Pack in the packed lunches….for a while, at least!

So, it’s that time of year again – when parents everywhere breathe a sigh of relief. No more packed lunches to make for at least six whole weeks (unless you’ve got to supply them for holiday clubs, but that’s another story)!

No more breakfast-time realisations that your other half ate the last of the ham from the fridge, leaving you nothing to put in today’s sandwiches….no more screaming fits in the supermarket as you try to get the kids past the latest special offer on lunchbox-sized mini chocolate bars…no more fishing the squished banana out the bottom of their school bag – for a little while, at least!

And no wonder you’re fed up. Making daily packed lunches that can rival healthy school meal menus takes time and effort – we’ve estimated that it’s the equivalent of around eight whole days in a school year. And that’s before you count shopping time! What could you do with eight extra days? My list is endless, and it certainly doesn’t involve racking my brains for what to put in lunchboxes first thing in the morning or last thing at night.

So here’s a bit of food for thought for the holidays. Chances are your school’s sent home a menu for school meals in September. Take a look; see if they’re offering you a chance to go in and try a meal in the first few weeks of term, or if they’ve got any special offers on prices to start the new school year. If so, think about giving them a go – even just for a few days at first.

You might be giving your child a packed lunch because they’re fussy about what they eat. But lots of parents actually tell us that their children try foods in school that they flatly refuse to eat at home and midday supervisors will keep an eye on them – so it’s always worth a go.

If you think you’ll struggle with the costs, don’t forget to check whether you qualify for free school meals, or if your child’s school’s running any special deals that might help.

Packed lunches may seem to be cheaper than school meals, but healthy lunchboxes cost more than you think once you include the value of your time to shop, prepare and clear up.

Your time is priceless – so if you’re normally a slave to daily packed lunches, enjoy the break!

Natalie’s our Regional Manager for Let’s Get Cooking in the South West. Email Natalie

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2 responses to “Pack in the packed lunches….for a while, at least!

  1. I have recently read your article on pack in the packed lunches. Well for the first time I am reluctantly starting that exact regime every day, but hopefully I am more organised than looking in the fridge the morning of sorting the lunch box out! My dilemma is my daughter is over weight and although her school does offer healthy meals they also offer seconds! So you can imagine my dilemma after asking for them not to offer seconds to her so she gets to understand portion size ect and am greeted with well we feel mean not offering seconds to her and to others!! My answer is why offer seconds at all! We have all been educated by Jamie Oliver and others on the problems of obesity so why do this to me it seems ludicrous. Well after several attempts at getting this sorted and with no success. I have decided to take what my daughter eats in to my own hands. But having increased her appetite my other problem is does she take seconds from others at lunchtime of her own accord now on top of her packed lunch. Lunchtimes are not properly supervised so who would know if an extra flapjack or three went to the wrong person. I feel the habit has been endorsed by the school and now I am trying desperatly to undo this with my daughter. If you have any tips or sugesstions I would be most grateful.

    • Hello! Thank you for your comment.

      There aren’t actually any rules about seconds that schools have to follow, and it’s up to every school and caterer how they manage this – some schools don’t allow seconds and others choose to provide them. But we understand your concerns, particularly if it is extra helpings of cakes and puddings being offered, and it does sound like there’s room for improvement where lunchtime supervision is concerned. For children that do have bigger appetites, the dining room staff could encourage them to help themselves to portions of salad from the salad bar if there is one, and to take some of the bread that schools should be providing as an extra to the meal every day – filling up on starchy foods like bread is a much better option than choosing second helpings of puddings.

      We encourage parents to talk to the head and the caterers as much as possible to make sure that children are getting the right types and amounts of food they need, in a nice environment. You could also use a questionnaire to find out the views of other parents, like this one: http://www.schoolfoodtrust.org.uk/partners/resources/example-questionnaires. Have you talked to other parents about your dilemma? You may find some of them share your concerns. Getting together as a group to tackle problems with supervision and portion sizes can be really effective (strength in numbers!). For inspiration, take a look out this video about what one group of parents achieved http://bit.ly/OgpgQ1 !

      Finally, we are always happy to talk to schools and give them advice. Drop an email to us at info@childrensfoodtrust.org.uk and we’ll see if we can help further.

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