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School Dinners or Packed Lunch?

(29 Posts)
FlubbaBubba Mon 17-Oct-11 07:25:13

DD1 has just started reception - half days until December. Come January we need to decide whether she has school lunch or a packed lunch.

We are on a tight budget atm, and the school lunch costs over £2 a day, which is an extra possible £40 a month (which we don't have and IMO we'd hardly notice her not being there in terms of food - we'll still buy the same size loaf of bread/packs of ham etc). At home we eat 'cold' lunches anyway (sandwiches/cracker breads etc) so to us it makes no sense not to continue with these kind of lunches.
My parents are insistent that she'll need a 'good, hot meal' inside of her, and while not oblivious to our financial restrictions, think she should have hot meals while at school. They've even offered to pay for half!

Now, here's my question: do you think 'hot meals' are necessary for little people - especially in the winter months.

I am loathe to accept money from my parents for this (my mum already pays for the girls' ballet lessons). We also have three children, so this payment would likely be needed for the next seven billion years hmm. I was planning on continuing what we do at home for her lunches and don't see it as a big problem, but my parents are making me feel like a bad mother for suggesting packed lunches.


littleducks Mon 17-Oct-11 07:29:39

Ask your parents to buy her a kids thermos food flask, then send her with packed lunches wink

I used to get DD school dinners but it soon became apparent the did was crap sad. So I send food in a flask on cold days and a variety of sandwiches/salads/coldpizza on the other days.

littleducks Mon 17-Oct-11 07:30:12

The food was crap

Blooming phone

hayleysd Mon 17-Oct-11 07:32:14

Have you checked if you can get free school lunches can't remember which benefits/tax credits qualify.

My ds does a mixture but he eats all his school lunches but won't try anything different at home.

FlubbaBubba Mon 17-Oct-11 07:46:32

Good idea about the flask then I can do a soup or summat warming on colder days.

I didn't know you could do a mixture of packed and school lunches - will check that out. We could probably stretch to a couple of days per week, then wouldn't have to borrow off my parents and would put my parents' mind at rest and if she doesn't eat them/they're crap, we could go back to packed lunches.

branson Mon 17-Oct-11 07:53:09

I don't think they need a hot meal but I quite often send a hot meal in a flask, usually pasta. I have 3 dcs too and there is no way I could afford £120 a month for school dinners (or even £60 if I was paying half). Loads of people have packed lunches and unless you are sending her with stuff you know she hates there is no reason why its not a good meal.

parttimedomesticgoddess Mon 17-Oct-11 08:08:42

It's a good idea to check out how they manage the children for lunch too - at my DD school the 'lunchboxes' and the hot dinners each sit with each other, so they may want to sit with their friends (as not having the same kind of lunch means they have less playing time together during lunch). I do a mixture, even though I agree it seems a lot of money for a hot dinner - I also get really bored making packed lunches...

CecilyP Mon 17-Oct-11 09:17:52

School dinners date from a time when the majority of people had their main meal at lunchtime. That is no longer the case. I assume that your DD will have a cooked meal in the evening. At present she has a cold lunch and there is no reason why going to school should really make any difference to that.

mum1974tobean Mon 17-Oct-11 10:19:25

I do a mixture of cooked and packed lunch. tbh it doesn't seem to make a difference to DS he is still hungry either way when he gets home.

def check about free school dinners.

I would do dinners every day if they were cheaper as i think it is good socially and for their range of food, this has helped ds to try new food etc. but saying that he loves having a packed lunch smile I just get bored trying to think of different things to put in.

piprabbit Mon 17-Oct-11 10:22:55

My DD has a mix of school dinners and packed lunches. That way she gets to sit with all her friends over the course of a week.

I do insist that she always has school dinner on a day when she has after school activities - keeps her well-fueled and means I don't feel under pressure to provide a hot evening meal for her and her little brother when it is getting a bit too late to start cooking.

tjacksonpfc Mon 17-Oct-11 10:54:59

Tell your parents that kids don't need a hot lunch when they are at school at all as long as they are having a hot meal at home in the evening. My dcs school don't even provided hot meals everyone has packed lunches and it doesn't do them any harm.

FlubbaBubba Mon 17-Oct-11 10:57:26

Thank you all, lots of food (grin grin) for thought smile

Groovee Mon 17-Oct-11 12:57:07

My daughter chooses to go every day for school lunches now, where as when she was in P1 she did packed lunches every day. My son does 1 full week at school lunches then odd days on the other 2 weeks as we have a 3 week rolling menu. He likes his mixture of lunches. The school are happy for this to happen. We pay on a Monday for the week but I know other schools ask for the money upfront for the term.

dearheart Mon 17-Oct-11 14:25:46

Mine usually have packed lunch, but I do hot pasta in flask in the winter. Did try soup but dd said it was too messy. They have occasional school lunches - definitely costs a lot more.

