With hot school meals working out at around £10 a week per child it can make sense to send your kids to school with a packed lunch. Many parents prefer this option as they know exactly what their child is eating and can ensure they have a healthy balanced lunch. Making a packed lunch appetising to the kids on a budget can seem hard work. Check out our tips for saving money when making your child’s packed lunches.
Ditch the Manufactured Lunchbox Snacks
One of the biggest expenses in school lunchboxes is the manufactured food aimed specifically at youngsters for their packed lunches. An article in The Telegraph recently stated that:
Manufacturers of ‘lunchbox foods’ – sugary cereal bars, processed cheese snacks – work hard to make you think packed lunch demands totally alien ingredients.
These types of foods usually have little substance, and you are paying a premium for the brightly coloured packages. Instead include your own tasty treats for the kids at a fraction of the price. You could try including:
- A couple of dates.
- A handful of sugar snap peas.
- A small piece of homemade cake.
- Sliced banana.
- A handful of dried fruit such as sultanas and raisins.
Rather than buying small pre-packaged items such as raisins, buy a large bag and split them up into daily portions. You will save a fortune. It is important to give the kids something sweet to eat to keep them interested. A chocolate bar or similar sugary treat could be added to your child’s lunches once a week and isn’t going to do them any harm.
Always go for Homemade
The Daily Mail reported recently that:
Just 1 per cent of packed lunches were found to be as nutritious as school meals
It can feel like an impossible task to send the kids to school with something nutritious to eat. The biggest problem is that most lunch boxes are packed with convenience foods, as families are pushed for time in the morning.
So prepare your child school lunch the night before. Keep your child’s lunch in an airtight plastic container so that the food stays fresh and the sandwiches do not go soggy. Try making home-made cakes and cookies at the weekend and freezing half for the second half of the week.
But let’s face it. You are not going to save any money at all if the food keeps returning uneaten. Making your child’s packed lunch interesting can be as simple as using brightly coloured plastic containers, and adding a variety of foods. Small amounts of different food are more likely to be eaten than a huge, bland container of leftovers. Cut your child’s sandwiches with little cutter shapes to make them more appealing. You will have a little left-over bread but you will find that the kids will leave some anyway!
Instead of buying expensive bottles of ready made juice to pop in your child’s lunch box, buy reusable drink containers and fill them up in the morning with low sugar squash. Instead of buying pre-packaged strips of cheese, just cut them a slice from the block of cheese you no doubt already have in the fridge. Fill little plastic pots with hummus or cream cheese and add sticks of cucumber and carrot for the kids to dip in.
Change Your Shopping Habits
A recent article in on how to save money on your food bill we gave many suggestions on how to save money on your food shopping. One handy tip was to shop around. The article suggests, for instance, that you:
Try using a bargain store such as B&M Bargains as these stores often have great deals on items such as canned food and cereals
By shopping in an evening you could find lunch box items on sale in the reduced section. Reduced bread is great for freezing and a few slices taken out the night before school will be defrosted in the morning ready to make sandwiches. Try to buy things when they are on offer and stock up if it is a long-life item that you use regularly.
Packed lunches can be healthy, nutritious and cost effective. With a few creative ideas you can make a healthy balanced lunch on a budget, even if this means making it the night before. Try to make everything yourself, and avoid expensive pre-packaged foods aimed at children. You are only going to be paying extra for the brightly coloured box!