It’s September and that can only mean one thing, the dreaded packed lunch.
I really want my eldest to try the school meals this year, not only because it means I don’t have to worry about giving her a packed lunch (I’m not very organised) but also because they’re free to Infant school kids. Win!
I’m under no Illusion though. We will get through a week and she will come home hungry and tell me that there’s nothing on the menu she likes, and her teacher will suggest a packed lunch.
Oh, and it has to be healthy.
Thinking of healthy and fun pack lunch ideas that don’t kill your weekly shopping budget is a real challenge.
I wish I was one of those parents who had a child who would happily skip into school with a lunch box full of fruit and vegetables. It’s just not going to happen.
According to NHS Choices, a balanced lunch box is:
- Starchy foods like bread, rice, potatoes or pasta
- Protein foods like meat, fish, eggs or beans
- A dairy item, like cheese or yogurt
- Vegetables or salad and a portion of fruit
So based on this, here are some simple, fast and delicious budget lunch ideas to bring new life to the dreaded school lunchbox. Warning: novelty plays a big part here!
Star Ham Sandwich with grapes, cheese chunks, and a banana.
Ingredients: 2 slices of bread 10p, 30g Ham 15p, 50g of grapes 30p, 30g of cheese chunks 20p and a banana 17p.
Cheese Sandwich kebabs, jelly, cucumber slices and banana.
Ingredients: 2 slices of bread 10p, 30g of cheese 20p, Jelly 8p, banana 17p and cucumber slices 10p.
Triple decker crackers with ham and cheese slices, grapes, cucumber spirals and flapjack.
Ingredients: 9 crackers 5p, 30g of cheese 20p, 30g Ham 15p, 50g of grapes 30p, and cucumber slices 10p and flapjack slice 16p.
Pizza toast, cheese and ham cocktail sticks, jelly and banana and cucumber chunks.
Ingredients: 2 slices of bread 10p, 50g of cheese 28p, 30g Ham 15p, cucumber chunks 10p, banana 17p
Cookie cutter cheese sandwich (mines a star), cucumber and grapes on sticks, ham slices and flapjack.
Ingredients: 2 slices of bread 10p, cucumber chunks 10p, 50g of grapes 30p, 30g Ham 15p and flapjack slice 16p.
These lunches are based on one child, but with the shopping list below, there’s no reason why you couldn’t all have the same lunch, minus the shaped bread if you want. That way, all the items would be used, without you having to incorporate them into your meal plan.
Wholemeal loaf 800g 90p
Jelly 11.5g (4 servings) 33p
Wafer Thin Cooked Ham 400g £1.50
Cheese 500g £2.60 52p 100g
Bananas 5pk 87p
Grapes 500g £1.50
Cream Crackers 400g 40p
(Prices based on Asda and are correct at time of publishing.This shopping list is based on four people eating lunch for the week. Two adults and two children.)
- £1 a Head Family Meals: Recipes That Will Keep Your Food Bill in Check
- 5 Ingredient Budget Meals That Will Get You Through a Working Week
- How to Feed a Family of Four for Under £16 a Week
Now, there is a bit of waste, but to counter that, leftover sandwich crusts can be used as fresh breadcrumbs and the leftover ham or cheese can be used for dinners that evening.
The good thing is, none of these are set in stone either. They can all be swapped and changed and fillings amended depending on what the family like or what you can afford that week.
Meal planning for me is the hardest, but the most important part of eating on a budget. It gives you a plan you can use to help you buy food more wisely and stop you staring in the fridge for 5 minutes trying to think what to make for lunch or dinner. This happens more then I would like… So I designed a few menu planners that work best for me and I thought I would share them. Enjoy!
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Here is what I do to plan for a week of lunch box packing:
Think about your menu for the week, what can you use to double in your kid’s lunch? If I’m making pizza, can I make pizza bagels with the left over base and sauce? Is there any Gammon left from Sunday lunch? Then that’s Monday’s filling. Left over eggs? Use them. Everything counts!
Search your kitchen staples, is there anything that you can bung together to help bring the cost down? (For a full list of my recommended kitchen staples, CLICK HERE.)
Buy Multipurpose Fruits and Vegetables
You don’t have to buy 8 different fruits and 7 different veg for 4 or 5 days’ worth of lunch. What does everyone like? Could you swap and change depending on what’s on offer or on the Super Six? (if you shop at Aldi.) Buy only what you’re going to use at home too.
Buy Snacks EVERYONE Enjoys
Don’t. I repeat: Don’t go out and spend twice as much on different snack foods just because one kid likes cheese and one kid doesn’t. Find common ground and use it, even if the combos are a bit weird.
You Don’t Need Any Special Tools
I have seen lots of adorable lunch boxes that are made with tons of different cookie cutters, sandwich presses, plastic character toothpicks and even toothpick moustaches. While they’re so cute, they also cost money!
I use what I have, from cookie cutters to basic
glass cup rims to match sticks. Everything and anything that makes lunch fun!
Have you got any lunch ideas for under £1? Let me know in the comments below.