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With wise choices, packed lunches pay off

MONDAY, SEPT. 29, 2008

The brown lunch bag – folded at the top, with an apple-shaped bulge – is the very image of thrift.

For people looking to cut spending, brown-bagging instead of buying lunch is a dependable way to do it. But what about for your kids? The price of school lunch makes it a closer call – depending on how you fill those sandwiches, you could easily spend more per day than the typical cost at the cafeteria. Full-price lunches range from $2 to $2.90 in our region, depending on the school and grade level.

By making a few frugal choices, though, you could spend less.

Using typical grocery store products, we whipped up a quick comparison between a hot lunch for a hypothetical middle-schooler in the Spokane Public Schools and a brown-bag classic: PB&J, apple, chips, cookie and juice.

The Verdict: It’s about a tie. The hot lunch costs $2.60 and the brown bag cost $2.64. But if you’re careful, buy in bulk and buy store brands, you can drive your costs way down.

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