I originally posted this a little while ago and although, I don’t usually re-publish old posts I think this one is worth a second look so you can see that children’s packed lunches don’t have to cost the earth. It’s easy to make a filling and healthy packed lunch that your children will enjoy for around half of what you would pay for a school dinner.
I’d strongly recommend a good read through the comments as well as there are some fantastic ideas in there. Feel free to add your own too….
School Dinners seem to have got very expensive lately don’t they?
I think they’re currently £1.95 a day round here which works out to almost £10.00 a week and personally, I think that’s quite a lot to pay every day – especially when you consider I have two children. One of whom is a very fussy eater and the other doesn’t have a big appetite and usually rushes through her dinner as she’s rather be out in the playground.
We decided quite early on that we were going to do packed lunches rather than school dinners and we’ve gradually got the hang of what will and won’t be eaten along with learning how to cut the cost of the packed lunches and we’re absolute experts now so I thought I’d show you how we save on our packed lunches and hopefully, you’ll have some ideas to share with me….
I’ve based all prices around the current prices on the Tesco website as I find that’s the easiest website to get prices from and I wanted to show you how much everything was – you’ll be able to get similar whatever supermarket you shop at.
For juice we use double concentrated squash and make it up in a drinks bottle which works out to around 5p a drink (based on the Tesco double strength orange squash which is £1.50 for 1.5 litres). All children in our school are encouraged to drink water throughout the day and they all have their own water bottle in class that the school fill every morning and wash out on a night.
The Savoury Bit
I know I could get cheaper but I really like the Warburtons ready sliced buns for packed lunches so I buy a pack of 12 at a time and freeze them. We get one out on the night when we make the next day’s lunches and make the sandwiches while the buns are still frozen. They defrost in the fridge overnight and are taste lovely and fresh the next day. They work out at 13p each, unless I manage to get some reduced at the end of the day. We try to vary the fillings we use but even the most expensive one only works out to around 43p including the bun. Our favourite fillings are:
- Cheese = about 30p (Tesco mature cheddar 250g for £1.85)
- Egg Mayo = 20p (Tesco Eggs are 15 for £1.45 but I can’t see if these are Free Range or not on the website, if they’re not I only buy Free Range eggs so it would cost slightly more).
- Chicken/Pork/Beef = No idea on price really as it’s usually a thinnish slice from the leftovers of Sunday Dinner.
- Ham = Usually from a ham joint we’ve cooked for lunches etc. We usually buy a small value joint for around £3.00 to £4.00 so one slice probably costs about 30p.
Master Frugal isn’t really a sandwich person unless it’s just bread and butter so I make him cheesey pops which are really just cheese straws in disguise.
Cheesey Pop (AKA cheese straws but flat and round not long and thin )
- 150g Self raising flour = 6p (Tesco value flour 1.5kg for 52p)
- 1/2 tsp salt = 2p (complete guess but can’t be much)
- 30g margarine = 6p (Stork Margarine 500g for £1.00)
- 75g grated cheese = 56p (Tesco mature cheddar 250g for £1.85)
- 1 egg = 10p (Tesco Eggs 15 for £1.45, same as above, if they’re not free range I’d spend a bit more)
- 2 tablespoons of milk = 10p (another complete guess – probably less)
- Rub the margarine into the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs and then add in the cheese, leaving a handful for later.
- Beat the egg and the milk together and stir all but one tablespoon of the mixture into the cheesey flour and mix it to make a dough.
- Roll the dough out to about 1cm and either cut into strips for grown up cheese straws or use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. You can make about 18 shapes using these quantities.
- Using the rest of the egg mixture, brush each shape with it and sprinkle them with the rest of the cheese.
- Put your shapes on to a greased baking tray and bake in a preheated oven at around 200 c for between 10 and 12 minutes.
I usually manage to get around 18 shapes out of this mixture and I use 3 shapes in one packed lunch which works out at 15p a day.
The Sweet Stuff
Our school are quite strict on what is allowed as far as sweet snacks are concerned – chocolate is a no-no although chocolate biscuit things like Kit Kats etc are allowed. Considering a two fingered KitKat works out to around 21p these days, I prefer to make my own sweet snacks and freeze them in sandwich bags so we just have to take one out of the freezer the night before when we make the packed lunches and it’ll be ready for the next morning.
I use a simple victoria sponge mix to make what we call packed lunch cake:
Ingredients for Packed Lunch Cake
- 150g self raising flour = 6p (Tesco value flour 1.5kg for 52p)
- 150g sugar = 15p (Tate and Lyle Sugar 1kg for 99p)
- 150g softened butter / margarine = 23p (Stork Margarine 500g for £1.00)
- 3 eggs = 30p (Tesco Eggs 15 for £1.45, same as above, if they’re not free range I’d spend a bit more)
- Vanilla essence = 5p ish (I always have some in)
- Icing Sugar = 19p (Silver Spoon £1.89 for 1kg)
- Beat together the margarine and the sugar.
- Add in the 3 eggs and the vanilla essence and and beat until combined.
- Fold in the flour.
- Pour the mixture into a greased baking tin – I used a smaller square one today so my squares look quite chunky but you can use a larger one and make more delicate looking sponge fingers.
- Bake in a preheated oven at around 200 c until your cake is looking golden on top – I’m not going to specify a time as it depends on the size of the cake tins you use and the thickness of the cake. I start my time off at 15 mins and take it from there.
- When the cake is completely cool, mix the icing sugar with some water and ice the top of the cake. The icing sugar mix needs to be not to runny but not too stiff as you want it to spread easily but not run straight off the top.