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How to save on school dinners

cheap school mealSalad, salad, salad! Dear Daughter has saved £10s over the last fortnight by making her own packed lunch and taking it to school (see photographic evidence).

Admittedly, the mango and pomegranate fruit pot is a bit more premium than the usual apple-choc-biccy combo. In my defence, both were yellow stickered and we don’t often have them. More usually it’s just the pitted dates (smothered in cling-film, again not good environmentally) which are a fabulous substitute sugar hit, I find.

Even with fancy fruit, I’m amazed how much has been saved. Our school has a decent enough canteen where you can buy hot and cold meals using a card which parents top up online with money. I always thought this was a clever idea: you don’t need to give the child cash every day which might be diverted into chocolate or other unsuitable purchases at the corner shop. The disadvantage is that you are paying near shop prices for your lunch.

For example, I’ve just looked at Dear Daughter’s tally for the week before the home salad adventure regime began (you can see a list of your child’s purchases online). She had a £2.35 baguette on the Tuesday, plus a water for 95p and an apple for 55p, a total of £3.85. That was a good day, cost-wise. On the Wednesday she had a main meal for £2.85, an ice tea for £2.20 and a packet of popcorn for £1.30. That’s quite an eyebrow-raising £6.35, especially five days a week. Just for purposes of comparison, it’s £1.80 for a chicken and bacon sandwich and £2.50 for a chicken sub roll at Tesco.

Making your own packed lunch is not completely free. You still have to buy the constituent parts of a sandwich. And it takes more time too, as does filling your own water bottle – although this costs zero. I do try to encourage the kids to do this. At 95p every day, the cost in plastic and money is huge: £185.25 for the average 39 weeks a year of school at £4.75 a week. And that’s just one child.

I always assumed it was social death to bring your own lunch but apparently not. A (top-end) £30 saving a week has made a real contribution to Team Minted’s austerity programme. Now all I need to do is convince Darling Son that cheese and pickle wraps are the way forward.

See here for our SMM guide to saving money on shopping.

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Saturday, 20 April 2019