Tuesday, 11 October 2016

How I Halved the Cost of a School Packed Lunch

Cubed cheese in pot, with title overlayedEveryone begins the school year with the best of intentions. Get up earlier, put clothes out the night before, locate all the shoes in good time, remember to read the newsletter, etc, etc. Not all of them will last the term, but there was one aspect of the school day that I really wanted to change this year. The lunch box. My initial thought was to try to reduce the amount of packaging we were using, but there was also an unexpected benefit too. The amount we spent drastically reduced. Happily, even a slightly fussy eater is tucking in just as enthusiastically as he was before and it really doesn't take much longer to prepare, either.

Firstly, here's a rundown of what he would have before. Each day would consist of; One Cheesestring, or Dairylea Cheesestrip, Babybel, etc. One Fruit String (amount of fruit involved unknown), a sandwich and a two pack of Oreos. I know the jury will probably convene on the subject of the Oreos, but I am of the opinion that those children who have school dinners get a pudding, so why shouldn't the lunch box bunch? The cost for the snacks for the week would be in the region of £4.00. Now, whilst I realise this isn't a fortune, it's money I would rather be saving, as well as a whole lot of packaging no one needs. So, I set about changing our ways, with a lot of help, from these:

Plastic Storage Pots from Pound World

These little pots are available in a pack of eight and are the perfect size to fill a lunch box. As they only cost 12.5p each, it's not the end of the world if one goes missing now and again either. It's surprising how much you can fit into these little pots and if your child has a bigger appetite, just chuck in an extra one! Take cheese. This is 20g of ordinary cheddar cheese. Which costs £2 per 350g in Morrisons, so 20g is 11p. A cheesestring costs 34p and there is just as much fun to be had in little cubes, particularly if you are a fan of Minecraft. 

Knife slicing cheese strips and cubes of cheese
Next, carrots. Or any salad vegetable, really. L is happy with ordinary sticks, but, if you are feeling adventurous and have the time, you can grate it, or use a very small biscuit cutter (and a fair bit of brute force) to make shapes, like the hearts in the middle of this collage. If you are lucky enough to own a spiraliser (I really do recommend these for putting some fun into food!) you can really make something entertaining for the vegetable pot. Or, you can just have sticks. Which taste the same and, let's face it, they're gone in thirty seconds anyway. 

Carrots spiralised and some cut into shapes

Each pot contains about half a good size carrot, which will set you back around 5p. The Fruit Strings  they replaced cost, at best, 20p each and probably contain all manner of undesirable ingredients. The very best part about these little magic, money-saving pots, though, is this... 

Two Oreos in One Pot for a Lunch Box
That's two Oreos, in one pot. Now, call me stingy, but why would I want to spend £1.89 on a box of 10 wrapped 2 packs of Oreos, when a packet of 14 unwrapped ones is regularly half price in supermarkets at 54p? These little boxes have reduced the cost of L's Oreo habit from 19p a day to under 8p a day. Which he thinks is a good reason to eat more of them. Back to money-saving school for him! So far, we have notched up a saving of 50p per day, with an investment of just £1, but that is not the end. My final small investment was this... 

Star Wars sandwich box

This box costs around £4 from Sainsbury's and holds one sandwich, removing the need to ever buy sandwich bags again, It's a revelation. It's not just the cost of sandwich bags that bugs me, they are always the wrong size, and cause me huge amounts of environmental guilt (even though I do recycle!). These might all be small savings, but I think these new options are healthier too, and the savings actually add up to a whopping £100 a year, whilst helping the environment too, bargain! 



  1. Fantastic ideas...All the pre-packaged stuff costs so much.
    My girls have school dinners mostly but I will have to remember this for the days they have packed lunches. I have loads of tubs in the cupboard.

    1. Do you have the lids though? I cleared out my plastic stuff cupboard when I wrote this post and I found loads missing. I think they've gone to live with my odd socks!

  2. These are all great ideas! I am so with you. Grace was buying one jaffa cake at her new school for 60p - the price of a ruddy packet!! I have insisted that she take snacks from home now. Far cheaper.

  3. Brilliant! Well done. Packed lunches are the bane of my life and I'm so lazy, but we have loads of these little tubs (from IKEA) which spill all over the place out of the cupboards and the husband goes mad, but they are fantastic. Mine like chopped grapes rather than a pre-packaged box of raisins, and cheese and crackers. I love the idea of the spiralled carrot. might have to go and get a spiraliser!

  4. wow these are fab ideas. I'm always looking for new packed lunch ideas and keeping the costs down bonus x

  5. I never considered how much packaging goes into a packed lunch. Gosh think of all those meal deals!!

  6. We do snacks from home, too - popcorn is a big winner and cheap as anything.

  7. I make packed lunches for myself and my top tip is...don't forget them! You can make the tastiest wrap / sandwich/ snack in the world but it is no good in the fridge at home! So if I am particularly preoccupied I pack all the non perishable bits the night before and put a key with the sandwich!

  8. Good skills! I'm rubbish with packed lunches and pay for school dinners for my eldest. My middle one has free school meals and the youngest has a packed lunch just once a week.
    I admire your will power with the oreos - the pre packed ones stop me eating them all!!

  9. I've always said no to the boys taking a packed lunch to school because I thought it would be just as expensive as school dinners (£11.50 a week here), but actually when you look at tips and tricks like this it really isn't much at all!

  10. I do similar. We have lovely tubs that I bought from Ethical Superstore - into which go things like grapes, carrot sticks, cucumber, strawberries, blueberries and very occasionally (if there are leftovers from a party or something) a slice of pizza, pasta and sweetcorn, a few crisps, crackers, etc. We currently use If You Care paper sandwich bags (for the sandwiches) and a stainless steel Bobble water bottle too. Apples and satsumas go in loose! :)

  11. Great ideas and I love how you have helped the environment and got healthier alternatives too


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