Kid’s Lunch Boxes on a Budget

Filling the kids lunch boxes with nutritious, affordable goodies can be challenging. Read on for our budget-friendly lunch box suggestions.

As a mum of three, I’ve made hundreds of packed lunches! I’ve discovered that no two kids like the same foods, some are picky eaters and supermarkets are making a fortune out of highly-priced lunch box goodies! 

But don’t despair! There are loads of great ways to fill little bellies with a delicious and balanced lunch without breaking the bank. Read on to find out how I’ve saved a fortune over the years.

Does the school have a packed lunch policy?

Before you start shopping and planning ask for your school’s packed lunch policy. Most schools have one, they include advice on providing a healthy balanced meal. Some will state items that aren’t allowed to be included in a packed lunch, such as products containing nuts due to allergies.  

Is your child eligible for free school meals?

First of all, check with your local council to see if your child is eligible for free school meals. According to GOV.UK “23.8% of pupils are eligible for free school meals, that’s up from 22.5% in 2022 and that represents over 2 million pupils”, your child might be one of the eligible children - so don’t miss out!  

Meal planning is essential

I know this seems like obvious advice, but planning does save you a few quid! There’s nothing worse than having to pop to the corner shop for lunch box items, it’s stressful and expensive. Whether you are going to save leftovers or make sandwiches, make sure you have factored these items into your weekly shopping budget. If any of the items can be made in advance and frozen, get that done before the start of the week.  

Save money on expensive yoghurts

A little girl with dark hair is sat at a table eating a yoghurt with a spoon. She is smiling at the camera.

(Image credit: Getty)

Kids love those little squeezy pouches of yoghurt and although convenient, they’re often loaded with sugar and expensive. Head to the leftovers in the fruit bowl, that last banana can be blended and added to a large pot of natural yoghurt. Invest in reusable pouches and divide your yoghurt into those. Not only is this cheaper, but it also cuts sugar and reduces waste too! 

Make the most of refill shops

Ditch expensive mini boxes of raisins or fruity treats and head to your local refill store. Take along a few jars and fill them with dried fruits, little pretzels, mini rice cakes and more. Pop those in a small container each day! Once again, this saves cash as well as packaging. The chances are many of these snacks are lower in sugar too.  This is a great way to reduce the cost of your weekly groceries in general.

Prevent waste

Is your child a fussy eater? Do they hate the crusts on sandwiches? Well don’t throw those crusts away each time, pop them into a freezer bag and use them for breadcrumbs or croutons at a later date. A few lightly seasoned croutons add flavour to a lunch box or salad, in soup or just a tasty snack!  

Buy whole fruits

A close up shows a person is selecting fresh apples at a market and putting them into the basket.

(Image credit: Getty)

Pre-cut fruit bags and pots are incredibly expensive and the packaging creates waste. Slice your own at home and add them to small airtight containers. Avoid apples going brown by cutting them into 8ths and securing them with a rubber band so that it keeps their shape and stays fresh.  

Make your own sweet treats

Make your sweet treats. Small bags of kid's biscuits and treats are pricey. Cut costs by stocking up on large bags of mini pretzels or mini rice cakes. Melt a small bar of chocolate or chocolate buttons and drizzle or dip! Just remember to keep the leftovers in an airtight container so you have treats for weeks! 

Fill tummies with inexpensive veggies

Make crudités! One of the least inexpensive snacks is fresh veggies cut up into perfect dippers! You can make your dips, like hummus or garlic mayo. You can even make those croutons long and thin like breadsticks - yummy! 

Leftovers are delicious and inexpensive

A woman is in the kitchen, she is filling containers with left over food including vegetables and fruit.

(Image credit: Getty)

Leftover meat from a Sunday roast makes yummy sandwiches and there is often enough for several family lunch boxes. If you make pasta during the week, reserve some for the next day, pasta pots are pricey but not when you make your own. 

Older children might enjoy hot food. If so, invest in a food flask as it can be filled with leftover soups, chilli and stews. It’s a great way to provide a filling meal on a cold day. 

What happens when budgeting tips aren't enough?

As you can see, there are ways to cut costs, but I know that sometimes that's not enough. Lots of families are struggling with the basics, including providing nutritious meals, if this is you, here are some things that you can do: 

  • Speak to your school if you are struggling with providing lunch, some schools can offer help straight away and most can point you in the direction of help or refer you to a food bank. 
  • Contact your local council which can put you in touch with local charities and organisations. 
  • The Independent Food Aid Network may be able to help if a regular food bank referral isn’t possible. 
  • There’s loads of help and information available at FareShare whether you require help or would like to donate.
Sarah-Jane Outten
Editor

Hi, I’m SJ. I’m an editor and content executive here at MyVoucherCodes. I started my journey here as a deals expert which gave me the skills to become a money-saving expert. You can find my tips and recommendations in various publications including The Sun, The Mirror, and The Telegraph.

I gained a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing in 2018, and I’ve put my writing skills into many projects since then. My portfolio at sarahjaneoutten.com includes my work with Cardiff Times, Buzz Magazine and more. 

I write poetry and short stories for pleasure and enjoy getting creative with watercolours and lino printing. I hope that I can merge my love of writing and art into a children's book in the future - watch this space!