With children heading back to school this week there comes the added cost of lunchtimes. By carefully planning you can make sure you keep your costs in check and still provide a delicious nutritious lunch.
School lunches v school dinners
For children in Key Stage 1 (that’s reception, year 1 and year 2), school dinners now come for free, making one huge saving for parents. We will know that kids can go to school and get a hot cooked meal (plus pudding). You are able to opt out and make your own packed lunch if you’d prefer but the variety and freshness of dishes on offer make it hard for the kids to resist.
Apply for free school meals
When your children get a little older, you are able to apply for free school meals if you are in receipt of a variety of benefits. This would obviously really help with the cost of food during the day for your little one.
Make your own
The lunch box isn’t complete without other bits and pieces to bulk it out and make sure your children stay full up until it’s time for dinner. However, add ons can get expensive. A granola bar here, a wrapped up bit of cheese and the cost of your weekly lunches hit the roof.
While it’s no doubt really easy to buy a week’s worth of snack bars for a few quid, it’s far cheaper to make your own. Instead why not look at making your own things to make up the lunch box. With a bit of oats, raisins, peanut butter and honey, you can make your own granola style snack bars for a snip of the price. Plus you know exactly what goes into them!
Cook in bulk
Making a sandwich each and every morning can seem like quite a bore. Instead of the same old bread, why not mix things up? If you look to cook up a batch of pasta the night before you’ll find it stretches and lasts much longer. While pasta can get boring after a few days, consider making couscous or rice salads which are just as easy (and cheap) to make.
Be selective on your fresh fruit and veg
When thinking about what goes into your kid’s lunch box fruit is an obvious choice. What you need to think about is food wastage. Although grapes and plums are delicious they don’t have the greatest shelf life. Instead look to add a cheaper bit of fruit that lasts longer as well. Apples, oranges and even carrots (chopped up into slices) last for ages. This will allow you to do a week’s shop and they’ll still be fresh by the end of the week, meaning less food waste.
Swap fresh for tinned
We all know that you need to eat your five a day fruit and vegetables but that doesn’t mean they all need to be fresh. Consider switching from fresh fruit to tinned to reduce the cost of keeping your kids up on their daily count.
Buy brands for less
While I am more than happy to buy the shop’s own label products, there are a few items where I really prefer to spend a few more quid! However, I’d still prefer to know I got the best price for what I’m paying. With that in mind, as well as checking for price reductions before impulse buying, I check cashback apps such as ClickSnap, CheckoutSmart or Shopitize to see what food items are on offer. These apps allow you to buy an item and get either a reduction in the price or 100% back after cashback. It’s well worth checking before you go shopping as it sometimes works out cheaper to buy branded!
It may sound quite obvious but using tin foil or plastic bags is just a waste of money. Not only does it end up going straight to the landfill but costs you more money in the long run. Consider investing in a few tupperware pots to go inside the lunch box. At the end of the day they just need to be washed out and you get to use them time and time again. It may be more of an upfront cost but you will save money soon enough.