School Dinners vs Packed Lunch

School Dinners vs Packed Lunch

After 4-years of having school dinners, Zee started this term with his first home packed lunch. A move I had resisted up until now for a few reasons:

  • School lunches are free to children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2
  • I like the idea of him having a hot meal in the middle of the day
  • I searched for packed lunch ideas on Pinterest and the results terrified me!
  • I thought it would be a bit of a faff to prepare something varied, nutritional, creative (see above point) AND to his liking every single day

However, he was adamant that he wanted to switch from school dinners to a packed lunch because:

  • The queues for a school lunch are often quite long, which meant he missed out on valuable play time outside with his friends – children with a packed lunch can just sit down, eat and then go out to play
  • Portion size – he was always ravenous when I picked him up at the end of the school day (I suspect he was eating less in his rush to get to the playground)
  • All of his friends had a packed lunch and it “wasn’t fair”

So, I relented and said we could give it a go, but with a few conditions.

My main concern was that I didn’t want his lunch to always be bread based, so I am going to try to mix it up a bit with homemade soups, pasta, and rice salads. I was also quite insistent that he should not expect chocolate, crisps or cake in his lunch box! He pulled a bit of a face at first but quickly accepted my terms before I changed my mind again.

This week he has had tortilla wraps filled with ham/cheese/leftover roast chicken/egg and salad vegetables. I have varied the fruit offering daily with chunks of mango, strawberries, blueberries, satsumas and/or apple. I’ve also chucked in a few extra carrot and cucumber sticks to snack on, a yoghurt and a bottle of water.

So far, he has eaten everything in his lunch box and not rifled through my pockets in search of a snack as soon as he is out of the classroom so I already feel that he is eating more. In addition, I haven’t been giving him bread for breakfast or dinner if he’s having it for lunch, so I do need to find something quick and easy to replace our go-to scrambled eggs on toast after swimming on a Wednesday. The rest of the week, I cook a hot evening meal that we all try to sit down and eat together.

His lunch has taken minimal time to prepare in the morning, but as I chopped the veg and fruit in advance it really was just a case of assembling everything together. I also like that I can see how much he is actually eating – especially the veggies – and that he is not being enticed by the pudding option on the school menu every day.

It’s too early to tell whether a packed lunch is more cost-effective than a school dinner just yet, but this is something that I will have to sit down and work out properly in a few weeks time.

Overall, he seems a lot happier and it’s not really much extra work for me at all. Although there’s always a chance he’ll get bored with my daily food offerings when the novelty of having a packed lunch wears off!



  1. Millie
    September 22, 2017 / 10:18 PM

    I remember when my son asked for packed lunches. He came home first day and said “Mum, don’t cut my sandwiches into triangles tomorrow”! His pals thought it was posh! Weegies, eh? (Glaswegians) ☺️
    PS Make him an omelette instead of eggs on toast.

    • Grenglish
      September 25, 2017 / 8:37 AM

      Oooh omelette is a great idea! Haha, kids can be so funny. Z came home the first day and said one of the girls thought his roast chicken wrap looked disgusting and asked for plain ham instead.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: