It’s back-to-school time after the summer, and after we’ve got all the latest stationery, the Justin Bieber lunchbox, and the new school uniform after a growth spurt, the daily routine of school, home, activities resumes. For many parents, between school runs, after-school activities and homework supervision, school lunches become a trial, as finding cheap yet healthy brainfood for the kids can be tricky when you’re also pushed for time.
[photo by Sam Howzit]
The freezer is your best friend
My mum used to make a stack of sandwiches at the beginning of the week, freeze them and get one out the night before and let it defrost in the lunchbox. Far more time efficient than making a new sandwich each day.
Tupperware containers are essential
They do get lost somewhere between the lunchbox and home, but a load of small plastic containers are the lifeblood of good school lunch planning. You can save money on Tupperware by retaining the plastic containers that many takeaway restaurants use. These are microwave safe and sturdy enough to last a good few school lunches.
Make too much dinner
If you’re cooking anyway, make enough for tomorrow’s lunch too. If you have leftover meat it can be repurposed into a sandwich or a wrap; extra salad or cous cous can be popped into a plastic container to keep fresh.
Buy dry food in bulk
Making your own trail mix is great fun – pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, apricots, sultanas, a few bits of dark chocolate and voila! A nutritious snack that you can make with your kids over the weekend, which will keep for weeks in a sealed container. Even buying a big packet of potato chips is more cost-effective than small, individual packages (although they won’t keep as long).
Involve the kids
If you have a fussy eater, consider involving them in preparation and planning. Making home-made flapjacks or fruit salad doubles as a fun, creative activity for the whole family that can make school lunches more enjoyable. It also equips the kids with basic skills for planning healthy meals for themselves – as they get older they can take on more and more responsibilities in the packed lunch department.
Avoid packaged snacks
They are expensive, small, packed with salt and sugar and do little to sustain concentration across a school day. Even a home-made cupcake or brownie slice as a special treat will be better than a store-bought one – this way you know the exact ingredients, can monitor the amount and avoid extra waste in the form of lots of packaging.
So while school food is a daily chore that can be a hassle, there are ways to reduce the strain on your wallet, involve the kids in decisions about healthy eating and have a good time in the process.
What are your top tips for saving on school snacks?
Vivienne is a blogger and writer for kids crafting company BakerRoss.co.uk