School Lunches E2

Even the baby loves it!

One of the problems with school lunches over the last decade or so has been the steady uptick in sugar and refined carbohydrates while the amount of protein and fat were drastically reduced. The fear of fat has impacted our children in negative ways and given sugar a free pass in all of our foods. We must attempt to feed our kids healthy fats and proteins while limiting the sugar. Not always possible on a budget. Do the best you can and let go of the guilt for the rest.

For today’s lunch we were given a cinnamon roll for breakfast and breaded chicken nuggets for lunch. While a cinnamon roll might sound like a fun treat for a breakfast but it’s too much sugar without any protiein to provide ballence and curb the sugar crash that is bound to happen. I don’t know about you but in my house having a boat load of kids all hopped up on sugar trying to focus on distance learning is my absolute nightmare! Add to that nightmare the impending lethargic crash and lack of motivation to even leave the couch let alone get outside for fresh air. A solid start in the morning is necessary to keep the kids going and keep mama sane. All it takes is a few modifications and some outta the box thinking.

What we were given: Apple, Cinnamon Roll, Orange, Peas, 5 Chicken Nuggets, Wheat Dinner Roll, 1 Chocolate and 1 White milk (both 1%)

What we plan to make:

  • Breakfast: Baked cinnamon roll casserole (Using the apple, cinnamon roll, Wheat Rolls and 1 white milk)
  • Dinner: Chicken Parmesan (using the Chicken nuggets)

Cinnamon Roll Apple Bake


3 Cinnamon Rolls

3 Wheat Rolls

4 eggs

1/2 cup milk (half the school carton)

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup brown sugar

3 Apples

1 Tbs Cinnamon

Cut rolls in half and lightly butter/ sprinkle with cinnamon.

Cut rolls and cinnamon rolls into bite sized pieces then sprinkle into a baking dish… thoroughly mixed.

Wisk eggs and milk together then pour over rolls.

Peel and chop apples then mix with cinnamon and sugar.

Spread apple mixture over the rolls evenly.

Bake at 350F for 20 min making sure to check that the center is fully cooked.

Cost: Eggs .50, Butter .50, Sugar and Cinnamon .50 Total $1.50

Chicken Parmesan


15 Chicken Nuggets (the amount given for 3 lunches)

1/2 Bell Pepper, diced

1/2 Onion, diced

5 cloves garlic (more or less based on your family’s tastes)

1 quart Pasta Sauce

1 lb Penne Noodles (or any dry pasta you have)

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese plus some for topping the chicken.

(I use low cost in the sauce and higher quality as topping)

Sauté onions and peppers until soft, then add chopped garlic.

Place chicken in a baking dish deep enough to allow about a cup of pasta sauce on top of the chicken.

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. While baking, Boil water and cook pasta.

Add pasta sauce to veggies and bring to boil. drop temp and simmer, stirring occasionally.

Top chicken with 1 cup sauce and add grated parmesan… bake for 5 to 10 additional minutes.

Slice chicken into thin strips.

Add 1/2 cup parmesan to sauce and stir.

Top cooked pasta with sauce and sliced chicken.

Cost: Pasta $1, Sauce $1, peppers, onions, garlic .75, cheese $1 Total: 3.75


School Lunches E1

Let me first say that I totally understand whatever has brought you to utilize school lunches. Times right now are hard and being able to save even a few dollars from each day’s food budget can and does add up quickly. There is never a reason to feel shame or embarrassment with picking up your free lunches…. Our taxes are intended to help in exactly this type of way. We all pay Uncle Sam at some point and few of us ever see the type of benefit that receiving free lunches can offer. Use what help is available to better the quality of life for your family.

On to the recipes and break down…. For today we received 3 lunches for our 3 school aged children. we actually have 5 children but 2 are not school aged and so we do not get them lunches. that brings our total up to 7 people… 7 hungry mouths in a time of economic uncertainty beyond what had been felt since before the last 3 were added to our family. We need to stretch every cent and waste none of the crumbs.

Our lunches included 2 milks per child (1 chocolate and one white…. both 1%), what was called a “cheese omelette” but was actually a powdered egg round with cheese goo in the middle, a sausage patty, a taco “sloppy joe” … taco meat and cheese in a container plus a hamburger bun, carrots, and diced peaches. That is not a lot of food for even the child it is intended to feed, let alone the lack of flavor. Before sprucing these meals up, my children often drank the milk and threw the rest away. We can’t have that right now. We must make the best of what we have and so those ingredients need to be used and adapted. What I ended up making was filling and hearty. I added a few low cost ingredients that totaled $6.80 and we had leftovers.

Breakfast: Baked oatmeal with spiced peaches. Using 1 carton of milk and the 3 tubs of peaches.

Lunch: Breakfast hash. Using the egg rounds and sausage patties.

Dinner: Taco Soup. Using the taco meat, hamburger buns, and carrots.

Baked Oatmeal with Spiced Peaches


3 cups rolled oats

1 Tbs cinnamon

1 1/2 cup diced canned peaches (3 school provided tubs)

2 eggs

1 Tbs vanilla

1 cup milk (1 school carton)

syrup if desired for topping

Mix oats, cinnamon, and brown sugar in a bowl.

Combine peaches, eggs, vanilla, and milk into a separate bowl.

Mix wet ingredients into dry and thoroughly stir together.

Once mixed, pour into a 7×11 baking dish or whatever size you have (smaller will take

more time bake, larger will take less).

Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 min. Serve warm with optional syrup drizzle.

