To think that school dinners are better then packed lunch?

(63 Posts)
notnagging Mon 31-Dec-12 14:37:18

I have 4 ds at school. per month I pay £28.50 for the eldest & the other 3 have school dinners on Fridays only. I am always nipping to the shop to get extras & snacking on pack lunch stuff at home. I'm thinking if I put them all on full time school dinners it would ease some stress, make us healthier & help me lose some weight. Although it would cost me an extra £24.60 a week. I think I'd save that on extra shopping runs?

notnagging Mon 31-Dec-12 14:38:48

Also they all have chefs in their school so get really good meals but sounds alot of money!hmm

My son's school has regular 'bring your parents for dinner' events and I'm appalled at the quality of school dinners, they're quite disgusting with a severe lack of vegetables. I'd rather spend £2.10 per day on packed lunch and then at least I know he's getting something half decent to eat.

EuphemiaInExcelsis Mon 31-Dec-12 14:40:36

It would be interesting to do a proper costing!

I wish DD would have school dinners! But then again I have to make myself a packed lunch, so I'm as well doing her one as well.

From what I have seen of many children's packed lunches, school dinners are certainly much healthier!

daisydee43 Mon 31-Dec-12 14:42:07

Definitely! It's so easy to spend £30 each time you pop to the tesco express that you would save a fortune. Packed lunches are not only boring to make but stressful to shop for. School meals have to be healthy now so probably more nutritious than a sandwich and yes I bet you will lose weight.

ShatnersBassoon Mon 31-Dec-12 14:42:20

£28.50 per month sounds like excellent value for money if the food is as good as you say. That isn't to say I think a school dinner is better than a packed lunch.

FestiveElement Mon 31-Dec-12 14:42:57

It's impossible to say whether packed lunches or school dinners are better, that depends entirely on what goes into a packed lunch. I sometimes work school dinner times and children sometimes don't like the school dinners that their parents have put them down for, so they end up with whatever can be scrabbled together for them. I've also seen some appealing packed lunches from parents.

BackforGood Mon 31-Dec-12 14:42:59

Depends on lots of things really.
Mine all have school dinners, and it works for us for lots of reasons - including the fact their dinners are really nice, and they get a proper meal, of their choice (from 3) every day. I suppose there will be folk on here who will tell you they can make packed lunches for a lot less, but the £1.95 (Primary) and £2.10 (Secondary) a day I give my dcs is money well spent, IMO. Also means there are nights when we don't always have a ful "cooked meal" at home, and I'm safe in the knowledged they've had a good feed at school so it's not an issue.

notnagging Mon 31-Dec-12 14:43:34

It's a shame when schools don't get it right but my ds' school even makes their own bread! I know they will get a variety & will fill them up but I don't know if I can justify the expense.

They might be better but my dc refuse to have them and £20 a week is more than the cost of packed lunch (which is v boring but what they will eat).

Bagel (plain or with cheese no butter) or cinnamon & raisin (plain or with butter and jam) - bagels bought on offer then frozen.
Parmesan (both dc)
Two pieces of fruit
A very small biscuit/home made cake

Hardly ever varies (sometimes one will have a ham sandwich or one will have some lidless salami) - if they want something different I will get it. We eat as a family and they have a cooked meal at home every day.

notnagging Mon 31-Dec-12 14:48:17

They usually have a sandwich either ham, ham & cheese, tuna or just cheese. a piece of fruit or fruit swirl, frube, caprisun, cheese string ( when i can afford ) & a snack bar. They all like different things & I normally end up doing it at midnight!

WorraLorraTurkey Mon 31-Dec-12 14:48:32

I don't get your reasoning really.

Surely you'd just buy enough for their lunchboxes at the start of the week and stop eating their food yourself?

DragonMamma Mon 31-Dec-12 14:49:13


Sounds really good value for money. My DD (5) has school dinners 4 days a week and I'd prefer her to have them every day but her best friend has a packed lunch and she wanted to sit with the packed lunch kids now and again.

