How to save serious money on school lunches
School lunches are a little bit like cooking dinner - monotonous as you have to do it every, single day! It's painful.
Both my boys start high school this year so I've been looking forward to the day that they make their own lunch for school.
Now we have tried this caper before - and when I checked the lunch box that they promised contained at least one healthy item, it consisted of a packet of Twisties and a badly made Nutella sandwich.
"Nutella has nuts in it" was apparently the "healthy" school lunch part.
But let's talk about how to save serious money on school lunches.
BUY LARGE AND SAVE
Individual serving-sized anything is always going to cost you more - and it makes more rubbish. Instead, buy large-sized yoghurt, cheese, kabana, biscuits and put them in smaller reusable containers. Reusable containers may cost you in the beginning but they will save a tonne of money over the course of a school year.
I like to prepare a whole week's worth on Sunday night and put them all in the fridge or pantry in a sealed zip-lock container so that on school mornings I can just open it and grab the already dispensed item.
If you have sneaky kids you may need to hide them. Or get a container they can't see through and put the label "broccoli" on the outside - that should keep them safe. Kids are good at sniffing out snacks …
COOK IN BULK
Why cook often when you can cook once - and freeze it. I like to make 100 muffins at a time in loads of different flavours using one bulk cooking recipe. I then freeze them all and grab them as needed. Same with pizza scrolls and biscuits.
Try recipes like these:
● 120 Biscuits Recipe
● Bulk Savoury Muffins (that work out to 17c each!)
● Bulk Bacon and Egg Muffins
FREEZE FOR LATER
Another idea to save even more money on muffins or cakes is to buy a generic brand of cake mix and use it as a base for different flavours. Try adding flavours such as peanut butter, grated apple and cinnamon, or coconut and crushed pineapple.
PACK WHAT THEY LOVE
It's all well and good to pack a supremely healthy lunch for your kids but if they don't eat any of it, what's the point? To prevent waste, work with them to find a balance between what they like and what is healthy.
My boys are fussy on fruit - and the amount of smushed banana that has come home in the bottom of the school bag still haunts me. But they love grapes and, even better, frozen grapes. So, now when grapes are on special I buy up big, give them a wash and pop them in ziplock bags in the freezer.
Not only do they get eaten, but they also help to keep their lunch box cool too. (Note - they are also fabulous in wine and don't water down your prosecco as ice cubes do!)
TASTING PLATE FRIDAYS
By Friday I'm usually starting to run low on a lot of the school lunch supplies. That is when I'm tempted to resort to the tuckshop. But now we have a "Tasting Plate" lunch box. All the little leftovers from the week are cut up to make a little platter.
They love it as they get a variety of foods - and I love it because there is no waste.
Remember, as long as your children are fed and happy, you are doing a great job. Although there is pressure to have a super healthy lunch box every single day - it isn't always doable or suitable for your child. You know them best.
Jody Allen is the founder of mothers' network Stay At Home Mum. Find her at @StayHomeMum on Facebook, @jodyallen.stayathomemum on Instagram, @JodyAllen_SAHM on Twitter
Originally published as How to save serious money on school lunches