe’s Edamame Crackers, or Rice Works Crisps, on sale at Harris Teeter for buy one, get one free.
Skip the chips
For crunchy snacks, consider products such as Annie’s Homegrown Organic Snack Mix, on sale this week at Whole Foods for $4 a box.
Nutrition-wise, it’s still a pretty empty snack, but without artificial flavors or colors, it’s a decent alternative for fatty and over-priced potato chips.
Getting your kids to eat raw nuts is tough, but parents may have more luck with mixes that offer a little sweet-and-salty variety.
Planters Trail Mix is $3 for a six-ounce bag at Walgreen’s.
Granola bars are another way to sneak in some of those nutritious grains and nuts.
If you have your coupons from Sunday, you can find a $1-off coupon for Quaker Real Medley granola bars in the Red Plum insert.
Include side dishes
If you have time, make something like a bean or pasta salad to go with your kids’ lunches.
There are tons of recipes on the Internet and they can cost as little as 10 cents a serving to make. Plus, if you make a big batch and store the rest in the refrigerator, you’ve got a side dish for the whole family to snack on throughout the week.
Reach Abigail Darlington at charlestonsavvyshopper@postand courier.com.