She's never complained about them and they have a nice variety of things to choose from. Some of the combinations have made me raise an eyebrow - pizza, mash and salad is always one that I cannot get my head around but generally they seem very 'normal' in their offerings and they don't run out of things.

peanutMD Mon 31-Dec-12 14:49:17

My sons school offer free meals to all pupils as an inclusion scheme to avoid bullying of those with dinner tickets etc which used to be a problem.

However my son is very determined to eat only a few foods so we have to give him a packed lunch everyday (and not a particularly healthy one at that sad) ehich obviously costs us more.

Each child is different but I would personally rather he ate a decent hot meal.

notwoo Mon 31-Dec-12 14:49:17

I think it sounds well worth it not to have to make packed lunches!
I always think it's better to have a hot meal at lunch time, especially in the winter.
Give it a go and reassess at Easter?

Bobyan Mon 31-Dec-12 14:49:35

I gave up letting Ds have a packed lunch as he never ate much of it...
I wouldn't say his school dinners are the greatest, but he has tried lots of new dishes...


notnagging Mon 31-Dec-12 14:53:51

I know I shouldn't snack on their stuff but easier said then done. A packet of crisps is too easy a temptation for me.

weegiemum Mon 31-Dec-12 14:55:25

My dc don't like the school dinners and they're not filling. Where we live they're only £1.15 in primary (£2.50 in secondary for my dd1) and they are always starving at home time.

Packed lunch is:

A cheese and/or ham sandwich or wrap or warm pasta or soup in a flask with bread.
Carrot and/or cucumber sticks
Sweet treat like biscuits, cake etc

Milk (plain, strawberry or choc) and water, as well as fruit is available every lunchtime in school.

I'd rather spend the money on something I know will sustain them.

(plus I got nasty food poisoning from school dinners when I was 8 and I've never quite shaken it off in my head!)

blackeyedsusan Mon 31-Dec-12 14:55:40

you can not monitor what they eat when they have school lunch, they could be picking the unhealthy option eaach day. when they have lunch they get a variety of fruit and vegetables, seeds, pulses, wholemeal bread, pasta or pitta breads, filings with calcium, or omega 3 etc. it is a lot cheaper than paying for lunch too.

whistlestopcafe Mon 31-Dec-12 14:57:44

School lunches are easier as it's one less thing to worry about. They are expensive we usually pay about £70 per half term. If ds would eat a normal healthy packed lunch it would be cheaper however when he had packed lunches he always wanted rubbish like pepperami, cheese strings and frube yoghurts so it proved to be quite costly. The school lunch portions are tiny and ds says that they are always running out of vegetables. I cook in the evening as I'm not convinced that the school meals are as good as they are supposed to be.

WorraLorraTurkey Mon 31-Dec-12 14:58:16

Fair enough but paying out for school dinners doesn't solve that problem, it just removes the temptation temporarily so it won't help you to lose weight IYSWIM.

But if the kids like school dinners and you can afford them, why not?

SugarplumMary Mon 31-Dec-12 15:08:47

Do you have the option of trying for a while - maybe last few winter months and seeing if you do actually save the same amount?

My DC primary school doesn’t have options - it’s one meal choice with veg option for registered vegetarians. It sounds healthy and school insists it is but I'm not sure.

I've often thought the same about the stress OP- especially when I'm very tired in winter. I’ve found being disciplined and doing them around tea time instead of leaving them till later or till morning helps.

notnagging Mon 31-Dec-12 15:50:17

I think I'll see for this month as its only 3 weeks and take it from there. I will have a look at the menus although I'm not convinced they stick to them!

Highlander Mon 31-Dec-12 16:38:58

School lunch portions are tiny.

What they offer and what children actually eat are poles apart. Children are never reminded to top up with bread and fruit.

Ilovesunflowers Mon 31-Dec-12 16:47:03

Some school dinners are excellent. The school I used to work at had excellent school dinners. Everything cooked on the premises and was fresh that day. 1 veggie choice and 1 meat. The meat eaters could also choose the vegetarian choice if they preffered it.

