7 Cheap School Lunch Ideas Under $1

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If you’re on a budget, shaving off a few dollars here and there can really save you money. From quitting your daily Starbucks habit to becoming a savvy coupon shopper, you may think you’ve exhausted all possible money saving tricks.

Not so fast! Sending your kids to school with budget-friendly lunches can save you big! To help you stay out of that PB&J rut and save money, I’ve got a week’s worth of amazing and cheap school lunch ideas that each ring in at $1 or under — and I promise your kids will love them! Making your kids budget-friendly school lunches can save you big!

Eating on a budget doesn’t have to be drab. Check out these 8 delicious and cheap breakfast recipes that also ring in under $1

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  • Affordable Pizza Dippers School Lunch

    1. Polka Dot Pizza Dippers

    Feed the whole family or make a week’s worth of inexpensive grab-and-go lunches with a quick-and-easy batch of my Polka Dot Pizza Dippers. Inexpensive store-bought biscuits are topped with a single piece of pepperoni and packed with low-cost pizza sauce for a lunchtime snack your kids will love.

    To save even more cash, feel free to nix the pepperoni and use what you’ve got in the fridge. Small amounts of shredded cheese or chopped veggies also make great toppings for these tiny pizzas.

    Polka Dot Dippers Recipe


    • 1 (4-count) can refrigerated flaky biscuit dough
    • 1 (36-count) package pepperoni
    • 1 cup prepared pizza sauce


    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pull individual biscuits in half, creating two rounds. Cut rounds into quarters, so each biscuit creates 8 small wedges.
    2. Press wedges onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, forming each piece into mini rounds. (For best results, let the dough come to room temperature. It will soften and be easy to form). Top each mini round with a piece of pepperoni.
    3. Bake for 5-8 minutes, or just until the edges turn golden brown. Serve with pizza sauce for dipping.

    Freezer tip: Store mini pizzas in airtight containers and freeze for later. Microwave frozen rounds for 10-20 seconds to thaw, or pack frozen pizzas in your lunchbox in the morning and they’ll be ready to snack on by afternoon!

    Estimated cost breakdown

    • 1 refrigerated biscuit: 10¢
    • 8 slices pepperoni: 50¢
    • 2 tablespoons pizza sauce: 21¢

    Total: 81¢

    Save this Pizza Dippers recipe on KitchMe!

  • 7 Cheap School Lunch Ideas Under $1 | thegoodstuff

    2. Turkey & Grape Protein Skewers

    No sandwich needed! If you’re looking for a way to boost your mid-afternoon protein intake, these quick and simple skewers are a must-try.

    Easy enough to put together in minutes, these colorful kabobs are as fun for kids as they are for adults. Though I love the turkey-grape combo, feel free to swap in other cubed lunch meats, from ham to roast beef — and alternate your cheeses, too!

    Yield: 1 serving
    Prep time: 5 minutes
    Total time: 5 minutes


    • 9 purple or green grapes
    • 2/3 cup thick-sliced turkey, cubed
    • 1/2 cup cheese, cubed


    1. Skewer ingredients on bamboo cocktail skewers or extra-long toothpicks.

    2. Tuck inside a lunchbox with fruit or crackers.

    3. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

  • Apple-Cheddar Quesadillas
    Source: Momables

    3. Apple-Cheddar Quesadillas

    Give a plain cheese quesadilla a tart, sweet crunch with thin apple slices. Add a veggie medley with ranch dip for a healthy side, and you’ll have an easy, budget-friendly lunch that rings in at 97 cents!

    Save on your tortillas with Mission® coupons!

    Estimated cost breakdown

    • 1 tortilla: 10¢
    • 1/2 small apple: 16¢
    • 2 American cheese slices: 32¢
    • Veggie medley: 30¢
    • 1 tablespoon ranch dressing: 9¢

    Total: 97¢

  • Cucumber Hummus Cups
    Source: Momables

    4. Cucumber Hummus Cups

    Scoop out a cucumber into little cups and add tasty hummus for a protein-packed vegetarian lunch. Tuck in some crackers, half a small apple, and a few strawberries for a tasty lunch that’ll only set you back one dollar!

    Lower your cost even more and add a bit of extra hummus for dipping with Sabra® coupons!

    Estimated cost breakdown

    • 2 tablespoons hummus: 30¢
    • 1/2 cucumber: 14¢
    • Crackers: 30¢
    • 1/2 small apple: 16¢
    • 2 strawberries: 10¢

    Total: $1

  • 5. Tuna & Crackers

    Canned tuna is an inexpensive form of protein, and it also delivers healthy omega-3 fatty acid. Fill a small reusable container with tuna salad, and include crackers for scooping. Mix and match your favorite fruit or veggie sticks for a dollar lunch!

