Which Option is Better? Packed Lunches vs. School Dinners

For many, the choice between school meals or packed lunches seems trivial. A simple option, without much need for thought. But for some, over-thinking, planning and a general curiosity can hold us back from making the apparently easy decision.

But not to worry, Trespass Expert Advice is here to talk through the options and provide you with some insightful information you might not have considered before, including the advantages and disadvantages to both.

So without further ado, let us begin the packed lunch vs. school dinners debate:

Packed Lunch


  • Obviously, having a healthy advantage is all dependent on what you plan to put in their packed lunch. For example, a flask of hearty warming soup on a cold winter’s day… or a Tesco meal deal because you didn’t have time to prepare something. But the main point here is: you get to decide what they’re eating.
  • If your child has a food allergy or is a fussy eater, a packed lunch may be a better option, as you can be assured they are getting the food they enjoy without a faff with the school.
  • You can then also plan an evening meal around the lunch, knowing what nutrients they have and haven’t consumed.


  • Making up a packed lunch every day – especially if you have more than one school-age child – can be time-consuming, and it can be wearing coming up with new ideas for varied yet nutritional meals.
  • You may come under pressure to provide food you don’t usually allow at home because a friend has it in their lunchbox. You won’t want your child to feel left out or hard done by because they haven’t got something in particular.
  • Just because you’ve provided the best possible packed lunch for your child, doesn’t mean they’ll eat it. Children often swap food, or simply leave it – and it can be disheartening to unpack soggy, uneaten items at the end of the school day, not to mention wasteful.
  • Packed lunches can prove more expensive, especially now that free school meals are available to children in their first three years of state-funded primary schools across both England and Scotland.
  • Most fresh foods require refrigeration to stay safe to eat, which without, might prove the food dangerous for consumption. Luckily, here at Trespass, all our lunchboxes are lined with insulation to keep your food cool and edible. We also have infuser water bottles – great for encouraging kids to drink more water.

School Dinners


  • School lunches are easy to rely on, are a guaranteed good hearty meal for your child to be energised enough for the rest of the day.
  • Although you are unaware of what your child may be being given, school dinners nowadays are required to meet nutritional standards. If you really wanted to find out, however, the school might be able to provide the planned menu for the week.
  • Above all, school meals will save you time. The only thing you’ll need to remember is to pay for your child’s meals, but most schools offer direct debits and smooth payment systems to make this easier.


  • In junior or primary school, the first years tend to be given the same amount as final years, and while they probably won’t be able to manage all of it, this is far too much for a child of ages 4-6 to be consuming. Again, this is down to lack of control, and if it is something you’re concerned about, you might prefer to consider providing packed lunches instead.
  • As you are not responsible for the food your children are ingesting, it may also be difficult to ensure your child is having a healthy balanced diet.
  • Generally, school lunches consist of pudding too, which knocks them down a couple of marks on the health-o-meter. However, you can balance this out with a smaller, healthier meal at tea time.
  • If your child is a fussy eater, they may choose to eat nothing at all – of which you will be totally unaware of. On the other hand, many primary schools insist on their pupils finishing everything on their plate, so is not something to be worried about.

Overall, whichever option you choose for your child lies mainly down to personal choice and the priorities you have for your child.

There are often simple ways around the disadvantages to an option, however. For example, if the main thing holding you back from arranging for your child to have school dinners is the costs, it’s worth checking to see if you qualify to get them for free. If it’s a packed lunchbox you’d rather provide them with but just can’t seem to find the time, try squeezing this in the night before and storing it in the fridge till the morning. Just don’t forget to take it out!

Hopefully, this discussion has provided some insightful information for you. If you have any questions or any of your own pros and cons to add to our list, talk to us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Bon Appetit!

Now you’ve chosen the most suitable mealtime option for your little learner, what about the ever-crucial school bag?

Check out our guide to Choosing a School Bag >>>

Written by: Natalie Green