A good range of options from week to week: spag bol, jacket potato, curry, vegetable pie, shephards pie, fish, chicken dinner etc. There was a good range of fresh veg too. Puddings were healthy but tasty. I used to have a school dinner with the children most days.

The portions weren't huge but there was always bread and salad too so children had plenty.

12ylnon Mon 31-Dec-12 16:51:23

You should try being veggie. I would say four days out of five, DS's school dinners are 'something-cheese'. Not very varied or healthy for a vegetarian diet. My son will not be having school dinners in primary school.

BackforGood Mon 31-Dec-12 17:03:32

One thing I do know, is that they vary enormously across the country, and, from school to school within an authority.
Highlander - that isn't my dcs' experience at all.

ByTheWay1 Mon 31-Dec-12 17:03:57

I'm a mid day supervisor at our school - my kids eat packed lunch and will never be given the cr*p that is served as school dinners at our school -

it is shipped in in "warm boxes" so starts off fairly luke warm, the "slops" bucket is always full, the food is generally meat in gloop with pasta, veg in gloop with mash, something beige with wedges, meat in gloop with rice, fish and chips.... some variation might mean pizza one week in 3 and hot dog one week in 3 -

there is salad, "bread" (AN insipid little half inch thick slice across a part cooked french stick that doesn't look like they finished cooking it) and plain pasta too - the kids will take the cucumber, that's about it.

Pud is usually something hard and uht cream from a box

oooh and after complaints vegetarians are catered for too - if they like baked potatoes - one day cheese, next day beans, FRIDAY - BOTH cheese and beans!! but one day a week they get the celebrated veg in gloop with mash..... (veg curry and mash anyone? sweet and sour veg with mash? it beggars belief......

It is rather telling that the only kids who will actually eat everything on their plates are those who get free school meals.

Snowkey Mon 31-Dec-12 18:01:39

My dcs gave up school dinner as they were completely tasteless...and from what I saw very poor quality - the roast looked horrible and they hated eating off those moulded plastic trays. Making their lunch is mostly ok - they eat leftovers like stews, curries, chicken legs, falafel, pies etc but are not too keen on sandwiches. I get them to help me choose and make home made cakes and if they won't eat the packed lunch I lovingly make they'll be forced to go back to the horrid school dinners.

ThreeBoostsOneGalaxy Mon 31-Dec-12 18:09:26

Depends on the school. I volunteer at my DCs' school regularly and have bought the school dinner on occasion. The quality is better than what I would make at home. Including the salad bat, I had four portions of fruit/veg. The portions I saw the children getting were not small at all. Three of my children are hearty eaters and aren't hungry when they come home from school, no snack needed. It would be very difficult to make a packed lunch that rivalled it in nutritional content, and I would struggle to find 15 different packed lunch variations.

ThreeBoostsOneGalaxy Mon 31-Dec-12 18:10:56

Just to add: my children are all vegetarian. The main course varies between cheese-based, quorn-based and pulse/bean-based.

EuphemiaInExcelsis Mon 31-Dec-12 18:17:20

I'm very impressed by our local school dinner menu. There's even an interactive version, where you can see the ingredients, cooking instructions and nutritional content!

Bytheway1 what's this meant to mean?

"It is rather telling that the only kids who will actually eat everything on their plates are those who get free school meals."

My ds gets free meals, more often than not eats the lot (his dinner ladies give out stickers) this is NO way reflects on what he's offered at home, porridge 3/4 different fruits as I chop up and make a fruit salad, toast and yogurt for breakfast, then a decent home cooked meal and lots of veg at night, I sincerely hope his dinner ladies aren't judging me because he likes a variety of food and will clear his plate!

