I love the school holidays. The lack of school run and constant clock watching. The time with my children at their best times of day, not just when they are tired and hungry.
No matter how creative you are, school holidays can be expensive though; with trips and activities adding up, not to mention the extra food if you are used to your children having free school meals or free fruit at school
Here is how I try to keep the costs down over the summer
Our children have a selection of own brand cereals to choose from – usually porridge oats, wheat biscuits (Weetabix), rice snaps (Rice Krispies), and bran flakes. They can also have some fruit, nuts or seeds with their breakfast. This gives them choice and variety as they can mix and match their own concoction! Porridge and frozen summer fruits or banana is a favourite.
- Fruit – when choosing fruit, I try to get a variety of colours but also look at the cost per serving. 1-4 year olds need about 40g per portion, reception to year 2 age children about 60g and above that 80g per portion – a handful is a good guide. I look out for the special offers on fruit over the summer as lots of fruit and veg are in season. Tinned (in juice) and frozen fruit are also a good option.
- Yoghurt – I buy the cheap and cheerful low fat own brand yoghurt. Plain or with fruit or nuts or a few chocolate sprinkles. We also mix ours with blended summer fruits (defrosted frozen ones) and freeze to make ice lollies.
- Starchy carbohydrate based snacks – crumpets, potato cakes or toast with cream cheese or peanut butter, homemade plain popcorn, homemade American pancakes (with reduced sugar), wholemeal pitta bread and homous, crackers and cheese.
Lunch for us is usually bread based because it is quick and easy. I try to take a packed lunch if we can on a day trip to keep the costs down. Lunch is bread – sliced, pitta or wraps and a range of fillings – egg, tuna, sardines, chicken (I buy a large pack of chicken breasts, cook them in the oven, slice them and freeze them – they are much cheaper than buying pre cooked meat, alternatively buy a whole chicken and do the same), homous, cream cheese, cheese… Lunch always has 2 portions of salad – note the portions above. Peppers, carrots, cucumber, sugar snaps (a little more indulgent), radishes, tomatoes, celery… If they still want more, they can have more sandwich or a piece of fruit.
Not wanting to spend hours in the kitchen or break the bank, here a few of my go to recipes:
- Lentil bolognese – the netmums recipe
- Lentil curry
- Jacket potato and beans and cheese
- Jacket potato with tuna mayo salad
- Aubergine pasta with chickpeas or cheese
- Spaghetti bolognese – cooked in bulk and frozen in portions
- Falafel wraps
- Chicken and leek in a white sauce with rice or potatoes
- Frozen fish with potatoes and veg
- Egg fried rice
My children choose to have one sweet thing a day so at some point in the day they can choose something sweet too.
I am not pretending it is easy. Parenting is not easy but I have learnt that it is ok to ask for help. I’d love to hear your ideas for keeping the food costs in the holidays down.