Do it Yourself Meal Kits for Kids

Better Nutrition, Lower Cost, and Less Waste

The commercials for ready-to-go meal kits for kids, make them look like fun and excitement in a box. The reality is a little different. There is no arguing with the fact that these meal kits are convenient, but are you really getting a good value for your money?

Take a look inside the box, not so appetizing. Let’s take a look at what I got for my money.

NEWnutrition facts and ingredients

Ingredients – We’ve all heard that if you can’t pronounce the ingredients, you probably shouldn’t eat it. Take a look at this ingredient list.

Nutrition – Meal kits typically contain far more sodium, saturated fat, and sugar than kids need in a meal. Most include no fruits or vegetables at all. Take a look at this nutrition facts label from a store bought meal kit. The calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium are quite high.

Waste – Imagine the amount of garbage these packages generate in a school cafeteria!

Cost – The average price for meal kits at my store was $2.79. This is actually more expensive than school lunch at most schools and far less nutritious.

sodium chart larger

I decided to challenge myself to come up with some healthy DIY versions of these meal kits that would be easy to prepare and just as fun for kids.

I started with some reusable containers that had dividers like the meal kits’ disposable boxes and an ice pack to keep the food cold. I also set some rules for myself:

  • Create boxes that follow MyPlate guidelines.
  • Use only items that can be packed on Sunday and keep fine until Friday. I’m only packing lunches once!
  • Use only items that require minimal preparation like cutting or chopping.

DIY lunchable

Check out the list below for some foods from each food group that work with my rules.

chart green
My meal kit has much more color, nutrition and appeal than the store bought one and I bought the ingredients for 10 kits like this (assuming two kids with five lunches each) for less than $20.00. That’s less than $2.00 per kit. Assuming kids will purchase milk at school to go with their DIY meal kits; the price is just below the price of the store bought ones.

The National School Lunch Program at your child’s school provides convenient, nutritious meals for a great value, but these ready-to-go DIY meal kits are a good option for kids who prefer to bring their lunch.

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Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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7 thoughts on “Do it Yourself Meal Kits for Kids

  1. I love this article! Great ideas, Christine! I love the cupcake liner! 😉 It’s all about presentation. I think a parents argument would be, “but I know when I buy a lunchable my child eats ALL of it.” I think they would be surprised to see how much of the lunchable is actually eaten. Lunchtimes are short and busy. Children need to have nutrient dense foods as options (whether from home or from school) to get their biggest bang for their buck!!

  2. This is great! When my kids were in elementary school they always wanted me to put the commercial lunchables in their lunch because that’s what other kids had. I would cringe at this and told them as a dietitian there is no way that was going to happen – wish I would have thought of it!

  3. Terrific article! Something we already do, but I want to encourage my other mommy friends to do it as well… 🙂

  4. Hi Terri
    I’m glad you liked the entry! You can find the containers at the grocery store or a discount store like Walmart or Target. I think mine were Ziploc brand, but Glad also makes the divided containers. Enjoy making your own DIY meal kits! They’re fun for adults too 🙂 Christine

  5. Great article! We have a weird situation with my youngest-he has a oral pollen allergy so he reacts to the pollen proteins in fresh fruits and veggies do you have some ideas to help me? He was my awesome fruit and veggie eater until he began having asthma type symptoms-YIKES! That is how we found out of his allergies! We only give him cooked fruits and veggies-which isn’t what I like, but what we have to do.

  6. Hi Tina
    Thanks for following Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Given your unique situation and the risks associated with allergies, I would suggest that you work with a registered dietitian. Do you live here in Iowa? You could check with your pediatrician or local hospital to get connected with a dietitian who has experience in this area. Though we don’t support any one grocery store, many Hy-Vee stores here in Iowa have registered dietitians who work in the store. You can seek their advice whether you shop at the store or not. Good luck and thanks again for following Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

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