Frugal Tips for School Lunches

Despite school lunchtimes being the one meal of the day that you do not spend with your children, it can be the most challenging meal of the day for a parent.  First you have to make a decision about whether your child has a lunch provided by the school caterers or if you wish to provide their lunch yourself.  If you decide on the latter, there are further challenges to face.  You must consider how you can make the meal nutritious enough to provide all the nutrients that they need and large enough to sustain them through the day, while at the same time providing a variety of different foods so that they are not bored of eating the same sandwiches every day.  If this was not enough to think about, you also have to consider how to accommodate the needs of your child while remaining within the limited budget that you have.  There are a number of ways in which you can create varied, nutritious lunches without spending a fortune.

Choose where you shop carefully

First of all, where, when and how you shop can make all the difference to keeping within your budget for school lunches.  Shopping on-line for your school lunch ingredients will save you money in a number of different ways.  It will save you expense of petrol, prevent you from buying impulse buys and it will help you to make the most of offers.  Shopping for less more frequently will also help you to spend less as you will find that you will throw less food away that has passed it sell by date.  Try to buy value or own brand products when possible as they usually taste good, it is just the packaging that is of a poorer standard.

Cheap lunch options

Next you need to think about what you include in the packed lunches.  One of the most obvious, popular and easy options for a school lunch is the sandwich.  The first thing to save money on is the bread.  Buy the cheapest brand that you possibly can.  Also, if you tend to have bread that goes moldy before you have used it all, keep the loaf in the freezer to avoid this and get out slices as and when you need them.  Bread defrosts naturally in just a few minutes.  Next, you’ll need to think about how you can make savings on fillings.  Fillings such as egg or tuna can be bulked out by adding mayonnaise or salad cream.  This filling will then last for two days if covered in cling film and stored in the fridge.  To further bulk out tuna, add sweet corn onions or cucumber.  Another way to save money on fillings is to use cold left over meat from the Sunday lunch.  If kept refrigerated, this should be fine for at least two days school lunches. 

Cheap alternatives to sandwiches

Rather than sending your children with sandwiches every day, think of other savory options that you can make cheaply that will fill them up for an afternoon of learning.  Pasta, rice or potato salads are all good, cheap and nutritious options that are easy to make.  Another idea is to use leftover pastry to make mini pies or pasties.  These can easily be stored in the freezer until you need them.  Make further savings by sending these foods in plastic tubs that you have saved from any take-away.

Frugal snacks

Another area in which you can make savings is the snacks that you pack in your children’s lunch box.  If your children enjoy stewed fruit, then buy fruit cheaply that is starting to go soft or is lightly bruised.  Remove any bruised areas, stew in a little water and freeze in portions until it is needed.  Alternatively, look out for bulk packs of dried fruit as these can be cheap to buy.  Send a portion to school with your child everyday.  If you usually send biscuits in their lunch, consider making a batch of your own as sometimes this can be a cheaper option than purchasing shop bought items.  


If you have chosen for your child to have a packed lunch at school and you have a limited budget, then it is important to be as frugal as possible.  By being creative, shopping carefully and making alternatives to sandwiches, your packed lunch can be cheap and nutritious without being boring.