Frugal Does Not Have To Mean Boring
Some schools have strict lunch box policies which can work in your favour. Branded foods, that certain schools would deem to be junk food, are often the more expensive part of a lunchbox; if these are banned there is no peer pressure for your child to have them. Here are some other tips for packing budget-busting lunchboxes:
Plan in advance
When planning the lunches think about what you already have in the house that can be used. Even consider writing a weekly lunch box meal plan to ensure there is no food that is going to waste. Just Bento has some great templates for writing weekly lunch box plans.
Utilising leftovers from the night before is a great way of cost cutting. Use some of the leftover Sunday roast meat for a sandwich or stir some leftover roasted vegetables into some couscous for a quick and easy salad.
See how to get your kids eating vegetables >>
Do it yourself
Many branded lunchbox favourites are expensive; get around this by making them yourself. I am not saying turn into Delia all of a sudden and make your own bread from scratch but, rather than the popular cheese dippers, decant some cheese spread into a small pot and provide your own breadsticks. The same goes for products like Lunchables: make your own cheese and biscuit kits. Do not buy pre-sliced fruit as it is usually more expensive that unsliced fruit. Pre-cut the apple then, to stop it turning brown, reassemble the apple and wrap it in clingfilm.
Drop a brand
Consider dropping a brand: for example if you regularly buy a branded name of bread consider buying the shop's own. More often than not there is little difference in nutrition, the children do not notice once it is out of the packaging and there can be a significant price difference. If you are unsure just double check the nutritional content of two different branded products; you may be pleasantly surprised. Even if it only saves you £2 a week it all adds up.
Do not buy mini boxes and bags of dried fruit, cheese and nibbles. It is often cheaper to buy a larger bag of the food and decant it. This means you can portion control and it saves you money. You can buy great reusable containers for this purpose.
Make it appetising
We all eat with our eyes. If a food is displayed well we are more likely to eat it. Look at Bento boxes and tiffin boxes for something different. While these boxes may be more expensive to buy, they make lunch planning easier and if your child is more inclined to eat his or her lunch there is less wastage, which in turn saves money. For the younger ones look at Funky Lunch for how to make a lunchtime sandwich seem more appealing.
The Children's Food Trust have put together some superb lunch box menus for both primary and secondary children that are quick to make, cost-effective, cater for veggies and, most importantly, comply with the same strict nutritional standards that are used for school meals.