Shop Cheap

Sharing the best prices on groceries and other stuff in the Sacramento region.

August 11, 2010
Helping with the back-to-school lunch blues

It's still summertime on the calendar and outside, but the Back to School blues are in the air. In Folsom, Natomas, Twin Rivers and many other districts up and down the region, school is in session. Besides the idea of getting the kids up in the morning - which is never fun after the lazy days of Summer - it also means time to start packing lunch again. Shop Cheap wants to help with that chore so recipe researcher Sheila Kern got out the lunch box and started preparing new and tasty ways to feed the kids. Some recipes are perfect for school days; others are more appropriate for weekends. Enjoy and happy packing.

Apple Sandwiches with Granola and Peanut Butter


Serves 2


2 small apples, cored and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick rounds

1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)

3 tablespoons peanut or almond butter

2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips

3 tablespoons granola


If you won't be eating these tasty treats right away, start by brushing the apples slices with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.

Spread one side of half of the apple slices with peanut or almond butter then sprinkle with chocolate chips and granola. Top with remaining apple slices, pressing down gently to make the sandwiches. Transfer to napkins or plates and serve.

Sandwich on a Stick





lunch meat

grape tomatoes





Cut up cubes of bread, cheese, and lunch meat (we ordered 1/2-inch-thick slices of ham and turkey at the deli counter).

Slide the cubes onto a skewer with other foods your child likes, such as a grape tomato, a piece of lettuce, a pickle, or an olive.

Set out a side of mayo or mustard for dipping.

Sweet Potato Chips


Makes 4 servings


2 medium sweet potatoes

2 tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper



Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel 2 medium sweet potatoes and slice as thinly as possible. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and spread in a thin layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and paprika. Bake about 20 minutes or until crispy.

Rainbows and Butterflies Pasta Salad


Yield: 4 servings


8 ounces bow tie pasta, preferably whole grain

3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup corn kernels, thawed if frozen

1 cup shelled edamame, thawed if frozen

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

2 medium carrots, shredded (about 1/2 cup)

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)



Cook the pasta as the label directs. Drain and toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil to prevent sticking; let cool.

In a large bowl, toss the cooled pasta with the corn, edamame, bell pepper and carrots. Drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat. Add the parmesan and 1/4 teaspoon salt; toss again and season to taste.

Vegetable Noodle Soup


Yield: 4 servings, about 4 cups


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 rib celery, sliced (about 1 cup)

1 medium carrot, sliced (about 3/4 cup)

1 clove garlic, smashed

1/4 medium onion, about 1/2 cup

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup orzo or other small pasta or egg noodles or broken up spaghetti

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (1 quart box, or 2 cans)

Small handful fresh parsley leaves, basil or dill, chopped (about 2 tablespoons)

1/2 lemon, juiced (about 1 tablespoon)

Freshly ground black pepper

Serving suggestion: Whole-wheat crackers and cheese sticks


Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; add all the vegetables, garlic and onion. Season with the salt, and cook until tender, about 6 minutes. Add the pasta and cook until slightly toasted and golden, about 2 minutes. Add broth, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, covered, until pasta is just tender, about 8 minutes.

Stir in whatever herb suits you (or your young eater) and lemon juice. Season with pepper and additional salt, to taste. Fill thermos, pack in a lunch sack with crackers and cheese sticks and send off to school.

TIP: This soup freezes well, so freeze any leftovers or make a double batch to have plenty on hand. Also, you can stir in some cooked chicken or mini-meatballs, if desired, for another meal.

Cinnamon Snack Mix



4 cups Honey Nut Chex cereal

3 cups vanilla Yogurt Burst Cheerios cereal

2 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal

1 1/2 cup raisins

1 cup pecan halves

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1. Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, mix cereals, raisins and pecans.

2. In 2-cup microwavable measuring cup, microwave butter uncovered on High 30 seconds to 1 minute or until melted; stir in honey, orange peel and cinnamon. Pour over cereal mixture, tossing to coat evenly. Spread evenly in ungreased broiler pan or 15x10x1-inch pan.

3. Bake 11 to 13 minutes or until mixture is glazed, stirring once during bake time. Spread on foil to cool completely, about 30 minutes. Store in tightly covered container.

