SC Johnson Family Economics Blog
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Save a Bunch, Just Pack a Lunch | Family Economics

By Cathe Holden

A few years ago, my husband and I stood in a very, very long line with our young children waiting to enter a theater for a show at a major theme park. We were only five of hundreds standing for nearly an hour waiting for the doors to open. The contrast between our family and the rest of the crowd was that we were happily enjoying our delicious, homemade egg salad sandwiches that my husband had made earlier in the hotel from the hard-boiled eggs we had cooked a few days earlier and had packed into our travel cooler. After making the sandwiches, he tucked them each into individual Ziploc® bags and then wrapped each bag in newspaper to insulate them. All wrapped sandwiches were then slid into his backpack along with some crackers, juice bags and an ice pack. So while others in line risked losing their place to feed their hungry and cranky children, we were enjoying our own little asphalt picnic.

Whenever we vacation by car, we always bring a cooler full of food to use for lunch and breakfast. Eating out daily for every meal can become extremely costly, so by planning ahead and eliminating those meals from our travel budget, we are able to save a great deal of money on our trip by eating breakfast in our hotel room and packing our lunch for the day. We bring muffins, oatmeal, yogurt and dried fruit for breakfast. For lunch we include bread, lunchmeats and cheeses, peanut butter and jam, hard-boiled eggs and condiments, as well as a few utensils. There are crackers, chips, homemade cookies and other snacks as well as milk for breakfast, and water bottles and juice bags for lunch. 

When traveling by plane, most airlines no longer serve meals on flights, so each of our little travelers receives his or her very own travel snack bag. I found simple nylon drawstring bags in the dollar bin at the fabric store that are perfect for filling with fun and nutritious food for the kids to access at any time during our trip. Each child carries his or her own and can nibble as they need.

For snack bags, it is important to pack items that don’t need refrigeration. Some of our favorites are trail mix, granola bars, beef jerky, nuts, pretzels and crackers, and dried fruit or fruit leathers and a water bottle. I will also tuck a small puzzle book, notepad and pen into the bag to keep little hands and minds busy when bored. These bags have been lifesavers when we are separated by seats on the plane or they become hungry in the airport. An added bonus with the snack bags is the opportunity for children to make their own choices as to what and when to eat. If only healthy items are packed, they can't go wrong!

3 Comments so far

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On Friday, February 24, 2012, Robert Reed Wallace wrote

I ENJOYED THE STORE ANDLEARNED SOME GOODIDEAS On how and what to use to keep food fresh and the happy . Febuary 25 2012

On Tuesday, August 17, 2010, Martha from Tennessee wrote

Thanks for the ideas about what to pack that doesn't need refrigeration. That has always been a stickler for me. I pack my lunch for work but seem to rely heavily on the refrigerator. Thanks for the info.

On Friday, October 23, 2009, Sandy from Racine wrote

What excellent ideas! My husband and I have gone back to packing a homemade lunch for work. I find that not only do I save money, but I've lost weight. Constantly eating out can be expensive and boring after a while. Homemade leftovers are wonderful to pack, along with fresh fruits and vegetables. The benefits saving money and eating healthier totally outweigh the convienence of fast food. Thanks for sharing your tips...


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