Re-pin this post to help me donate $250 to a local Food Bank – read on to see more!
I recently accepted a challenge from QFC to create a week’s worth of nutritious, budget-friendly school lunches. But not just that – “trade-worthy” lunches. You know, the kind your kid shows up to school with and their buddies wish they had instead! I enlisted the help of my good pal Susan as we both have little ones head to school soon and have been thinking about the very topic of what to pack our kids this year.
After a night of brainstorming, we decided to theme our week’s worth of lunches on breakfast. After all – what’s not to love about breakfast? There are many delicious, portable options and it’s easy to think of healthy variations on common breakfast foods. We also wanted to create recipes that could be made in batch and frozen for busy parents.
Saving Money on Lunches at QFC
With our recipes and ideas in mind, we headed out to QFC. I want to share just a few of my favorite ways to save at QFC when considering making back to school lunches:
#1: Look for clearance! My store in particular always has crazy awesome markdowns on yogurt – including Greek and organic varieties.
#3: Consider store brands. Look for in-house brands such as Simple Truth, Kroger, and QFC for additional savings. Sometimes these offer better value that name-brands, even with manufacturer’s coupons (just do the math to be sure!).
Three “Breakfast-Inspired” Lunch Recipes
Susan and I came up with three easy and delicious breakfast-inspired lunch recipes to share with you. Each of these can be made in batch and frozen, so you can avoid the early morning scramble!
Ham Rosemary Biscuits
Instead of making a ham sandwich, why not bake a ham biscuit? These freeze beautifully – just pop one out and put it in your kid’s lunch and it will be ready to eat come lunchtime!
- 4 oz Cream Cheese
- 2 ½ Cups Buttermilk Pancake Mix (such as Krusteaz or the QFC store brand)
- 1 ½ Cups Milk
- 1 Tbsp Dried Rosemary
- 1/2 Cup Cubed or Deli Ham (there are many delicious options at QFC!)
- 1 Tsp Baking Powder
- ½ Tsp Salt
Preheat oven to 350°. In large bowl, stir pancake mix, rosemary, salt and baking powder. Add cream cheese and mix with a paddle attachment until crumbly. Add milk and mix on low until just combined. Fold in ham. Turn out onto floured surface, roll to ¼ – ½” thickness. Cut out using cookie cutters. Line baking sheet with parchment and bake for 14-16 minutes until lightly browned on top.
My kids love muffins – they are easy to make, they’re portable, and they’re delicious! We took inspiration from these Morning Glory muffins at AllRecipes.com that incorporate carrots and apple as “hidden” ingredients. We then add cooked quinoa to sneak in some whole grains and protein, switched out some of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat and added more apple to reduce the oil content. The result is a delicious muffin that you’ll feel good about sending your kid to school with!
- 1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
- 1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
- 1 ¼ Cups White Sugar
- 1 Tsp Baking Powder
- 2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
- ¼ Tsp Salt
- 2 Cups Shredded Carrots
- ½ Cup Dried Cranberries (or raisins)
- ½ Cup Flaked Coconut
- 2 Apples – peeled, cored & shredded (such as Granny Smith)
- 3 Eggs
- ¼ Cup Vegetable Oil
- 2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
- ½ Cup Quinoa (we used the TruRoots brand pictured above from QFC)
Cook quinoa to package directions, slightly reducing cooking time. (The brand we used called for 15 minutes, so we stopped it at 10.). In a large bowl, mix flours, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the carrot, dried cranberries, coconut, apple, and quinoa. In a separate bowl, beat together eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir the liquid ino the dry mixture. Bake in lightly sprayed muffin tin for about 15-20 minutes, until done.
Peanut Butter Banana Toast
I wanted to do a spin on the classic peanut butter and jelly and Susan and I brainstormed ways of incorporating a waffle into the mix, too. I came up with a couple versions of this sandwich – see which one you (and your kids!) like best.
