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Old school canteen menu stuns Aussies: 'Look at the prices'

Aussie parents are reminiscing about the good old days after the resurfacing of a 1970s school canteen menu.

A Melbourne woman has stunned Aussies by sharing a school canteen price list from the 1970s, when a three-course lunch order and dessert could be snapped up for just 60 cents.

The stained and worn list from Melbourne’s Cheltenham North Primary School was dated May 9, 1975 and hilariously started off with the salutation, “Dear Mother”, before stating the prices for lunchtime staples and snacks – including small sausage rolls for 9 cents and jam doughnuts for 11 cents.

Forgotten favourites, including pyramid-shaped frozen treats Sunnyboys and Glugs and sugary delights like Tic Toc biscuits, populated the list. There was no fruit to be found, while peanut butter sandwiches – a forbidden item in today’s schools – cost just 13 cents.

Jupiter caramel bars, which were sadly sent to the discontinued confectionary graveyard - alongside another Aussie classic, the Pollywaffle - were on sale for a measly 7c, while Arnott’s legendary Wagon Wheels – which have been going strong since 1952 – would set you back just 8c.

The school canteen price list (left) and sausage rolls (right).
The school canteen menu featured a lot of sugary favourites but no fruit. (Source: Facebook/Old Shops Australia/Getty)

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The Facebook post has attracted hundreds of comments from Aussies fondly looking back on their old school days, while others were astonished at the low prices.

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“Good grief!! Look at the prices!!!” one wrote, while another joked: “No pineapple donuts?!”

A Melbourne man, who attended East Burwood Primary School in 1969, said his mum would give him 30 cents, which was enough to cover a weekly lunch order.

“Adams pie and sauce 13 cents, can of Coke 13 cents, the rest went on frozen Razz or Sunny Boy and mix lollies – used to get 4 lollies for a cent,” he said.

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Another wrote: “Actually, if you account for inflation, it’s about the same as today,” while a third added: “I was earning $68 a week take home in 1975, petrol was 10 cents a litre.”

As schools across the country are getting back into the swing of term one, Queensland mum of four Cheree Lawrence, who runs the website Oh So Busy Mum, highlighted the increasing cost of canteen prices, with food for first and second break costing her $16 per child.

“I remember spending $5 each for tuckshop for the day for my older girls,” she said. “Gone are the days of the $1 sausage rolls where you would take the money in the paper bag!”

Sandwich (left) and Sunnyboy packed (right).
School sandwiches cost just a few cents in 1975, back when Sunnyboy ice blocks were popular. (Source: Getty/Facebook/Vicki Rothwell)

School canteens feeling the cost-of-living pinch

Rising grocery prices are also impacting Aussie school tuck shops, which have - in some cases - doubled in the past two years, while a number of canteens have been forced to shut down due to running at a loss.

One Facebook user said: “I remember buying a cheesy for 50 cents when I was a kid! Half a bun with grilled cheese on top. But that wouldn’t fly these days, not healthy enough. It’s about $8 for a main and a drink for my primary-school-aged kid.”

“It’s gone up drastically in the past three years,” another parent said. “When my girls were in prep [kindergarten] and Year 1 three years ago, it used to be cheaper to get them tuck shop every day than it was to buy school lunch stuff with groceries.”

A former canteen manager explained: “We always kept our prices as low as possible while still making enough to pay myself and our bills. Unfortunately, I watched the cost price of a lot of things I bought double in the space of two years.”

Another added: “We have just had to close our high school canteen due to running at a loss. It was an extremely hard decision and one we put off for a long time. Sadly, with increased food prices, wages rising and all the extras, many others may follow suit.”

Menus and prices vary at different schools

A scan of tuck shop and canteen menus at a number of Aussie schools showed prices and menus varied wildly – depending on how much you were willing to spend.

At Eight Mile Plains Public State School in Brisbane, jam sandwiches cost just $2.50, chicken and salad sandwiches are $5, while a large roast pumpkin salad will set you back a hefty $9.

A current day tuck shop menu from Brisbane's Eight Mile Plains Public State School.
The current menu at Eight Mile Plains Public State School showed a huge variety, including a jam sandwich for $2.50. (Source: Supplied)

There was a huge variety of lunch items, including Turkish rolls for $6, cheese-and-spinach triangles for $5, $1.50 fruit cups, small snacks including popcorn, cheese and crackers, or banana bread for $1 each, frozen fruit sticks for 80 cents and mini Calypsos for $1.50.

At Wickham Primary School, in Western Australia, Vegemite sandwiches or wraps cost $3.50, nachos with sour cream sell for $7, fruit is available for 50 cents, Paddle Pops are $2.50, while chicken schnitzel burgers or wraps go for $8.

Prices are still reasonable at Sydney’s Como West Public School canteen, which is run by volunteers, where chocolate milk costs $1.35, three slices of garlic bread are $1.10, organic pasta with cheese goes for $2.75 – and an extra $1.20 for bolognese sauce, and Red Rock Potato Chips are $1.35.

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