5dcsandallthelittlesantahats Mon 31-Dec-12 18:24:42

my older 3 used to have school dinners which was £10 a week each so was about £120 a month for the three of them. I always thought i was doing a good thing giving them a proper meal midday until doing a week long course at the school I actually saw the food. Non of it cooked on site (warmed up only), one meal was one fish finger, a very small bit of brocolli and what looked like enough mash for a six month old. Apart from the fact it wasnt enough it was really bad quality and imo a complete rip off for the money.

Ruprekt Mon 31-Dec-12 18:24:56

I would NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS pay £2.30 per child for school dinners. The menu looks amazing but the reality is different.

My boys have

chicken satay
celery, cucumber, tomatoes, peppers and mushrooms
Fruit bar ie School Bar or Bear Yoyo's
Small treat like a kitkat or party rings

I really think my packed lunch is cheaper and more nutritious than the hideous school dinners.

EuphemiaInExcelsis Mon 31-Dec-12 18:26:13

How does any school get away with providing "hideous" school dinners these days?

TheSecondComing Mon 31-Dec-12 18:27:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

catsmother Mon 31-Dec-12 18:34:11

The dinners at my daughter's school don't look too bad but they aren't as varied as the hot meals I cook at home and would rather she shared family meals with us of an evening most of the time so she gets that variety - and so I don't have to make a hot meal and a cold meal at the same time.

On "special" days like Xmas, Bonfire Night etc the school has themed meals which most of the kids want to take part in so I don't mind spending £2 on that on the odd occasion but I really don't think the usual fare is worth £2 a day and her packed lunch certainly doesn't cost that much with careful planning and buying offers. She always has a little "salad" (usually cucumber and/or tomato and/or olives and/or carrot sticks) plus fruit - and I'm not convinced the school ensures she has that despite what the menu says. Considering my daughter only ever has school meals irregularly, there's been an unacceptable number of times when stuff has run out and she's ended up with a strange mix of things - or a very boring meal which doesn't sound filling. I'd far rather know exactly what she was eating, and was having enough.

ByTheWay1 Mon 31-Dec-12 18:42:11

StateofConfusion what it means is that in our twee middle class area the only kids who eat the food are the ones who have the free school meals and tend to know the value of it - people who haven't got much tend to appreciate what they do get, the kids whose parents pay for the food tend to throw most of it away....

(I speak as one who survived on free school meals and beans or spaghetti hoops on toast for tea )

and school get away with providing hideous dinners because the menu doesn't read - meat in goop with pasta followed by hard stuff in UHT cream, or green unripe banana or an orange -

it reads - diced chicken fillets with broccoli and sweetcorn in a tomato and basil sauce with penne pasta, side dishes of salad and coleslaw, bread always available followed by chocolate crunch and cream, fruit available as an alternative.

At our school the teachers don't eat it, so I'm guessing nothing gets done because they don't see it, we complain from time to time but our voice doesn't get heard - or maybe our opinion is not valued - people pay £2.20 per day without knowing what their kids are actually eating - or sliding into the bin.

amck5700 Mon 31-Dec-12 18:44:16

In the words of my son when he was 5 - "the dinners sound tasty but when you get them they aren't".

Our primary school lunches are cooked off-premises, arrive already half cold and overcooked. Portion size is the same regardless of whether you are a skinny wee 5 year old or a 5' 2", 8 and a half stone 11 year old like my son.

Technically they have a choice but unless you are on first lunch (which the older classes never are) then it's unlikely that you will get what you ordered - you will just get whatever they can cobble together from what is left.

Hence my two have taken packed lunches pretty exclusively.

Eldest is now at High School and does take a school lunch now quite a lot - meals are nicer and there seems to mostly be something to have.......although he is having a few too many hotdogs for my liking.

amck5700 Mon 31-Dec-12 18:50:08

As a comparison, my boys and I were away on a school trip to Italy where they spent a couple of days in the local Italian school.

For their school lunches, the whole school including teachers and head teacher sit down to the same food. The classes sit in their class with their teacher to eat. The teacher knows the kids very well because they stay with the class all the way through primary. They call the teacher by their first name and the teacher happily smokes in front of them which the visiting parents were a bit shock at!

