Packed lunches can be a huge money saver for families, if you are creative about what you put in them.
My eldest two children are only a year apart at school and and have alternated between packed lunches and school dinners over the years. However with my youngest now at school the decision was taken that all three would be taking packed lunches, as at a cost of £1.75 a day for each child I was going to be spending £5.25 a day or £26.25 a week on school dinners.
That is a lot of money over the course of a month and given that we always have a home cooked dinner in the evening, it is unnecessary for my kids to have an additional cooked meal and dessert in the middle of the day.
Sandwiches are the mainstay of any pack lunch box and can be varied according to your child's taste. Although I have a die hard cheese sandwich boy in my family, whose idea of variety is to occasionally have a slice of ham with the cheese! I
I never buy packaged items such as Dairy Lea Dunkers, chocolate biscuits / bars or similar. The closest thing to a packaged item I will include is the occasional bag of crisps. I am lucky to have kids who are not mad crisp fans so I don't buy them every week.
I always pack two items of fruit. One for morning break and one for lunch time. As I am a regular baker I will include a baked item such as a cup cake or a square of chocolate brownie or sponge or a scone with jam etc. This satisfys a need for something sweet without having to resort to chocolate biscuits or sweets.
All of kids love home made soup and I recently invested in three Thermos food flasks for them which will keep food warm for up to 7 hours. They have been enjoying soup with their sandwiches and i'll sometimes fill them up with left over spaghetti bolognese or similar meals which can be a welcome change from a sandwich.
Instead of baking i'll often include a little pot of jelly or 'Angel Delight' type mousse which I'll make up the night before, pour into little lidded pots which can be left to set in the fridge.
If your kids like yoghurts another good idea is to freeze them the night before and let them thaw in the lunch box all morning so they stay cooler until lunchtime. 'Frubes' or 'Choobs' are great as they don't require a spoon.
Ice in drinks bottles or freezing juice cartons the night before is also a good way to keep things cool until lunch time.
These are just some of the things I do which save me money and ensure that my kids are eating good, nutritious food at school.
I'm not sure what will happen with eldest son when he goes off to High School next summer. I can only hope i've managed to instill good food habits in him which he remembers when he has the freedom to choose his own lunch.......
I would love to hear if anyone has any other good ideas for livening up packed lunches.