Cost: Sugar and Spices 1.00, Eggs .25, Oats .50 Total $2.00

Breakfast/Lunch Hash


  • 4 small potatoes
  • 1/2 med onion, diced
  • 1/2 med bell pepper, diced
  • 7 eggs (3 egg rounds from school plus 4 normal eggs)
  • 3 sausage patties
  • 1/2 cup (1/2 school milk carton)

Fry diced potatoes in skillet with enough oil to coat the pan.

Sauté onions and peppers, once soft add chopped sausage. continue cooking.

Beat eggs and add milk, salt, garlic, and pepper based of family preference. Add to onion mixture.

Cook thoroughly and combine with fried potatoes. Serve with salsa, toast, in a tortilla, or as is.

Cost: Eggs .50, Potatoes .50, Onion and Pepper .50, Spices .25 …. Total $1.75

Taco Soup


  • 1 cup taco meat (3 portions from school)
  • 1/2 large can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 quart of beef stock/broth
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 3 hamburger buns
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • Taco seasoning

Coat the bottom of a large pot with oil and heat.

Chop all veggies and add to the pot. Sauté then add crushed tomatoes and beans.

Stir in taco seasoning to taste then add the taco meat and broth.

Bring to boil then reduce to a simmer and let cook for 30 min… stirring occasionally.

As soup finishes, heat butter and additional taco seasoning in microwave until melted.

Brush open buns with melted butter and seasoning then top with mozzarella.

Broil until cheese is melted, slice and serve alongside soup.

Cost: Butter .75, Tomatoes .50, Beans .80, Seasoning .50, Broth .75 Total $3.30

The total cost for my whole family of 7 (plus a dinner guest) was $6.80 or .97 each for the whole day!


The People Behind the Bowls

I have spent most of my life well below the poverty line and have had to make every cent pull it’s weight. As a child I worked in the school cafeteria to earn my lunch for free and have the opportunity to bring extra food home to my family. I lived in a single parent home and my dad suffered from depression likely due to the hardships we faced and the struggle it was to keep food on the table and warmth in the house. Because of my upbringing I learned very early what the true value of a dollar was, to this day I see money not as what it is but what it could buy in hard times (ex $4 doesn’t seem like much but 8 boxes of macaroni and cheese could feed the kids for a couple days if ever it was truly down to that). I also learned work ethic and that even a child can positively impact the success of their family. I wouldn’t trade the hard times for good but I do work hard to provide for the next generation and use the resources I have to live the best life possible.

Mr Dirt Cheap and I have 5 children. We have also fostered 17 children during our marriage although we are not currently fostering. Our oldest son is 16 and off working most days. He has the type of spirit that is never satisfied and always confident in himself. That can be a blessing and a hardship. I imagine he will move out in the next year or so but until then he eats both of us adults under the table and is picky to boot. Our only daughter is shy and introverted. She is the type of picky that would choose not to eat all day if the only options were things she disliked. She is creative and tough and all animals love her. Our next son is only ours because his biologic mom shares him with us. He was our foster as a baby but his mama worked so hard and totally changed her life to get him back. She has had him full time for over 5 years at this point but has allowed us to act as a second set of parents. He is over a lot and is a really big eater…. not picky at all though. Our pre-k son is smart and well spoken. He loves to learn and will likely be our intellectually gifted child. I have no doubt that he will know more than I do before he is grown. He says he only likes chips and happy meals….. can’t win em all. The baby … the last baby. He is fun and smiley. He snuggles well and is a perfect end cap…. glued at the hip to his daddy since he was born during lockdown and daddy has had to work from home his entire life. Mr. Dirt Cheap has never been able to spend this kind of time with one of our babies and it has been amazing to watch him soak it all up.

Mr. Dirt cheap and I are trying to run this site and the supporting youtube channel together with the hopes of helping other families trim their food budgets enough to make real impacts on their overall budget and thus their quality of life. We know what the process of moving up through the levels of poverty look like and we know that the food budget often has the only wiggle room. I will share everything I have learned and am open to any questions or comments. Happy to help any way I can!

Snowanna AKA Mrs. Dirt Cheap

School Lunches

School Lunches

When Covid hit and all our kids came home to distance learn, the school system decided to create “Grab and Go” sack lunches. These lunches include a breakfast, chocolate milk, white milk, lunch entrée, a fruit, and a vegetable. These lunches are similar to those you can get during the summer and are usually too small for older kids and unappetizing to all kids. We appreciate the food but had to find a way to make the free meals more palatable.

I set out to not only make the meals taste better but to be more filling for my older children and to also feed the adults and non school aged children. With these recipes and videos I will show you how to take school lunches (or the very low cost ingredients the public school includes in said lunches) to feed your whole family for less than a dollar a day per person.

The Rules

All foods in a lunch are used throughout the week. Food waste is rampant and I won’t add to that.

I will add low cost extras to the meals to add nutritional value, increase yield, and appeal to our children’s palettes.

$1 per person per day. I round up from the prices I spend or use current prices for foods I have grown myself.

Grace. I am trying. My kids are trying. The whole world is trying and we need to give a little grace in all things and to everyone.

With our nation and the world heading towards an economically difficult time and our finances stretched to the limits, I understand that the person who prepares the food is often the one asked to trim the budget. I get the need to scrape as much from the category of food as possible so that other bills get paid. I hope to provide resources and recipes that will help you feed your family for as little money as possible while still keeping them full and healthy. The next post will be Episode 1 of these meals and you wont want to miss the transformation from what we were given to what we actually ate!