7 Cheap Lunch Ideas for Kids (Even the Picky Eater Ones!)

Sick of riding the struggle bus when it comes to figuring out what to make your kids for lunch that’s not just yummy, but also budget friendly? Here are some of our favorite cheap lunch ideas for kids.

Girls Sitting at the Table
  1. Basil Pesto Pasta

A lovely, herby favorite! Basil pesto sauce is not too expensive when bought in a jar, or you can make your own equivalent at home with some basil and oil. The best part about basil pesto is how many other ingredients goes with it! Chicken, ham, spam, boiled eggs, all taste fantastic, and most veggies fit right in as well!

You can even bulk it out with a little Greek yoghurt or mayonnaise if you want the jar to last a bit longer and it can be enjoyed hot or cold!

  1. Chicken And Sweetcorn Noodle Soup

Ahh, instant noodles! A budget favorite for many, but you can turn it into a full-fledged meal on a budget using less than you’d think. All it takes is some chicken stock, some vegetables and the noodles and you’ve suddenly turned a college student snack into a family meal. 

The way you fancy it up is totally up to you, my favorite veggie of choice would be sweetcorn or mushrooms, but theres room for lots of variety, and you can add leftover chicken from another meal if you have any.

Of course, different stock means different flavors, so with a little beef stock, you could have a tasty beef noodle soup as well! The possibilities are endless!

  1. Classic Tuna Pasta Salad

Canned tuna has long been a staple in many pantries and for good reason; tuna is a very healthy protein, and more importantly, it’s versatile.

One of our favorites are the classic tuna pasta salad.

It’s cooked noodles, mixed with a little mayo (you could easily sub for greek yogurt as well!), a little white vinegar, canned tuna and peas. Salt and pepper to taste.

You can even make ahead. Quick. Easy. Flavorful.

  1. Wraps. Just… Wraps!

You have some salad on a plate, maybe some hummus on the side, and that feels a little basic. Yet, you stick it in a tortilla and fold it up, and suddenly it becomes exciting again. This seems to have been true for me both as a child and as an adult. The same ingredients as a wrap instead of a sandwich make a surprising difference. 

Almost anything that works as a sandwich or a salad can be a wrap, and wraps can have many exciting ingredients, including ham and cheese, bacon and scrambled eggs, chicken Caesar, and super salad wraps with a little dollop of hummus on the tortilla before being loaded with cucumber, carrots and lettuce. Instead of bread, try tortillas for a change – you might be surprised.

  1. Mini Tortilla Pizza Quiches

Speaking of tortillas, here’s a nice little trick you can use to spice lunch time up with them, and if you’re doing them at home, then the little ones could even help out! Layer a cupcake tin with the folded tortillas until they make convenient little cups. Into these cups, pour beaten eggs, cherry tomatoes and any kind of deli meat of your choosing. Bake and enjoy! 

The kids can help choose their own, and the array of fillings you can choose makes this another versatile dish. If you’re not so keen on the ‘quiche’ part of this meal, then you can swap the beaten eggs out for tomato sauce, and fillings then covered in cheese for very tasty mini pizza cups!

  1. Homemade Flatbreads

A couple of these recipes so far have involved some manner of tortilla, but if these are a little pricey in your area, or if you just want something a bit like them but a little thicker, then you could always make your own. This recipe is so simple, with none of the fussing about of making normal bread, and the ability to fry or bake it to perfection – whichever you prefer.

All it needs is flour, water, oil and a little salt to taste. No yeast, no waiting hours for t to rise, none of that. These can not only make the tortillas of other recipes, but can be used in all sorts of other things. 

Fill with beans and cheese for some simple quesadillas, use as tortillas for wraps – but this is yet another dish you can add cheese and tomato sauce to in order to make a delicious pizza without having to deal with the prices of a takeaway.

  1. Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes are a fan favorite around our house.

Not only are they super filling, they don’t cost much to make and they are super fast to put together!

Conclusion

Feeding a family is hard. Feeding them on a budget is harder, but there are ways to make the less expensive ingredients into more exciting dishes and make lunchtime into something worth looking forward to whatever your budget.

The trick is the versatility of the dish, and how many different ways you could use the same core ingredients in new and interesting ways. We’ve gone through seven of our favorite ways to use cheap ingredients, but there are always countless more, especially once you’re in the mindset of thinking outside the lunchbox!

Photo of author

Kristen

Kristen is the founder and content creator at Mom Managing Chaos where she teaches busy moms how to simplify and organize their life and finances. She writes about frugal living, budgeting, productivity and organization.