The Way You Pack a Lunch Can Save Even More Money

School is starting in just a few days, and we’re in the midst of back to school shopping. Clothes, backpacks, school supplies — it adds up quickly. Once we’re back into our routine, I’ll be looking for ways to keep regular expenses down — including lunch.

Packing from home is less expensive than a school lunch or an hour out with your co-workers, every time. With a waste free lunch, it can be even more affordable. From the lunchbox to baggies, silverware, and even the food, you can lower your lunch expense by paying attention to how you pack your lunch.

Skip the paper sack and consider plastic lunch totes, a Bento box or—our personal favorite—laptop lunch boxes. Rather than packing an entree in a costly sandwich bag, consider placing it directly on the clean lunch box surface or in a reusable plastic container.

It’s easy to avoid the rest of the disposables too. There is no need to buy paper napkins or plastic forks if you bring them from home. This idea also saves your children precious lunch time in the cafeteria when they can skip heading to the trash can after their meal is complete.

Instead of purchasing individual servings (such as yogurt or applesauce) that are costly and include wasteful packaging, fill reusable containers with the same offerings out of larger packages. Skip the juice box and fill a quality thermos from home. For more information about waste free lunches, visit WasteFreeLunches.org.

A version of this article originally appeared on 8/13/2008.