Popcorn Trail Mix


Serves 8


2 cups popped popcorn (preferably unsalted)

3/4 cup roasted almonds or roasted peanuts (preferably unsalted)

3/4 cups unsweetened dried banana chips

3/4 cup fruit-juice sweetened dried cranberries


Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Divide between 8 small storage containers. Trail mix will keep about 5 days.

Apple Cheese Sandwich with Honey and Walnuts


Makes 2 open-faced sandwich servings


4 slices of your favorite bread

1 thinly-sliced Granny Smith apple

6-8 thin slices of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (not shredded)

1 Tbsp. honey

1/4 cup walnuts


Lay bread slices out side by side on a cutting board. Top each slice of bread with a few apple slices and cheese slices.

Drizzle sandwiches with honey. Top with walnuts. Enjoy!

Turkey Sandwich with Hummus



2 Tbsp. hummus

2 slices good-quality soft bread (white or whole wheat, not a crusty bread)

3 oz. sliced turkey


Spread one tablespoon of hummus on one side of each slice of bread.

Place turkey slices over the hummus on one bread slice.

Top with the other bread slice, hummus-side down. Cut in half.

Crunchy Asian Chicken Salad


Epicurious | July 2008

Kids and adults alike will enjoy this lunch. Store this tasty salad in a wide-mouthed thermal container, use several Bibb or Boston lettuce leaves to wrap around the salad instead of bread, and pack the nuts separately in a little plastic bag for sprinkling. For those who can take the heat, add a splash of Chinese hot oil or hot sesame oil to the salad.



1 1/2 cups finely diced cooked chicken meat (6 ounces, about 1 1/2 breast halves)

6 canned peeled water chestnuts, rinsed and chopped

1 carrot, peeled and shredded

1 small celery rib, finely diced

1/2 cup diced apple, such as Gala or Golden Delicious (about 1/2 apple)


1 tablespoon natural peanut butter or sesame tahini

1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar

3/4 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon minced fresh chives (optional)

1/4 cup roasted soy nuts or coarsely chopped unsalted peanuts

1 teaspoon hot sesame oil (optional)


Combine the chicken, water chestnuts, carrot, celery and apple in a bowl and stir to mix.

Whisk together the peanut butter, vinegar and soy sauce until smooth. Whisk in the mayonnaise and chives, if using, spoon the dressing over the salad, and mix well. Sprinkle with soy nuts just before serving.

Peanut Butter Berry-Wich


Epicurious | July 2008

Yield: Makes 1 serving


2 slices whole-wheat bread or Banana Bread

1 tablespoon natural peanut butter

1 tablespoon softened Neufchatel (reduced-fat) cream cheese

2 medium strawberries, hulled and sliced

1 teaspoon honey


Lay the bread slices on a work surface. Spread the peanut butter on one slice and the cream cheese on the other.

Arrange strawberry slices in an even single layer on top of the peanut butter. Drizzle the honey on the berries and then place the other slice of bread with the cream cheese on top. Cut into halves or quarters.



From EatingWell: Spring 2004

Makes 2 servings


1/2 ounce whole shelled (unpeeled) almonds

1/4 ounce unsalted dry-roasted peanuts

1/4 ounce dried cranberries

1 tablespoon chopped pitted dates

1 1/2 teaspoon chocolate chips


Combine almonds, peanuts, cranberries, dates and chocolate chips in a small bowl.

Pizza Roll-Up


From EatingWell: March/April 2009

Makes 1 serving


1 8-inch whole-wheat flour tortilla

2 tablespoons prepared pizza sauce

12 leaves baby spinach

3 tablespoons shredded part-skim mozzarella


Place tortilla on a plate and spread pizza sauce over it. Top with an even layer of spinach and sprinkle cheese on top. Microwave on High until the cheese is just melted, about 45 seconds. Carefully roll the tortilla up. Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing into pieces, if desired.

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About Shop Cheap

Pam Dinsmore is The Bee's Community Affairs Director. When she's not working, she's shopping. The goal of this blog is to help you save time and money at the grocery store. She's pretty good at it but she can't do it alone. That's where you come in, sharing your tips and secret methods for saving money. You can either respond to the blog or email her at

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