According to my kids the meals were really good - although they did turn their nose up at the spinach and cheese roulade and the fact that my son's piece of chicken still had the foot attached to caused some hilarity - but he did eat it - not the foot bit obviously!

WorraLorraTurkey Mon 31-Dec-12 18:52:19

I think people in general spend far too much time worrying about school dinners.

It's just one meal. If your kids eat breakfast and a decent dinner at night (and I realise some don't so I'm not talking about them) then I wouldn't stress about what they eat in the middle of the day.

It's just a light lunch and most kids can't wait to bolt it down and get out to play.

EuphemiaInExcelsis Mon 31-Dec-12 18:53:06

Having lunch with the kids - shudder! Way to put myself off my food really quickly! grin

MikeLitorisHasChristmasLights Mon 31-Dec-12 19:03:42

My biggest issue with ds having dinners (secondary) is the portiin size. £2.20 gets him a tiny pasta dish, cardboard burger and chips or a stale Sandwich and crisps. He knows it wont be enough for him so he has something at break time before lunch.

With bus fare its costing £5 a day to send him to school. Luckily his dad goes half so its £50 a month each. Dd (primary) costs £1.60 and are much more filling.

notnagging Mon 31-Dec-12 19:09:41

I think it is important worra. To go 6-7 hrs without a decent meal is not good for a 5 year old. It seems to depend on how important it is to the headteacher.

TidyDancer Mon 31-Dec-12 19:18:08

I would never choose to give DS school dinners. It's not the cost at all, it's quality of food. I can provide him with a better meal in a packed lunch than the school will ever do with a hot dinner.

We are also vegetarian and his choice would be cheese or cheese most days.

quoteunquote Mon 31-Dec-12 19:25:09

we use these

I put things like jacket potatoes, pasta, stew,soup,curry anything hot works, use the top for cold or dry, when I make anything at home I make extra, then freeze it in tupperware, so each child just chooses what they want for lunch, very health, and very very cheap.

the school lunches at our school are made with the cheapest ingredients, tiny portions, and greasy, when they have a parents lunch they make an extra effort, but it's still vile.

loads of children at the school my children are at have the insulated tiffin tin or aladdin, they love them.

WorraLorraTurkey Mon 31-Dec-12 19:37:58

Of course it's important but I think some parents worry far too much.

A sandwich, piece of fruit and a drink would see them through to home time.

The people saying school lunches are too small, well it's only supposed to be a light that they can go out to play or do a PE lesson afterwards.

ChristmasIsForPlutocrats Mon 31-Dec-12 22:18:30

DS gets a repeat of last night's supper as his packed lunch, so not much extra.

XBenedict Tue 01-Jan-13 10:35:43

Quote they look brilliant! DD hates school dinners because the portions are so small. Packed lunches are so boring but they look great! Do they keep the meals really warm?

notnagging you may be the lucky one, having chefs to cook at the school. Dinners for my DS's primary are cooked off-site (about 8 miles away) and often arrive pretty much cold.

This is despite the special school on the campus right next door having their own kitchens and chefs, so if this were better organised by the LA, the special school could easily cook the dinners for DS's school, and would at least be warm.

The menus look good, but the reality is not so good, as DS informs me. Small portions, and some meals are "disgusting". DS looked at the bento box linked by quote and has said he still prefers a cold lunch (but it looks good for work for me grin)

Snowkey Tue 01-Jan-13 12:57:47

The school make a packed lunch style option - according to the dcs, that's the worst thing to chose. I don't worry too much about what my dcs eat because they get a good breakfast and a good dinner but I was shocked when I saw how poor their school dinners are, I wouldn't eat them.

quoteunquote Tue 01-Jan-13 13:09:51

They keep the food really warm, hot and steamy, hot than the school dinners according to my children.

