Bring vs. buy: Which is a cheaper school lunch option for parents?

Posted at 6:14 AM, Aug 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-02 10:44:21-04

DENVER -- As parents get their children ready to head back to school, Denver7 looked at the costs of a home-packed lunch versus buying lunch at school.

Most parents Denver7 spoke to said they pack their kids’ lunch because it's a healthier option, and some like to mix it up.

"We do a mixture every week," said Esther Ashton, a mother of three kids.

Parents weren't sure which option was cheaper.

"I assume that school lunch is cheaper," said parent Ray Trout.

Denver7 looked at the price of meals from three area school districts: Denver Public Schools, Jefferson County Public Schools and Douglas County Schools.

Here is what we found:

Lunch costs at Denver Public Schools
Elementary: $42 a month.
Middle: $47 a month.
High schools: $58 a month.

Lunch costs at Jefferson County Public Schools
Elementary: $60 a month.
Middle and high schools: $70 a month.

Lunch costs at Douglas County Schools
Elementary: $60 a month.
Middle: $65 a month.
High schools: $68 a month.

The founder of uGrocery, Eva Fry, helped Denver7 with calculations on what it would cost to bring a sack lunch for a month.

Looking at the average cost of store-branded products at King Soopers, a home-packed lunch consisting of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich, chips, an apple, granola bar, and fruit juice would cost around $2 a day. That’s $38 a month.


Tips for saving on school lunch

Stock up on pantry essentials like peanut butter, jelly, chips and granola bars when they are on sale for under $1.50 each. 

Shop the sales and don’t be loyal to brand names.  Shop store brands.

Invest in Tupperware or small containers for food storage.  In the long run, it’s cheaper than continuously buying plastic bags.

Use coupons for extra savings.  Digital coupons on supermarket sites and apps just take minutes to load and come off automatically at checkout.

Compare prices and shop the cheapest place for your shopping list every week. Using apps like uGrocery help ensure you are shopping the cheapest store every week.