Cheap lunch ideas for kids (that you’ll love, too)

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Kids eating you out of house and home? This list of cheap lunch ideas for kids can help make meal planning simple, and much easier on the grocery budget.

With an extra-long “summer” this year, I wasn’t surprised to find our grocery bill getting quickly out of hand.

I’ve always found it more difficult to pack cold lunches than to make lunch at home because there are just more options when a stove is involved. However, when we’re all at home every day for days on end, my idea bank starts to run on empty.

Anyone else?

I took some time recently to brainstorm a list of cheap lunch ideas for kids. This way, I can quickly plan our lunches for the week and I’m not tempted to grab fast food.

(I save those trips for when we just really need a change of scenery!).

Take a look at this list and print out the printable version at the end of this post for a quick reference when you’re planning next week’s meals.

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Hopefully these options will help you save money on groceries and take some of the guesswork out of lunch time, too.

If you’re looking for mainly cold lunch options to pack in lunch boxes, try this post too!

1. Healthy Tuna Pasta Salad

A quick lunch that’s also clean eating, Healthy Tuna Pasta Salad is an excellent choice for kids.

healthy tuna pasta-frugal lunch for kids

2. Grilled Chicken Broccoli Wraps

Some kids, like my son, who won’t touch raw broccoli will eat them in a different way. Grilled Chicken Broccoli Wraps fit the bill perfectly and only require a few ingredients.

3. Pizza Stuffed Crescent Rolls

With Pizza Stuffed Crescent Rolls, you get the kid-friendly approval rating of pizza with half the effort. To make it even more budget-friendly, you could make your own crescent rolls and triple this recipe to enjoy for several days (or freeze the extras) .

4. Creamy Ham & Pea Pasta

For lunch OR dinner, this 15-minute Creamy Ham and Pea Pasta is an easy pick for kids. Very few ingredients and lots of flavor.

5. Homemade Uncrustables

Until my younger kids decide that bread crust on their PB&J Sandwiches isn’t evil and vile 😉 , Uncrustables are a fuss-free option.

My friend Lauren gives instructions on how she makes her Homemade Uncrustables and simply freezes them, 48 at a time!

Homemade uncrustables- cheap lunch for kids

6. The Perfect Tuna Melt

A great source of protein on the cheap! Try this easy Perfect Tuna Melt recipe from Sarah Titus.

cheap lunch for kids- tuna melt

7. Chili Mac

For dinner or lunch, Chili Mac and Cheese is a classic twist on frugal chili (which my kids get a little tired of sometimes!).

cheap lunch ideas-chili mac recipe

8. Healthy Veggie Nuggets

If your kids love chicken nuggets- this is a healthy alternative to try. Healthy Veggie Nuggets are a genius, fun way to get kids eating their veggies.

9. Bacon Cheddar Ranch Pinwheels

Delicious, easy and full of creamy goodness. Bacon Cheddar Ranch Pinwheels are an easy lunch to meal prep ahead of time, too.

Read next: EveryPlate Review: Is it an Affordable Meal Kit for Families?

10. Spinach Cheesy Muffins

Another sneaky hidden veggie option, these Spinach Cheesy Muffins are ideal for younger kids especially, who might turn their noses up at sandwiches.

11. Ham and Cheese Bagel Quiches

Breakfast for lunch = a win for my kids. And let’s be real, I rarely get up early enough to make a creative breakfast, so Ham and Cheese Bagel Quiches are a fun lunch idea for us.

12. Copycat Chik-Fil-A Nuggets

Copycat Chik-Fil-A nuggets is a recipe you’ll want to be sure and print, because it’s a frugal alternative to the real deal at a fraction of the drive-thru price!

homemade chicken nuggets-budget friendly lunch

13. Easy Instant Pot Chicken and Noodles

The Instant Pot is becoming my newest beloved kitchen accessory, and this SUPER simple Chicken and Noodles Recipe is fast enough to whip up for a weekday lunch!

14. Best Meatball Subs

Meatball subs are a favorite at our house! You can’t go wrong with gooey mozzarella and meatballs.

15. Tostadas

What I love about Tostadas is that not only are they a budget-friendly lunch option for kids, but you can easily customize them with as few – or as many – of your favorite toppings as you want.

16. Loaded Mashed Potato Cakes

Use up your leftover mashed potatoes, add a few yummy ingredients like bacon and cheese and make these Loaded Mashed Potato Cakes. Definitely a fun alternative to plain baked potatoes!

cheap lunch idea for kids: loaded mashed potato cakes

17. Skillet Chicken Sausage with Apples

If you want a lunch that’s super fast and appeals to kids, Skillet Chicken Sausage with Apples will fit the bill.

18. Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas

We also love quesadillas at our house, and black beans are another low-cost source of protein. Serve these Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas with some sour cream or salsa on the side!

quesadillas -cheap lunch idea for kids

Cheap lunches for kids at home or on the go

Most of these recipes are easiest to serve at home, but with a quality thermos or leak-free container, they could easily translate to school lunch ideas as well!

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