Thursday 5 January 2023

7 Cost-Effective Ways To Save Money On School Lunches

 * Press release 

With the majority of students returning to school this week after the festive break, many parents will be thinking of the most cost-effective ways to provide nutritious lunches for their children throughout the busy school week. 

As the cost of living crisis continues to stretch households across the country, a lot of families rely on free school meals to ensure their children have access to a nutritious hot meal throughout the day. However, free school lunches are only provided for all 4- to 7-year-olds in England.


This means that parents of older students are having to spend roughly £2.20 per day for their child to have a cooked meal which is becoming increasingly unaffordable for parents struggling to keep up with rising costs and inflation. 


In light of this, the finance experts at NerdWallet have compiled a useful list of ways parents can save money on packed lunches to coincide with the cost of living increases, whilst ensuring the contents remain healthy, fresh, and nutritious:


  1. Batch cook and freeze 


Batch cooking is a great, cost-effective way to ensure children get a nutritious lunch without having to fork out expensive school dinners. Preparing large quantities of healthy meals in advance and freezing the excess ensures you have lunches on hand for the week and saves some money in the long run. 


Meals that are great for batch-cooking at the weekend to be used throughout the following week include cold pasta and rice salads, quiche, homemade chicken nuggets, and fish goujons, frittatas, or Spanish omelettes. 


  1. Leftovers


Using leftovers from meals that children enjoy for their lunches throughout the week will help save time and money on additional lunch ingredients. Try bulking out the initial evening meals with extra veggies to make the dish as cost-effective as possible, and portion out lunches in Tupperware for the fridge as you serve up meals to avoid any family members being tempted by the possibility of a second helping. 


Make sure to use the leftovers within the next day or two to avoid them going to waste, or freeze them to be used at a later date. 


  1. Homemade over shop-bought


Try and make as many meals from scratch at home, in order to avoid over-priced, shop-bought products. For example, making a batch of homemade hummus using a supermarket tin of chickpeas for kids to dip their favourite veggies and breadsticks into is a much more cost-effective way than buying the pre-made supermarket pots. You can also freeze dips to be used at a later date and reduce further waste. 


Also, avoid purchasing pre-made and processed snacks or juice cartons and make healthier options at home. Examples of healthy homemade snacks include fruit skewers, oat-based cookies or biscuits, cheese straws, cheese crackers, egg muffins, and banana bread.


  1. Make use of budget stores


Many budget stores such as B&M and Home Bargains are handy for picking up things like reusable lunch containers and water bottles, which are great value for money and ensure your child's lunch stays fresh and protected. Try and opt for insulated containers that will keep lunches and drinks cool throughout the school day. 


  1. Purchase frozen fruit instead of fresh


Frozen fruit is a much more cost-effective way to ensure your child is getting their five-a-day as it will last a lot longer than fresh fruit. Frozen fruit is also a great way to ensure lunches remain cool throughout the day as by the time lunchtime rolls around, their frozen mango, pineapple or strawberries will be ready to go. 


  1. Make use of supermarket discounts/sales


Stock up on your child’s favourite snacks when a local supermarket has a deal on them. It helps if the snacks can be frozen to avoid waste and they can be used as a treat every once in a while. 


  1. Plan ahead


Make it part of your weekly routine to make a lunchtime meal plan with your kids. Getting them involved in what they will be eating at school can be really engaging and useful. You could let them decide which snacks or fruit they want for the week while you choose the main meal, based on what you’re planning to batch-cook that week.



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