Let's Eat

Cost of Living: Summer snack survival kit

How to eat well and spend less during the school holidays


Multiracial families having fun together with kids at pic nic barbecue party - Joy and love life style concept with mixed race people toasting juices with children at park

School summer holidays are here. With many of us having to pay closer attention to food bills, six weeks of out-of-routine eating with the constant soundtrack of “I’m hungry” is daunting.

The good news is that it’s possible to feed and entertain our families while keeping expenses low and spirits high.
Here are some of my tips and tricks to make your summer just a bit easier to handle:

Planning permission:

  • Regular readers will have read my tips in the first of this series of Eat Well, Spend Less articles. If you haven’t, do look it up online as many of the same tips apply. The most important is to plan ahead. Working out the week’s activities will put you ahead of the game as will mapping out your breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners.

  • Allocate a night of the week for a specific main dinner protein: think meatless Mondays, turkey Tuesdays, mincemeat Wednesdays and so on. Not only should this save money as we can buy in bulk, but also manages expectations.
    Include some DIY lunches, like cheese toasties or filled wraps. Nominate one family member to oversee set up and another for clear up. A double win, as it’s an activity as well as lunch sorted.

  • Even more important during the summer is a weekly “snack plan” as well as a meal plan. Summers at home lend themselves to grazing more often than eating full meals.

  • Keep that kitchen door closed. Any restaurant limits service hours for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — don’t let your kitchen become a 24 hour diner.

Snack Attack:

  • The grazing adds up, so you may want to have a daily snack box per family member filled with their favourite mix of healthy and suitable snacks.

  • Snack box too limiting? Go for a snack station instead. Set it up like a shop with like items grouped together — preferably outside the main kitchen.

  • Instead of buying snack-sized portions of anything, choose family sized bags to divide when you get home. This is more affordable (and sustainable as there is less packaging) but the portioning up can be a fun activity.

  • For a healthy graze, cut up vegetables to serve with a home made dip, be it hummus, thousand island dressing or your own family favourite.

  • Keep costs down on days out by packing your own snacks — take inspiration from the foods your family gravitate to at service stations and buy these in multi packs during your weekly shop. Think crisps, pretzels and homemade popcorn in resealable bags.

Keep it chilled:

  • No surprise, but when it’s hot outside, cold foods are infinitely more appetising. When temperatures climb, cold and frozen foods are the way to go.

  • Prep ahead to get foods snack ready. As soon as you bring a melon home, cut it into single sized portions refrigerate at eye level. The same goes for any fruits and vegetables you want for snacking. JC Food Editor, Victoria Prever suggests frozen grapes and blueberries as a healthy snack for bigger children and teens .

  • Make your own ice lollies with fun lolly moulds, they cost far less than store-bought ones and are so much better for you! (Find the recipe on the JC website.)

  • Fruit kebabs are so much more fun than simple chopped fruit. Once more serving them cold is key. Consider giving little ones separate bowl of fruits like grapes, berries and chopped melon or pineapple to thread their own kebabs — keeping an eye on those skewers!

  • Buying a single ice cream at an attraction can cost an eye watering £2 to £5 so think about investing in multi packs to treat them when you get home. A supermarket pack of Magnums will cost about the same as one Magnum from an ice cream van or kiosk.

  • Do as the Israelis and stick bottles of water in the freezer that will defrost during the day, giving you ice cold water all day without having to buy it.

Action stations:

  • A great way to make summer cooking and shopping more fun for the whole family is to involve them.

  • Get the kids involved in cooking, there may be a mess at the end, and it could well make more work for the adult in charge, but it’s a great way to spend a lazy summer afternoon and dinner is taken care of.

  • Or pick food-related activities: head to a fruit-picking farm and make Eton mess once home.

Summer Nights:

  • Al fresco eating seems to improve our appetites, so for summer outdoor dinners, serve plenty of inexpensive seasonal vegetables (ie: tomatoes and courgettes) plus pita and homemade hummus to fill up on. Choose reasonably priced mains like falafel and quinoa salads.

  • The same goes for barbecues — put plenty of vegetables on the grill along with the meats. Whole Portobello mushrooms and veggie kebabs are perfect.

Back up:

  • Finally, life does not always go according to plan — even when we’ve planned the weeks activities and menu down to the last crisp. Having a back-up plan will save you money. Have the makings of a quick dinner at home to pull out when nothing else is working. In my house it’s spaghettini and meatballs. Once a month I make a large batch and divide it up into smaller containers, so I always have some in the freezer.

    For more tips on managing your food budget ,visit Mesilauk. Find information on additional support visit GIFT.

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