Every year at this time, I get lots of emails from you lovely readers asking my advice about whether I think packed lunches are cheaper and better value than school dinners. As you can imagine, this usually prompts me to write a post about packed lunches but last week, when I started to write my annual ‘packed lunches are awesome’ post I realised that the post I published last year covered everything I wanted to say. So rather than
bore you all write it again, I thought I would simply re-share last year’s post today and work on a different kind of awesome packed lunches post (keep an eye out for that one in the next week or so).
I know I’ve said this many times before but I’m a big fan of packed lunches for children.
I understand that packed lunches may not be right for you though – Miss Frugal is actually on school lunches because packed lunches weren’t right for her now she’s in senior school but for me, even just having Master Frugal on packed lunches saves me money every day.
To show you that packed lunches can work out to be great value for money, I thought I’d show you an example although I did want to highlight that this is just a quick packed lunch that I’ve made this morning as an example to give you an idea based on what I have in – it doesn’t look like this every day.
This is a pretty standard packed lunch which includes everything you’d expect a packed lunch to include:
Sandwich – I buy buns usually when they’re reduced at the end of the day and although the price varies I would estimate no more than 10p a bun (usually less than half that if I’m honest though). I slice the buns and pop them in the freezer as I make the sandwiches the night before while the bread is frozen. Fillings vary and I often use leftover ham or chicken from the weekend. I would estimate that the amount of ham I used came to around 30p. This brings the whole sandwich to around 40p but as I say, I often use leftover meat which would cost less – as would fillings like cheese, egg or soft cheese spread.
Packet of crisps – I always buy whatever multipacks of crisps are on and generally would expect to get six packets of crisps for 99p so each bag works out at around 16p per bag. The ones in the picture actually work out to 10p a bag but I don’t buy them all the time so I’m going to stick to the usual 16p for these calculations. I don’t include crisps if I include more than one piece of fruit or veg or if I make a pasta salad instead of a sandwich.
Chocolate biscuit or sweet thing – Again, I buy whatever’s on offer but I usually get something like six for about so 16p again although it’s often less as lots of these things come in 8 packs so you get 8 bars for a pound and not six. Often I make my own packed lunch cake which works out less than this at less than 10p a serving.
Yoghurt – I like the squeezy yogurts as they don’t need a spoon (which always gets lost) and they cost between £1 and £1.50 for 6. I usually buy the supermarkets own brand version of Frubes and they’re usually £1 for six so again it’s around 16p.
Fruit – As a minimum I put in an apple or a banana every day but I often put in an extra piece. I pay no more than a pound for five pieces of fruit so I’m going to say 20p a day for fruit. Sometimes I also add some carrot sticks that I make from the odd leftover carrot in the fridge and other times I might add some cucumber sticks.
Drink – I either use water which both kids enjoy or diluted squash. Water is free and the squash works out at around 10p a serving (less if the juice is bought on special offer as they often are). When I use water I always add some ice cubes to the bottle so it’s cool when they go to drink it.
So, based on a 40p sandwich which is the most I estimate a sandwich would cost, the above packed lunch would cost no more than £1.08 which is half the cost of school dinners here and I think that’s more than enough to feed most children.
If I was to cost the packed lunch based on a sandwich made using leftover gammon, water for a drink, the cheaper crisps and my own cake instead of a shop bought biscuit then it would cost less than 80p a day.
Even if you have a hungry child and add an extra piece of fruit then you’re not looking at much more and you don’t want to overload children at lunch time because apart from anything else, time is quite limited for them to eat so they don’t really get time to eat much more than what I’ve listed.
I have lots of ideas for packed lunches here if you need some more inspiration but one idea that I would highlight, especially hungry children is cold pasta salads for lunch. A handful of leftover pasta, some leftover ham or chicken and a few cherry tomatoes and chopped up cucumber is idea and doesn’t cost much more than a sandwich, it may even be cheaper actually.
What do you think – are you a packed lunch fan or a school dinners fan?
**I’d also like to point out that I don’t stand in he supermarket working out exactly how much something costs, my husband just read this and said it makes me sound like a geek. 😉 The costings are purely for you guys to help you decided whether a packed lunch is cheaper than school dinners**
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Image credits: Shutterstock, JC Studio