KOAB Recipe Exchange, Week 6: Frugal & Creative Packed Lunches

Happy Friday, folks. Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you visiting my blog, leaving your comments and sending me your emails? Well, I do! So much! Thank you.

Today’s Kosher on a Budget Recipe Exchange is going to be a little bit different than in past weeks. Instead of focusing on a particular type of food (like soup or pareve dessert or challah), I’m going to open this up as wide as possible to discuss creative and frugal packed lunch ideas.

(Okay, so yes, this theme is completely self-motivated. I’ve only been at this sack lunch thing for two weeks and I’m already burned out.)

I don’t know about you, but every night when I have to pack my oldest son’s lunch, I get a serious case of procrastinationitis. I’ve got a pantry stocked with individual snack packs of pudding, pretzels and other nosh, but coming up with original and filling (my 7 year-old eats like he is 17!) main dishes is a real challenge. There are only so many egg salad sandwiches I can make my kid eat.

I came across some great resources in my quest to get frugally creative, including the following links that I hope you will check out as well:

  • Life as Mom’s Lunchbox Idea Recipe Swap – check out all the link-ups, too
  • This old post from a new-to-me blogger with loads of cute, themed lunches, if you’re into that kind of a thing
  • Some really cute ideas from Culinate; granted, most of them will have to be kosher-ified, but I’m loving the idea of mini quiches in muffin cups

All these clever ideas must have inspired me, because I really thought outside of the box for my son’s lunch today. It all started with 15 apples from our organic CSA and a request for “hot food”. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Apple crisp!

Yes, that’s right, my son got a thermos filled with hot apple crisp today, along with a tupperware of cold vanilla yogurt to serve over it. I’m either the coolest mom out there — or a total weirdo. (Don’t tell me if you think it’s the latter, k?)

My recipe is a bit intuitive – like most of my cooking, so feel free to adjust quantities as you see fit.

Apple Crisp for Lunch (or Dinner, or Breakfast or Even Dessert)


10-15 apples, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 – 1/2 cup white sugar, depending on tartness of apples
1/4 – 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (or more?) whole oats
1/2 stick (or less?) of butter, softened
generous amount of cinnamon


Preheat oven to 375°.

Peel and chunk or slice apples. Since we used apples from our CSA, we had to check closely for crawly things near the core.

Toss apples with lemon juice and white sugar. Dump into a 9×13 Pyrex.

In a bowl, rub together softened butter, whole oats, cinnamon and brown sugar until crumbly. Sprinkle over apple mixture and cook until apples are softened and topping is bubbly, approximately 30-45 minutes.

Serve with generous spoonfuls of organic vanilla yogurt, to alleviate any lingering guilt about packing this for lunch.

7 year old’s review: “It was so good, Ima! All my friends wanted some, but I didn’t want to share any!”

Quick notes on cost: I estimate my total cost for this meal at under $.50. The yogurt was free with a coupon, and the oats were $.75 for the entire container. The apples were a part of our CSA (sunk cost). Cinnamon is not cheap, but a shaker lasts a looooong time. We usually get our brown sugar very reasonably at Costco. And the white sugar was $.70 for 4 lbs with a coupon and sale. The most expensive part of the meal was the butter, which I bought recently at Costco as well.

What are you cooking, assembling or otherwise sending for lunches these days? If you homeschool, tell me what you’re making for your mid-day repast!

Feel free to leave your suggestions and recipes in the comments section.


  1. Definitely cool Mom points for apple crisp. My oldest starts kindergarten next week and we are 1/2 day so no lunches yet.

    One of my daughter’s absolute favorite lunches (and I get cool Mom points for this one too) is a peanut butter quesadilla. Whole Wheat tortilla, smeared with peanut butter, sliced bananas and a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips. SHE LOVES THESE. But I won’t be sending them to school next year because we have a no peanut butter policy.

    And in time for the holidays I just saw a new version of this quesadilla…peanut butter with apple slices and honey. She is going to love that too!

    • That sounds awesome! I know my middle son would love that. Unfortunately his pre-K is also nut-free. I was so relieved when my oldest went to a school that allows peanuts… even if just to be able to send Bamba as a snack on occasion. We are still limited by only being able to bring in dairy lunches, which eliminates (meat) left-overs from the running.

  2. I like the apple crisp idea too! I’ve been trying to figure out how to send a hot sandwich in a thermos – how to cut it to fit and keep from getting soggy seems to be a problem requiring the help of an engineer.

    Meanwhile, our son started his first day of 1st grade today. I made fruit and cheese kabobs (white and yellow cheddar, honeydew and strawberries) wrapped in plastic wrap and tied at each end to look like firecrackers with a Happy First of School tag tied to one (I will not be doing this every day – don’t worry). Not sure if frugal, but sure was fun to make.

    Also, I discovered that buying some inexpensive snack-size bento-style colored containers and a mini “dip” container (Container Store) make everything look tastier and leaves me feeling less sticking a fork in my eye from the monotony that is the lunch-packing process.

    • Love the fruit & cheese kabob idea. That is so awesome! We’ve done dipping lunches, too. Chumus with veggies and pita wedges. Yogurt with fruit and graham crackers. The hot sandwich thing — depending on how early your son eats lunch (our eat at like 11 a.m.!), you could just try double wrapping in tin foil. I did that with piping hot left-over pizza and my 7 yo reported that it wasn’t hot hot, but it was still warm that way.

  3. I find it helpful to plan out their lunches at the same time I plan out our dinner menu for the week. That way, I can plan ahead if I want to send leftovers one day (even making a little extra, if necessary). Also, I can shop for all the necessities and just look at the lunch menu plan the night before in order to pack.

  4. I ma soooo happy my daughter’s school offers hot lunch twice a week! Not frugal, but it means i have to make lunch only once a week. (She’sonly going three days, two of which are hot lunch days)

  5. When I put away dinner from the night before, I put some aside for the kids lunches. Well, at least my 4.5 year old, who eats everything and eats it cold. Then I don’t have to make lunch in the morning.

    • My family eats too much! I almost never have leftovers 🙁 Sometimes I cut them off at 2 helpings, just so I don’t have to make a new lunch.

      • I always make way too much for the purpose. But I also plate everyones food and know how much everyone eats. Tonight, homemade waffles, with eggs and fruit. Tomorrow same in lunches but cheese instead of eggs. Know any good veggies to go with that??

  6. My daughter (6 1/2) really loves hummus sandwiches for lunch. I make it from scratch with dried chickpeas, so it’s a really cheap lunch. When she went to an orthodox preschool and we could only send dairy lunch, she ate it alot. We also sent macaroni and cheese and other pasta dishes. My daughter doesn’t really mind it cold, but a thermos would probably work for warm pasta lunches. Another dairy option is cream cheese and jelly, not the most nutrious, but an alternative to peanut butter and jelly. Hard boiled eggs are another favorite over here. I’ve also been making homemade granola bars which seem to be a great snack for her (we have to send lunch, and a morning and afternoon snack) healthy and filling and pretty inexpensive to make. It’s hard coming up with nutritious and frugal dairy/parve lunches everyday. What about cottage cheese with cut-up carrots/celery or other veggies on the side, not a hot-lunch, but at least something different.

    • @Danielle – My kids also like hummus a lot, but I’m not as good as you about making my own. I make it a few times a year, but most often, I buy the big tub for $5.99 at Costco!

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