There’s been a trend in recent years for lunch box ideas to be quite fancy. We totally blame this on Instagram and Pinterest and if you’re looking for something like that from us, be prepared to be totally underwhelmed.
See, kids are fussy little creatures of habit who like what they like. This means we often trot out the same old lunchbox, with a couple of variations. But if it results in them eating what you’ve provided, then who cares?!
Which type of box to choose
First, let’s talk about the actual box itself. If you’re a new school mum, it’s best to work out what works for you and your child as far as lunch boxes go. The type of box may vary depending on the age of your child, their ability to open/close/zip it up, how much food they consume and your/their personal preferences. They may like one large box/insulated zip-up bag with a couple of smaller containers in it, for example a sandwich box and some fruit in another container.
You can also use a bento style box, with partitions that form sections in the box, for example the YumBox Original Bento Lunch Box which can be purchased at Toys N Tales (Rouse Hill Town Centre, Beecroft and Macquarie Centre). This allows you to section off different foods. You can also check the YumBox website for ideas too if you choose this style.
Label, label, label!
Whatever style of lunchbox you go with, label it all! This includes the bottoms and lids of containers as these often get separated. You may also like to have some small freezer bricks on hand for those really hot days. You can now get special lunch box sized ones for this exact purpose. And you may like to have a dedicated drawer or area in the kitchen for all these containers, drink bottles and lunch boxes if you don’t have that already – our kitchen seems to be over-run with them!
Another suggestion is to empty it every day and wipe it inside and out regularly. These things can get fairly gross, so making it part of the daily lunchbox routine will limit the level of foul you’re faced with. It also helps the box go the distance. We have just done two whole years with one box and it’s still in great condition. We put our soft lunchboxes in the washing machine also – they’re hardy little things and come out like brand new!
And now, what to actually put in that lunchbox! Here are some suggestions and tips to start off your school year… or to prevent lunchbox fatigue throughout the year!
Crunch and Sip
Many schools do this and, if you’re a first time school mum, Crunch and Sip is a little fruit/veg snack and a drink of water prior to morning tea. Choose fruit that’s easy to pop in their mouths or quick to eat. For example, a kindy kid probably won’t get through a whole uncut apple in a few minutes. It doesn’t need to be a huge amount at all, a few small mouthfuls is the idea. We use the same container for Crunch and Sip each day so they know which one to pull out of their bag. We do one or two of the following usually – cucumber, carrot, strawberries, grapes, raspberries, apple.
Morning tea suggestions:
- yoghurt pouch. The CalciYum brand was ranked best nutritionally by Choice. You can read more here. A tip with yoghurts – untwist the lid slightly so it’s easier for kids to open at school.
- homemade muffin, slice or bar – there are a heap of muffin, slice and muesli bar recipes out there so it’s good to find one or two that your child likes that you can put into rotation and that freeze well. Make a batch on the weekend, keep a handful out for that week and pop the rest in the freezer and you’ll get 2 or 3 weeks out of one batch. If you take one out of the freezer before school in the morning, it’s ready to eat by recess. Click here for a good banana and blueberry muffin recipe to get you started.
- Vita Weats or SAOs with butter and vegemite or another school approved spread
- crackers and cheese
- chopped fruit & veg – whatever they like such as grapes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries (when on sale!), kiwi fruit, pineapple, carrrot, cucumber, capsicum, watermelon etc. If it’s a fruit like watermelon we usually put this in a separate container and include a wipe as it can get a little messy. Alternatively, add a little silicon patty cup to keep it separate from other food.
- Anzac biscuits or plain sweet biscuits
- sultanas, apricots or other dried fruit they like apples
- pikelets, with or without jam.
- The number one lunchbox staple – a sandwich. Fillings could include hummus and grated cheese, jam, cheese, ham, vegemite, salad. Cheese and bacon rolls or vegemite scrolls mix things up too. Also, if either the kids or you have sandwich fatigue, you can mix things up by using cookie cutters to make sandwiches into shapes. Might give them a giggle at the very least!
- If your child isn’t that keen on sandwiches or bread, SAOs, Saladas or other sandwich-style crackers, rice cakes or wraps are a good option.
- Another option for the ‘main’ portion of the lunch box could be zucchini slice, mini quiches or savoury muffins.
- Ham, salami and other deli meats they like. We also sometimes cut up the leftover chicken schnitzel from dinner the previous night for something a bit different.
- Mini tomatoes, cucumber and carrot sticks
- a boiled egg
- A little treat – Apricot Snack Bites, a few M&Ms or choc bits.
Another option, particularly in winter and if you have a child that isn’t a huge sandwich eater, is pasta, ravioli, mini hotdog frankfurts or anything that travels well warm in a thermos – you can buy cute kids’ thermos’ from kitchen stores and the likes of Victoria’s Basement. They’re not that cheap but, providing it doesn’t get lost, it should last years. The pasta stays surprisingly warm and it provides a little variety.
Also, kids do love to get something from the canteen every now and then so work out what will work for your kid, what’s on offer and how much you’re happy for them to spend. Have a little purse or pouch in their bag for this purpose. It can double as a good reward system too!
And we certainly don’t poo poo pre-packaged foods some days too. A little packet of Tiny Teddies or chips is fine and our kids love them, as most do! A favourite phrase of ours is “Whatever gets you through” so if 7 Tiny Teddies help you make it to Friday then we’re all for it!