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School meals or school dinner expenses refer to money spent by your child for meals offered in schools. As per a 2014 Santander report, for every child, an average UK household was spending £8 per week or nearly £424 per year on school meals.
School meal costs can vary based on your location, whether the child is in primary or secondary school and the choice of menu. Let's look at some examples.
Primary schools in Nottinghamshire Council charge £2.10 for school meals. There are two types of menus, classic menus and choice menus. Both the classic and choice menus have different cycles for different weeks. Within each cycle, the menus are different for different days of the week. So if the kids opt for the classic menu and menu cycle 1 is in progress, Monday's menu will have pizza with onion and tomato, new potato salad, mixed salad, and fruit salad with ice cream. On a Wednesday under cycle 2 of the classic menu, the school meal will include roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and gravy, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, seasonal vegetables, bakewell tart and custard.
Oldham County has a school meal service in all primary and special schools. The cost of each meal is £2.00. As per their sample menu, on a Wednesday children can choose from any one of the three ' Homemade organic savoury mince pie or MSC fish baked in an oven or a baked potato with a special filling for that particular day. Desserts include homemade ginger biscuit, choice of fresh fruit, and yoghurt made of organic fruit.
Northumberland County Council provides meals to many schools within the council. Some of these schools include Tweedmouth West, Ashington Central, Swarland, Felton, and Ovingham Middle. A two-course meal in these schools costs £1.95 to 2.50. The 2014 summer menu for first and primary schools changes every week. The menu includes main course choices, vegetables, salad bar, starters or sweets. So on a Wednesday, when week two menu is in progress, students have three main course options to choose from -- roast pork with roast potatoes, or pork hot pot, or vegetable chilli with rice. On this particular day, cabbage is served as a vegetable, salad bar is a seasonal salad, and starters or sweets include oaty peach crumble and custard.
School meals are becoming more and more expensive every years. Additionally, schools may have individual items, outside the menu, which may cost extra. Packed lunches can be an economical alternative as long as they are as nutritional and attractive as a school meal.
To check the impact of school meals on your household budget, we recommend you to use our household budget calculator.