All parents know how our spending rockets during the school holidays but there are ways to keep costs under control
Keeping our children entertained and fed, without the help of free school meals, can be tricky. So Quids in! has pulled together 10 ways we can keep the cost of the holidays down.
- Treat kids to a meal at Asda for £1
It’s a no-strings offer from the supermarket to help us manage the cost of the school holidays. Kids can eat a hot or cold meal for just £1 at any time of day, any day of the week. And there’s no need for the adult who’s with them to buy anything. The only condition is that the child is 16 or under.
- Find a free summer fun and food club
If our kids get free school meals, we should be entitled to places in a free holiday club if there’s one in our area. They get kids exercising and learning things like music and drama. And the clubs also have to provide a free healthy meal. Even if our kids don’t receive free school meals it’s still worth asking our council. There are sometimes extra places available for a small cost.
- Make sure we’re getting the vouchers we’re entitled to
If our kids get free school meals during term time, there are vouchers we should be able claim during the holidays. They’re usually worth £15-£30 and can be used in supermarkets. It varies between areas but if we haven’t been given any details already we should get in touch with our council.
- Bring the cost of the family food shop right down
There are some great ways of grabbing a food bargain if we know where to look. Lidl do boxes of wonky veg for £1.50 – the scheme is called Too Good To Waste and the boxes are usually by the tills. Apps like Too Good To Go and Olio sell on food that would otherwise go to waste for a fraction of what it would usually cost. There’s usually more choice if we’re in a big town. The food is getting towards the end of its shelf life but it’s perfectly fine to eat and there are some great bargains to be had! And for a roundup of the best weekly deals at all the supermarkets, check out Love Money’s tool. With energy costs as high as they are, it might make sense to opt for cold meals sometimes if the weather’s warm.
- Don’t forget about Healthy Start!
If we’re expecting a baby or have a pre-schooler, we should make sure we’re claiming Healthy Start vouchers. The scheme is now online only (we used to get paper vouchers) and it’s worth £4.25 a week, or £8.50 if we have a child under one. The vouchers can be used to buy milk, infant formula, fruit, veg and other healthy foods.
- Get help with going on holiday
If we live in England, have at least one child but haven’t been on holiday for four years or more we might qualify for help from the Family Holiday Charity. We need to have a family income of £24,000 or less. We can’t apply ourselves, but if we’re interested we can ask someone like a support worker or health visitor to refer us. The full link of people who can enquire on our behalf is here.
- Pack up a picnic
We can save a packet by bringing our own lunch when we go out for the day. And getting kids involved in making the picnic can also keep them entertained for an hour or so. Lorna Cooper’s website Feed Your Family has a whole load of cheap, tasty recipes and she’s got a dedicated picnic page too. The Quids in! website also has plenty of ideas for recipes that won’t break the bank. And it’s not just for sunny days. Lots of museums that we might take the kids to for a day out allow us to take picnics. That way we can avoid spending a packet at the cafe. Check the website in advance to see if they have a picnic area. Even if they don’t, it’s a great idea to remember our own water bottles and snacks when we’re heading out for the day.
- Get baking
Most kids enjoy baking and almost all of them enjoy a sweet treat! The best thing is we can rustle up something delicious with basic store cupboard ingredients. The Good Food website is a great place to start for budget recipes. But once our kids get a bit more confident they might be able to create their own goodies with whatever we have lurking in the kitchen. Traybakes tend to use less energy to produce, and baking in bigger batches is also more cost effective.
- Be smart with the budget
Setting a budget so that our money lasts until our next payment is extra important during the school holidays. A budget planner like this one on the Quids in! website can help. Because we’ll have extra costs over the holidays, having all our expenses there in black and white helps us see where we could make savings. Dropping loose change when we have it into a jam jar can also be a useful source of funds that could keep food on the table in an emergency.
- And when the summer’s over… it’s time to think about new uniforms
That doesn’t have to mean shelling out loads of cash though. First of all we should check out whether we can get a school uniform grant from our council. They tend to be available to those of us on benefits like Universal Credit, and they can be worth £150. But sadly, some councils are no longer offering them. Aldi is ahead of the game though, with a sale on school uniforms already.