The kids will be back at school before you know it. And I’m already thinking about lunchboxes. You might have someone starting school for the first time, someone on a special diet, someone complaining they need a bit more variety, someone who never eats what is in there or you just need some new ideas. I always need some new ideas. There is nothing wrong with a vegemite sandwich and piece or two of fruit but my older children are often telling me of their friends with sushi, schnitzel or sausages in their lunchboxes. Oh and chips, I always hear about the kids who get chips in their lunchboxes too. Mine don’t.
Each week I start out with loads of fresh fruit, packs of tortillas, 2 loaves of bread in my freezer, a spinach or salad bag, ham, cheese, hummus, rice crackers and a few other things. For morning tea and snacks think of a variety of fruit, try something new like raspberries, blueberries or cut up watermelon, homemade biscuits or muesli bars, hummus and crackers and carrot sticks, sultanas, homemade popcorn, cherry tomatoes, an egg sliced up, homemade banana bread or a healthy slice.
For lunch instead of sandwiches think about wraps, frittata, savoury muffins, sushi, rice, cold pasta, cooked quinoa or couscous with tuna or some veggies stirred through, crackers and dip. If you have really picky eaters then leave out the spinach but they will love wraps with something simple inside. Cream cheese and smoked salmon is a nice treat on a friday.
Think about a protein source when you are packing the lunchbox especially if you are packing for a bigger eater or your hubby or someone on a gluten free/special diet. Protein fills you up and if you have a few choices in your fridge then you are sorted for lunchboxes. Cooked chicken (you can do it in the slowcooker the day before or poach some chicken breasts on the stove), cooked eggs sliced up, some canned tuna (out of the can) with some crackers or to put in a wrap during the day.
I have some people with an aversion to lettuce and spinach but I can put at least 3 or 4 pieces in a wrap and it gets eaten even at home. Grated carrot is also great in a wrap. Tomato is a bit hit and miss here with my little customers.
Last words of advice
Keep nuts and peanut butter at home and away from school. Check the school’s food policy as eggs, yoghurt or other foods might be banned if there are serious food allergies.
Always have a spare loaf of bread in your freezer
Buy fruit in season, mandarins are always popular and last well. Have a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter if you don’t already so that kids can pack their own fruit.
Always check school bags for leftover fruit. We’ve had a banana incident and a few apples go bad in the bottom of bags and they can stink out the bag and require a big clean up. You’ll always have one member of the family who leaves some food in their bag.
Make up biscuit dough and keep it in your freezer wrapped up in a log in baking paper with the ends twisted. Take it out, leave it for 5-10 minutes, slice while still frozen and then bake. Perfectly round biscuits.
Have little containers that you can send cut up fruit, crackers, biscuits in as a little snack
I always have a pack of tiny teddies tucked away in my pantry just in case
Quinoa only takes 20 minutes to cook and is great in the fridge and can be used plain or with some salad ingredients and it’s great for older eaters who want something different or complain about boring sandwiches.
Cherry tomatoes last well during the week, are sweet to eat and bright and colourful in a lunchbox.
Don’t pack too much food especially for kindergarten students as it can be too much choice and they just want to play
No chips or chocolate, start out with good habits from kindergarten and then your children won’t ask for them – no, well they might ask for them but at least you haven’t set a precedent
Water, water and more water. Always water. A good drink bottle and ditch the juice or cordial. Again it’s better to start out the good habits in kindergarten and primary school and better for their health and teeth. Even some of my kids who haven’t been big water drinkers are now great because there is nothing else on offer at our house but water. Trust me on it, my 3 and 5 year old are the best water drinkers but it wasn’t always that way.
Ask your kids what they like to eat – if like me you have a vegemite sandwich lover then go with it. Let them cut their own sandwiches and make their own when they start to show an interest. If we’re having a crazy morning then it’s not uncommon for me to ask my big 3 to make their own sandwiches with some help from me as I run past!