When I'm preparing the food, I fill the container with boiling water, which warms it through, then tip the water out just before I put the food in,

we often put jacket potatoes in the bottom and cold fillings in the top, and the child adds them together when they go to eat, they also have a plastic fork spoon,knife thing that they use, all works really well. soup and a sandwich is far nicer than just a cold lunch.

they are often on offer, so much cheaper, ours have paid for themselves over and over, just filled them with a beef stew to take to the beach. off in a min.

I use them on long car journeys very satisfying to have something wholesome instead of the garbage they offer at the services. They pay for themselves very quickly.

Snowkey Tue 01-Jan-13 13:15:25

I use kids thermos food flasks. Buying the smaller one means that you can fill the flask and it stays warm for longer. Lots of the kids bring in curries from home...they are incredibly popular.

Hulababy Tue 01-Jan-13 13:20:17

There is no real answer to this question ime. It very much depends on the packed lunches being given and the quality of the school dinners on offer, and if they can cater for individual children's allergies.

DD's school has a full kitchen and a cook. All meals are cooked fresh daily, with fresh ingredients, and children are given decent sized portions too.

Some school dinners are not very nice at all and some give tiny portions. However some packed lunches I see at my school leave an awful lot to be desired too. Most children's packed lunches at my school are nothing like the packed lunches described by MNetters.

Our school dinners are £1.85 a day, I have three DC, there is no way I could afford to have them on school dinners as a regular event.

Portions are small - the portions are the same for reception class children and Year 6 kids, when in fact their needs are very different.

Often, by the time the last class is called in (they roster the year groups so they are not last two days running), there is only a very strange selection left.

So my lot have a packed lunch - usually pasta or sandwiches or wraps or pittas, salad or fruit and a yoghurt or cheese portion with a drink.

I would love to give them hot food in a thermos, but they are banned at our school - if they are on packed lunches it must be cold food. confused

Cadsuane Tue 01-Jan-13 13:30:41

As a teacher we can have a free school dinner if we do lunch duty. Even free I wouldn't eat most of the food.

Meglet Tue 01-Jan-13 13:34:33

DS has school dinners, I like him to have something warm in his tummy in the middle of the day. I don't have time to cook after work, although they do sometimes have hot food for supper. He has more variety if he has school dinners, I don't do things like burgers or lamb as we're mainly veggie at home.

When both DC's are at school in Sept it's going to cost me £80 a month <<gulp>>, but still easier than fannying about with packed lunch and endless trips to the supermarket.

EuphemiaInExcelsis Tue 01-Jan-13 13:35:05

I'd happily eat the food, but not in the company of the children!

IAmLouisWalsh Tue 01-Jan-13 13:36:48

My rule is school dinners til you are old enough to make your own packed lunch.

I work in a school. Our dinners are very good - perfectly possible to eat healthily. DS1 eats well at his school and DS2 will have no bloody choice!

SizzleSazz Tue 01-Jan-13 13:47:39

Dd's teacher has school dinners every day, so I'm happy for my dc to!

I do think it is more expensive than packed lunches, especially for a 6 and 4 year old

dayshiftdoris Tue 01-Jan-13 14:00:45

Having been in 3 different school (just don't ask) and done a variety of packed lunches full time, hot dinners full time and part time each...

For one child hot dinners are definitely cheaper - two schools we have been at have had excellent hot dinners - one shipped in and one cooked on site by a cook. The shipped in one was actually a company that supplied care homes - excellent value for money, tasted great (parents got a tasting night) and good size portions.
The onsite cook was utilising the County Council scheme - frozen everything and TINY portions but it was a small school and my son has a beautiful smile so often got a bit more (he's also super skinny and the staff hated me so it made them feel better to think they were feeding when I obviously wasn't!)... I was less impressed with what I was getting for my money.

Now get free school meals and the school ONLY offer a packed lunch or a jacket potato option 3 times a week... and that, if you pay for it is more expensive by 5p than the other two schools... disgusting!

Totally irony that I finally qualify for free school meals and I'm in a school that don't offer a decent service!

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