Two years ago, I wrote about why I sent my children to school with packed lunches which was, in essence (a) because I like to know what they’re eating and (b) I can make a well balanced packed lunch for around half the price of a packed lunch.
Even with rising costs, I can still put together a packed lunch for much less than the cost of a school dinner but it’s not as easy and I have to be very organised with baking on a Sunday night and looking out for deals at the Supermarket so I have been considering school dinners recently to make life a little easier.
I keep going back to my original reasons for deciding on packed lunches though.
With a packed lunch, I know exactly what they’re eating and seeing as our school don’t let them throw anything away, I know exactly what they’re NOT eating too. If they were on school dinners, I wouldn’t know what they’d actually eaten and to be fair, on the rare occasions when either of them has had to have a school meal they haven’t eaten much at all and certainly nothing particularly healthy.
I also know that I can still pack a healthy packed lunch for less than the £2 odd a day that school dinners cost.
Savoury – I still make cheesey pops for Master Frugal or if he does have a sandwich, it’s just a bread bun with jam or peanut butter because he’s not a big sandwich eater. I buy a pack of 12 bread buns for £1.60 ish which makes them 13p each so Master Frugal’s savoury a maximum of 20p. Miss Frugal’s is more expensive as she has egg mayo, tuna or leftover meat from our tea. She also sometimes has Tuna pasta so I would say hers work out to around 50p a day.
Crisps – there’s always special offers on and I can usually get a six pack for £1 or less which makes them around 17p a packet.
Fruit – Packs of apples work out at around 23p per apple and upwards whereas bananas work out from 14p upwards.
Cake / Chocolate bar -I do make cakes on a Sunday night to freeze for the week ahead but more recently, I tend to see if there’s any offers on at the supermarket on chocolatey biscuit bars. I’ve just had a look online now and one supermarket has a pack of eight Breakaways for 77p which means that they’re about 10p each which makes it about the same as my packed lunch cake. I don’t see anything wrong with putting either a cake or a chocolate biscuit in their lunch box – a little of everything in moderation and all that.
Yoghurt – A squeezy yoghurt works out at around 16p each as they come in 6 packs for £1 usually.
Drink – We use double concentrate squash which I stock up on when it’s on offer (which is often) and it works out to no more than 10p per drink.
20p/50p – Savoury
17p – Crisps
23p – Fruit
10p – Something sweet
16p – Yoghurt
10p – Drink
96p / £1.26
What do you think? Are you a packed lunch fan or a school dinner lover?
Just in case you’re still on the fence, I asked some lovely ladies what they thought about the packed lunch vs school dinners decision….
My son starts this September and he will have packed lunches as he is a bit fussy and I don’t want him going hungry and I dont want to waste money if he wont eat anything.
Jenny, Mummy Mishaps
I opt to send Roo to school with a packed lunch for two reasons. Cost, a school dinner costs £2.10 per day and I can make it cheaper. Quantity of food, Roo can be a little fussy and I have no record of what she would have eaten with a school dinner, packed lunches means all rubbish brought home so I know what she has or hasn’t eaten.
Sarah, Boo, Roo and Tigger Too
We started the last school year sending Sausage with packed lunches but allowing her to have school dinners on Friday, which is pizza day. But after a while, we noticed her lunch boxes were coming home with most of the food untouched, so we spoke to her and it turns out she’s just not that keen on packed lunches, so she now has school dinners everyday. Our school only charges £2 a day, so for £10 a week (probably less than we’d spend on things for a packed lunch) she has a choice of hot meals, dessert and a drink, all of which seem fairly healthy. I like the fact that she has something warm.in her belly on cold winter days too.
Jayne, Mum’s the Word
Mine have packed lunches, we tried school meals but the veggie options were so heavily dairy based that we had to give up.
Chris, Thinly Spread
My son tends to have school dinners in the winter and pack up in summer as they sometimes get to have a picnic if the weather is nice. He announced that when he goes back he definitely want to have school dinners…his reason is that year 2s get to serve themselves lol
Clare, Seasider in the City
Having been a dinner lady many moons ago I go for packed lunches – the school policy is that no rubbish is allowed to be thrown away at lunch so I know just what they have – or haven’t eaten! It’s fab to sneak in little notes in to lunchboxes too and make them smile!
Dylan does a mixture – school dinners on my work days when he has cubs aswell. It just saves me time. Plus I am not very adventurous with lunch box ideas. Chloe takes sandwiches and other bits but she also has money in her school account to get the odd treat. Her school is cashless so whatever she buys I can see in the account as it lists everything she buys!
Emma, Emma and 3
Little man has school dinners, his choice and the school do a great system of where they choose over a 3 week timetable which changes every half term and the choice suits him.
Angie, Cakes, Photos, Life
Noah’s going to be having packed lunches, we both tried the dinner his school offers on his intro day and we weren’t impressed at all unfortunately. I’d rather spend a few extra quid a week on packed lunches just so I know he will eat something!
Cas, Mummy never sleeps
We do school dinners – one of the first things our school did when it became an academy was ditch the county school dinners in favour of a private company who do the most amazing dinners. My two come home raving about the choice, the new options on the salad bar and the fact the custard is like ‘real’ (*ahem*) custard like they get at home. They have the ingredients explained to them, cultural needs and allergies are all catered for and they did a fantastic session for parents where we got to taste it all first. Captain Crunch goes into school to promote the meals and if there’s something that isn’t popular they substitute it with something else. Oh, and the only frozen things they use are peas, sweetcorn, green beans (out of season) and curly fries on treat days. They make their own bread and chips.
Jenny, Cheetahs in my shoes
We do packed lunch three days a week and then school dinners on days when we have swimming after school as there isn’t time to fit in dinner otherwise. She also had dinners on a Friday as its pizza Friday. Unfortunately she prefers school dinners to mind but that’s because they always get tasty puddings.
Rebecca, Here come the girls
Free school dinners. As Chris says the veggie meals are either cheese or Quorn based so mine tend to have meat than the veggie choice.
Aly, Plus 2.4