- Cinnamon Raisin Ezekiel Bread (or whole grain waffles, such as Simple Truth)
- Peanut Butter (or your favorite nut/seed butter)
I’m a real fan of the Ezekiel Bread! It’s “heartier” so it won’t go mush on you in a lunchbox. You’ll find it in the frozen section of your QFC which means, yes, you can keep it in your freezer so no worries if you don’t eat it up right away. It’s made with sprouted grains – no flour – so it’s a denser and in my opinion, more nutritious bread! A little goes a long way, so you could definitely use a shape cutter to make a smaller sandwich.
Alternately, toast up a waffle – such as Simple Truth multi-grain waffles. Cut in half – and use this as your “bread.”
Top either the bread or waffle with peanut butter, banana slices, and a drizzle of honey. Voila! I did test the Ezekiel bread version and it froze perfect. Just assemble your sandwich, wrap with plastic wrap, and pop into your kid’s lunchbox in the morning. Because the bread is denser, you won’t get the “mush” you would otherwise.
Shopping for a Week’s Worth of Lunches
Here are a few tips for thinking about planning and shopping for a week’s worth of school lunches:
- Consider making a couple recipes in batch such as the ones above and freezing them. Use these as the “main” part of your child’s lunch.
- Offer quick & easy fruits and veggies in every lunch. I like using things that are portable or bite-sized, such as berries, carrot sticks, cucumbers, berries, and grapes.
- Keep a few ready-made side items you can throw in to fill in the lunches. Some of my kids’ favorites are yogurt, string cheese, crackers, dried fruit, and yogurt pretzels.
- Pick up a few bento style cutters. Last year, I spent a few bucks on small food cutters and bento tools at a store at my local mall. They were super cheap and really don’t add that much time to lunch preparation. If taking an extra 20 seconds to cut out apple stars or rocket cheese pieces gets my kid excited about their lunch, then it’s worth it!
With a little planning, you don’t need to spend a lot of time or money to prepare healthy kid lunches! All told, Susan and I spent just under $33 at QFC to complete the recipes above and make a week’s worth of lunches. (And actually, that’d be more than a week’s worth as we ended up with over a dozen muffins and about 10 huge ham biscuits!)
I wanted to end this post with a visual of how you might mix and match our three recipes with some healthy sides to complete a lunch.
Monday: Quinoa Power Muffin, Strawberries, String Cheese, and Annie’s Organic Bunny Crackers
I hope that I’ve shown you that it doesn’t take a ton of extra time or money to put together healthy, kid-friendly lunches! I hope I’ve also given you some good ideas for how you can bring your kids’ lunches together by shopping at QFC, too!
Now, that I’ve helped you… I would like you to help me! I mentioned at the start of this post that this was a challenge I’m participating in. The way the challenge works is the blogger whose lunchbox post gets the most repins will win a $250 QFC gift card! After some consideration, I’ve decided that if I win, I’d like to donate my gift card to the Fish Food Bank of Pierce County so they can help families in our community with food and other essential non-perishables this back to school season.
Will you help me with this? If so – please simply repin this post on Pinterest!
Enter the Giveaway
Not only is QFC hosting this contest, they also gave me a $25 Gift Card to give away to a lucky reader! To enter for a chance to win, simply leave a comment on this post. For fun, I’d love to hear about a favorite item you like to pack in your kid’s school lunch!
For an optional, second entry – please repin this post on Pinterest (just click this link to do so!). Leave a second, separate comment letting me know you’ve done so and it will count as a second entry.
This contest will run through Friday, August 23rd 11:59 PM PST. A winner will be randomly selected from all eligible comments left and notified by email.
Disclosure: QFC provided me a gift card for today’s post and the gift card for the winner. There is a chance I could be selected for a $250 gift card for this post, and if so, that would also be furnished by QFC. (As stated in my post, if I win I’m opting to gift that to Fish Food Banks.) No other compensation was exchanged for this post and all concepts and opinions expressed are fully mine. For more information, please refer to my Disclosure Policy.