It’s so easy to feel unnecessary pressure to pack the perfect lunches for the kids, they need to be healthy, delicious, easy to eat and fill up their little tummies until home time.
But it shouldn’t be that difficult…should it?
Lunches don’t need to be complicated, keeping them simple will cause you less stress and less work. You don’t need to spend lots of money on snazzy ingredients, just keep them fresh, delicious and colourful and the kids will be happy!
Tips for packing a good lunchbox
- Make sure you have some kind of variety, don’t give them the same sandwich fillings everyday.
- Try out new things and build up a list of go-to items for their lunchboxes. This will make planning easier as time goes by and you won’t find yourself running out of ideas.
- Try to include some chopped up fresh items like fruit and or veggies. Just a small serving of each is fine.
- Include a dairy item like cheese cubes or yoghurt in a small leakproof tub.
- Have a variety of savoury and sweet items (sweet doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy options, go for fresh or dried fruit, homemade oat bars or homemade fruit leather).
- Always choose colourful items, children especially will be more inclined to ‘eat with their eyes’. Things like sweet corn, red capsicum, green peas, purple grapes are usually a hit…anything that is fresh, healthy and delicious.
- Remember to keep things cool with ice blocks, ice packs or even frozen foods!
With a knife, a chopping board and a selection of re-usable containers, you can save heaps of money. So follow some of these tips and get saving!
Make your own juice
Instead of buying cartons of juice, get diluting juice, mix it up yourself and pour it into a flask. Not only is this a much cheaper option and saves on packaging, you can also reduce their sugar intake by only adding a splash for flavour.
Why not find a flask with fun designs like these ones to keep their drink cool.
Or how about skipping the diluting juice altogether and getting them a fruit infusion water bottle?
Check out my post ‘7 Fun Infused Water Recipes’ for some delicious ideas.
Don’t spend money on the individually packed boxes of dried fruit, (think apricots, sultanas or cranberries) instead buy them in bigger bags and fill plastic containers.
Or if your school allows, buy a large bag of mixed nuts and add a handful of those for a homemade trail mix. It’s so simple for you to prepare and your little ones will be getting extra protein, unsaturated fats and fibre to help keep them going throughout the day.
Try and buy yoghurt in larger tubs and spoon out individual servings into leakproof containers. I love these ones here. By doing this you can choose the portion size and save money as the pre-packed yoghurt tubs are always more expensive.
I like to go for the plain Greek yoghurt and add in a spoonful of jam or some fresh fruit to add a little bit of sweetness. This is a good way to keep the sugar content down and make it a healthier snack.
Avoid pre-packaged foods
Similar to the dried fruit, don’t buy anything pre-chopped or pre-packaged. Always buy loose and cut up yourself. This could include things like fresh fruit or cheese and crackers.
Homemade versions of shop bought items
Bake a fresh batch of muffins or slices (either sweet or savoury), make up some oat bars, pop your own popcorn or cook up a pasta salad.
You can put all of these in airtight containers until you’re ready to eat them. If you’re making up an extra large batch then many of the baked items can be frozen so you can make them ahead of time and just take them out when you need them
It’s always much better to make these kinds of items from scratch because you know exactly what’s going into them and it’s easier to keep the sugar/salt content to a minimum.
There are also a lot of things you can make from Greek yoghurt and self raising flour. Why not try out this two ingredient scroll recipe? It’s so quick and easy and tastes delicious.
Check out my post ‘6 Healthy and Delicious Movie Snacks you Probably Hadn’t Thought of’ for a bit of snack inspiration!
Use up leftovers from the night before
A great way to save money on lunches is to use up leftovers from the night before.
Leftover soup? Bulk it out with some cooked pasta or noodles. Extra chilli con carne? Put it in a wrap with some cheese and sour cream for a quick and simple Mexican style lunch.
Use a good hot food container for the kids to keep their food warm (or salads cool) until lunchtime.
Don’t buy single use food wraps like foil
Go for containers which have separate compartments so that you can save on cling film, foil or other single use wraps. You won’t have to buy disposable wraps and it’s much better for the environment – win win!
Just remember to label each box or container so that they don’t get misplaced at school.
If you find that containers are too bulky then reusable sandwich bags are great too.
Choose foods wisely
Make sure that the food you’re packing are things that your child will actually eat.
Have a chat with them to see if there’s anything they would like you to add in their lunchboxes. If they have a say in what you’re packing for them then they’ll be far more likely to eat those items at school.
If you’re baking up some bits for their lunches at the weekend or in the evenings for them then try and get them involved. Even if it’s just asking them to stir the mixture in the bowl or tip in the ingredients, they will be much mores enthusiastic eating it if they’ve helped make their lunch.
If you find that your child is bringing a lot of food home at the end of the school day then you may need to rethink your portion sizes. The opposite may be true if they’re coming home really hungry.
Create a menu
If you have a plan for lunches for the week ahead then you’re guaranteed to save money and eliminate those last minute trips to the shops. You don’t want to spend extra money on pre-packaged items just because you find that there’s no time to prepare anything.
Try and do as much prep as you can on Sunday evening, before the start of the school week, that way you’ll be far more organised and save more time during the week.
Use alternatives to ice packs
No one likes a slimy lunch, but sometimes by the time midday rolls around, it’s too late. Sandwiches are turning mushy and the cheese has started to sweat – especially in the summer months.
Don’t want to buy ice packs or waste space in their lunchboxes? That’s totally fine. You don’t have to…
How about freezing a water bottle and using it as a DIY ice pack? Or throwing a handful of frozen grapes into one of their lunchbox compartments – great for keeping things cool and then once they have defrosted, they’re transformed into a tasty snack. You could do the same with frozen peas too!
Buy (sensibly) in bulk when things are on special offer
If you see something that you know your kids like on offer, then don’t hesitate to stock up.
But…don’t buy too much of anything you’re not sure about or they haven’t tried. If it turns out they don’t like it then you could be stuck with a cupboard full of food no-one wants.
Hopefully some of these ideas will help you to pack lunchboxes that your kids love at a lower price.