    Grab a few extra cans of tuna for your own lunch and save with Starkist® and Bumble Bee® coupons!

    Estimated cost breakdown

    • 3 tablespoons tuna salad: 54¢
    • Crackers: 30¢
    • 1/2 small apple: 16¢

    Total: $1

  • Cavekid Eggs
    Source: The Roxx Box

    6. Cavekid Eggs

    Hard-boiled eggs pack well and are excellent sources of protein. Add in some pepper strips, half an apple with peanut butter for dipping, and some mixed berries for a yummy lunch that’s just under a dollar!

    Let them dip to their heart’s content — there’s more peanut butter to go around with Jif® coupons!

    Estimated cost breakdown

    • Hard-boiled egg: 16¢
    • Bell pepper strips: 38¢
    • 1/2 small apple: 16¢
    • Peanut butter: 8¢
    • 2 strawberries: 10¢
    • 1 tablespoon blueberries: 10¢

    Total: 98¢

  • 7. Mac n’ Cheese Cups

    Oh, yum! Who wouldn’t want mac ‘n cheese cups in their lunch? Use refrigerated crescent dough and boxed mac n’ cheese for a lunch all the other kids will want. Best of all? You can easily keep this under a dollar!

    Fill your Mac n’ Cheese Cups to the brim with Kraft mac n’ cheese and Pillsbury® crescent rolls! Mmm-mmm!

    Estimated cost breakdown

    • 2 crescent roll cups (using boxed mac ‘n cheese): 80¢
    • Carrot sticks: 15¢

    Total: 95¢

    Budget Bites / 7 Cheap School Lunch Ideas Under $1


17 replies on “7 Cheap School Lunch Ideas Under $1”

I love this recipe! So helpful. I will add it to my YouTube video coming out soon.
LauriePOP Ideas That POP

Shoot, I ended up not using this one because I didn’t get to the store to buy canned biscuits. Such a smart idea though. If I make another one, I’ll be sure to send you the link. Thanks for sharing!

that’s BS for the tuna one. Fruit is NOT that cheap so even if it’s half an apple, it’s more than 0.16.Not to mention it doesn’t list what the peach colored fruit/bellpepper looking stuff, price not does it list the price of, i assume is seaweed crisps? The prices on all of these are Bull. sorry.
they are excellent ideas, but the cost is just false.

You can get a 3lbs bag of apples for 3.38 at the walmart near me. If that bag has 12 apples then its only 14 cents for half an apple. So it’s not impossible. Also a pound of strawberries in season is like $2 and you can get way more than 2 for that much. Fruit isn’t cheap if you eat a lot at a time. But these portion sizes are super small, more for younger kids.

Your right fruit is expensive. My local harps sells grapes at $4lb wow!
I drive to Aldi’s which is in mo. I’m in ar. Mo has cheaper taxes and I get grapes which varies but for Nov 2019 I paid .89lb….see that? 89 cents a lb not $4 a lb like back home.
So fruit can be affordable you just may have to make it a day trip once a month. O and my local grapes rotted in two wks of being in my fridge aldis never rotted and I threw them out the following month due to concern. I have grown since then and realize their food last longer no matter if fruit veggies bread etc.

You’ve got to be kidding, most of these would not be very filling for elementary aged kids. One biscuit and 8 skinny slices of pepperoni served cold? Cold Mac and cheese-uck!
For a little more money your child can get a much more filling hot lunch at school and not come home starving.
Please remember that “you cannot teach a hungry child”

my kid hates her food hot. So unfortunately school lunches are out. I doubt these will be to cold to eat if you warm them for a few seconds before sending them to school, and I was thinking wrapping them in tin foil, putting separate from the rest of the food in a ziploc baggie

The kabob idea is cute but what can substitute for the skewer? I don’t think my son’s school will allow it

what did you put on top of the pizza dippers? parsley? basil? Also would shredded cheese ruin it? It’s going to be the main dish with fruit and veggies for the sides.

All of these exclude a drink. Drinks cost money. Even if you’re sending kool aid made at home and bottled. But I agree it is much cheaper to make your own lunches than spend $3.50 on a school lunch that your child may or may not eat, or worse, a lunchable that they will just eat the candy from.

school lunches are not served with water. they come with milk or juice. even bottled water costs $. you can’t say its cheaper than school lunch if you don’t include a drink

A reusable water bottle filled at home is pretty cheap. You can get one for under $10 and if you use it everyday it more than pays for itself.
EDIT TO ADD: Walmart has some reusable water bottles for like a dollar. You could even get a few and cycle them and it would still pay for itself in no time.

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7 Cheap School Lunch Ideas Under $1

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