Earlier this month, we heard the news that all school children between the ages of five and seven will now be given free school meals. The initiative is set to save families a whopping £437 per year, which is great news for anyone who’s eligible.
As well as saving money, it means fewer families will have to do the packed lunch dash each morning!
But if this initiative doesn’t affect your family, how can you make sure your kids are getting a healthy, nutritious meal without breaking the bank?
1. Use up your leftovers!
If you make too much for dinner one evening, put the leftovers to one side for your kids’ lunchboxes. Eating the same thing two days in a row can be a bit boring, but adding extra ingredients is a cheap way of making them into something completely new!
Leftover meat works brilliantly in sandwiches (Sunday lunch sandwich, anyone?) and food like pasta makes a great alternative. Just add some cheese, ham, tuna or whatever your child enjoys to the pasta to give it a new lease of life. Your kids will hardly notice they’re eating last night’s tea…again!
For more ideas, download the Love Food Hate Waste app (available for Android and iPhone) for some great ways to put the leftovers lounging in your fridge to good use!
2. Get creative (and involve the kids!)
When I was a kid my parents would have us making our own packed lunches each night before school. The table used to be covered with slices of bread and tubs of butter as my brothers and I went about concocting our various delicacies.
The result may not have looked like afternoon tea at the Ritz, but there were plenty of benefits of taking responsibility for our own lunches. And although jam and cheese was a memorable mistake, it at least meant we could experiment and have fun with food! Not only did we waste less food because of it, but it got us thinking about what we were eating.
If you want to teach your kids about nutrition, you could print off a copy of the NHS Live Well Plate, which will tell them all about the different food groups they should include in their lunchbox.
You could even get them involved in buying the food and use it as an opportunity to talk to them about spending and saving. Here are some other 8 other great ways to teach your kids about money.
3. Prepare from frozen
Yep, you read that correctly! Although fresh sandwiches are likely to have the edge over frozen ones, for a time pressed family they can save a huge amount of stress!
You can use frozen bread to make sandwiches in the morning, and by lunchtime the bread will have thawed out. There are loads of fillings you can freeze too, so stick a batch of sandwiches in the freezer at the weekend and you’ll have packed lunches sorted for the week.
However it’s good to bear in mind that they may release water as they defrost, so one trick to stop your sarnies from going soggy is to butter the bread. As the butter has a high fat content, and fat and water don’t mix, it will go some way to protecting your bread from absorbing all the liquid as the fillings defrost.
Spreads like chocolate spread, peanut butter, cheese spreads and even hummus work well in frozen sandwiches. Typical fillings such as cheese and ham can also be frozen, but stay away from ingredients like lettuce, tomato and cucumber.
One of the great things about this idea is that it’s a money-saver as well as a time-saver. As your sandwiches will be made from frozen, you’ll be able to make the most of all the last minute supermarket deals without worrying the food will go off before you can use it!
There are plenty more ideas for frozen sandwiches in this blogpost from A Mama With Ideas.
4. Step away from the sandwiches
We all talk of ‘bread and butter’ as being an essential foodstuff, but after a while it can get a bit samey. It always feels like such a waste when your little darlings bring home half-eaten sandwiches, and if it’s a situation you face regularly it might be a good idea to consider another lunchtime staple.
There are plenty of alternatives to bread which will liven up your child’s lunchbox! I love this idea for pitta pizzas, and wraps can make a great cheap alternative to soggy sandwiches.
As well as filling wraps with all the usual fillings, there are some simple ways of making them more appetising to kids, such as making tortilla pinwheels. Lay them flat, cover them with tomato, cheese, ham or whatever takes your fancy and then pile them up on top of them. Simply roll them into a tube and cut into disks. They’re bite-size, which is great for kids, and they look pretty cool too.
Yummyly.com has loads of tortilla pinwheel recipes to spice up your child’s lunch break!
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