I arrive with more food at pick-up time - apple, crackers and sometimes treats. It is fine.

Haberdashery Mon 17-Oct-11 14:27:32

What do you think your child is likely to eat more of? If she's used to a cold lunch (mine is too and has packed lunches) she might actually be taking in more calories if she's getting something she likes and is expecting, IYSWIM. I tried to buy a flask so she could have soup and bread/sandwich sometimes but her hands are too small to manage anything I've found so far so she's eating sandwiches, yoghurt, cold sausages, flapjack, chicken drumsticks etc and actually she's eating more than she ever does at home! I think you can vary packed lunches quite a bit so they are not boring, if that's a concern.

Flubba Mon 17-Oct-11 14:44:29

Quantity of food eaten scoffed is not a problem with my little pigs DCs grin blush, so think I'll start with the packed lunches as planned and will ask my mum if she'd like to buy her a lovely flask for soups and the like which I may or may not use and then I'll see how it goes.

We all eat a hot meal together in the evenings, and a few times I've tried to give them a hot meal at lunchtime and it's thrown them tbh! confused

sunnyday123 Mon 17-Oct-11 17:48:53

dd school didnt have a kitchen for years and so all 450 kids had a packed lunch everyday - no big deal, just have to get adventurous! flasks etc are good ideas but only in older kids and the health and safety police wouldnt let out infants have them!

dikkertjedap Mon 17-Oct-11 18:17:51

Your school may be an exception, but I still think that hot school dinners are generally nutritionally inferior to a healthy packed lunch. I do agree that one hot meal a day is a good thing, but I suppose that you cook in the evening?

I would send her with a healthy packed lunch, in this way you can also monitor what she eats. With hot school dinners you never know, it is not necessarily in the school's interest to tell you as they earn money on the hot school dinners. Also, the menu may be delicious on paper, but the way it is actually cooked and served may be an entirely different story. Unfortunately this is definitely the case at my school.

MigratingCoconuts Mon 17-Oct-11 18:22:39

There was a head line last week that said school dinners were generally healthier than pack lunches were. But I guess it depends on who is making them grin

I do a mixture too, really because I like the idea of my kids learning to eat whatever is put in front of them, even if it does not look like what I usually cook them!

feedthegoat Mon 17-Oct-11 18:26:51

I insisted on school dinners for a half term until ds started getting tearful about school dinners every morning. He is a faddy eater and I hoped dinners would encourage him to try new things. Unfortunately even in reception they could select a potato or sandwich. Ds admitted he chose a jacket spud every day and just ate the cheese off the top as he doesn't like potato!

He used to finish school ravenous as he wasn't eating. We have had no issues with hunger or upset about school since we moved to packed lunch.

HauntyMython Mon 17-Oct-11 18:31:07

Similar situation here - DD is only PT until half term, so we've made do with packed lunches (only twice a week as tues-thurs she finishes at 12) until then, but after much debating we agreed on school dinners. They are thankfully very well reputed, healthy and varied etc. So expensive though.

The main reason is that we are struggling with a lot of other stuff going on at home and to us it's well worth the extra cash to save the time/effort of making sure we have stuff in, washing the box, packing it every night and not forgetting it in the morning etc. The little madam has also been swapping - actually no, pretty much just giving away - her food. She really liked the catering at nursery and ate stuff she would never eat at home, so hopefully she will eat better. I also like the fact she will always have a hot meal so I don't have to worry if she doesn't eat much at dinner (which she doesn't usually).

It is a difficult choice though (was very close to starting a thread on it myself!) - so much money!

DemonMousse Mon 17-Oct-11 22:15:14

Check out eligibilty for free meals:


Masika Mon 15-Oct-12 18:02:51

Hi, I am doing an independent research project at college about school dinners being more nutritious than packed lunches for primary school children. Please help me with any ideas as to how factual this is.

MilkRunningOutAgain Mon 15-Oct-12 18:41:58

One other issue, which may not exist where you are, is size of portions. The school dinners are healthy, well cooked and liked by the kids at my dcs school but they are so tiny I've hd to swap to packed lunches! My dcs are hungry kids and eat loads!

marbleslost Mon 15-Oct-12 20:16:59

We do a mixture. I pick things on the school dinner menu I know she'll eat. Some days we do packed lunch. Good thing about packed lunch is she eats it and doesn't come home starving. I wouldn't worry about the hot thing - they have hot dinner in the evening presumably. It's mostly like a sauna in the classroom. They don't need food to keep them warm.

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