The cute kid in the grocery store knew exactly what she wanted when she politely asked, “Mommy, can I have Lunchables for school?”
The mom cringed, and then conceded.
I don’t blame her. Lunchables are easy to buy, easy to serve, and easily keep the kiddlets content. The problem? Lunchables and their copycat brands are expensive. These packaged cheese, cracker, and sausage snack packs are also stuffed full of sodium and trans fat. Not exactly a healthy snack (or lunch) for kids.
So I did the right thing — I bought two Lunchables-type products (Schneiders Lunchmate Stackers and a NO NAME Lunch Box) and put these snack packs through the Squawkfox paces. Yes people, I’m knocking off these packaged products and attempting to make them less costly and more nutritious. Shouldn’t be hard, right?
I bought the ‘healthiest sounding’ snack packs containing turkey, Swiss cheese, whole wheat crackers, and a treat. Both products contain something called process cheese food.
I have to ask — WTF is PROCESS CHEESE FOOD? Is that the stuff they feed cheese? I dunno, I guess anything you have to label as FOOD probably isn’t really food. Moving on …
One idea behind Lunchables is they’re easy to buy. Well, shopping for crackers, Swiss cheese, and turkey is pretty darn easy too. Without spending hours searching for the cheapest ingredients, I dashed through my grocer’s aisles and picked items that looked healthy. I surveyed the ingredients, scrutinized the content, and ignored the cost. I’m such a bad money blogger …
Lunchables Knockoff List:
- Mary’s Organic Crackers (184g): $3.34
- Blue Menu Swiss Cheese (150g): $4.99
- PC Chewy Granola Bars (175g): $1.89
- Brandt Turkey Kolbassa (250g): $3.77
Total Cost: $13.99 for a week’s worth of snacks or school lunches.
Cost played a secondary consideration in this experiment because I wanted to show that healthier food choices are not always the more expensive option. Now re-read that previous sentence. And again.
Snack Attack: You’re saving 32% with healthier food!
I sliced turkey, counted crackers, weighed cheese, and added up the total cost for my squawky approved snack. Can you pick the Squawkfox Lunchables knockoff?
Yeah, this is a big game of DUH!
Bottom Line: Cutting all the trans fat and 400 mg of sodium saves you $0.80 (that’s 32%) for a healthier snacking option.
Despite being cheaper, I ditched the NO NAME Lunch Box since it contained more trans fat and sodium than the Schneiders Lunchmate Stackers. Besides, it looked kinda gross once I removed the packaging.
Add fruits and veggies for the win!
Want to make this snack healthier? Add around $0.50 worth of carrots, snap peas, tomatoes, grapes, strawberries (or whatever), and make this meal more worthy of your growing kid! The real keeners could even use my homemade granola bar recipe to add more tasty goodness.
Total Cost: Adding around $0.50 worth of fruits and vegetables costs just $2.17 for a Lunchables-type knockoff with zero trans fat, half the sodium, and more nutrition. Plus you’re still saving $0.30 over the brand-name product with the added fruit and veggie goodness.
What about the container?
I know, it’s all about the packaging — that dang container. Your kid’s lunch is only cool enough for school if it’s in a divided lunch box with colorful wrapping. Grumble. Gotcha.
I can’t do anything about the wrapping, but I’m a huge fan of these inexpensive Lock & Lock square containers with trays. Yeah, they have removable dividers perfect for keeping your kiddlet’s food from touching — ’cause touching food is a touchy matter with certain kids.
These 3-compartment bento lunch box containers will also get the job done since they’re easy for tiny figures to pry open.
But hey, if your kid really really really wants a Lunchables-style packaged snack then I say go for it, occasionally. OR get the kid in your life to pay for a portion of their non-essential foods from their allowance. Sounds mean, but teaching kids the value of a dollar at a young age could help ward off unhealthy food choices while showing them the true costs in life.
Your Thoughts: What do your kids want in their lunch box?