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How to feed your children on a budget… and have fun with food this summer 

29 July 2019

Our Holiday Hubs work with families across the UK to provide meals and opportunities for family bonding through eating, learning and play. Here Julie Pike, Family Action Community Engagement and Volunteer Support Worker, discusses the added pressures families face over the holidays and gives a few simple tips that might help. 

Our Holiday Hub has been running for just over a year now in Stockton-on-Tees, which gives you a real sense of how difficult life can often be for parents and carers during the holidays. There are definitely lots of families

Elementary Pupils Enjoying Healthy Lunch In Cafeteria

out there struggling to get all the food they need; and we’ve had a number of people say they were worried about the impact of having no school meals over the summer holidays. 

Family Action’s National School Breakfast Programme also provides free breakfasts for children in local schools. This is a wonderful program, only when schools break for the summer, lots of parents (who also receive free school meals) go from only having to provide something for tea to having to find something for breakfast and lunch too. 

We also work with lots of working parents who don’t qualify for free school meals, but still find it difficult putting meals on the table during the summer. They’ve told me they’re worried about their children not eating, and were preparing to go without themselves to ensure their children eat. 

For some of these families the problems can be overwhelming. I’m proud to help the families we support, but I’m equally aware that not all families who experience difficulties over the holidays have access to a service like ours. 

With that I mind, here are just a few top tips that I’ve learned working in our Holiday Hub that might be useful for families finding their finances stretched this summer.  

“Doing blind taste tests of the different products on offer – has also proved a great way of getting them to try different things!”

1. Get smart when you shop 

We do budgeting exercises where we compare the price of products at various supermarkets and the difference can be huge. It’s really opened my eyes and would advise anyone reading this to shop smart! Look in a few different supermarkets, avoid branded stuff and be more open to what’s available. 

We also get children involved in these sessions, doing blind taste tests of the different products on offer – which has also proved a great way of getting them to try different things! The test is fun, but it also helps children understand that packaging and brands often don’t make any difference – which again opens them up to trying different things. There’s no reason you couldn’t do your own taste test at home! 

Some older children also gain a greater appreciation of what food is worth, which can help with arguments in the house.  

2. Get creative with ingredients 

A lot of the food we prepare with parents is sent to us by charities. This means  we sometimes get some rather odd combinations (as you can’t always control what you get). It’s taught me that you have to keep an open mind and be creative with what’s in your cupboard – especially with leftovers. We’ve done spaghetti Bolognese and soups with all sorts of odd vegetables – and the old cliché about having turkey curry for weeks after Christmas exists for a reason! 

Top tip: You can freeze cheese! I didn’t know that before doing this job. Just make sure you grate it first, as you have to wait a long time for a large block to thaw!   

3. Get children cooking 

We get children to cook with their parents. It’s something many of us may not do at home (often due to lack of time), but they really love it! Parents often tell me how their children are much more likely to taste things they’ve cooked themselves. We’ve had parents come up and say: “My child would never have tasted broccoli if I’d have just put it out for them!” 

Have you tried any of these at home? Which is your favourite? Let us know on social media… and make sure you check out our other summer ideas and support as part of our Family Monsters Project