So school is starting up again and you need some new school lunch box ideas! Well we are here to help!Out top tip is remember that anything you pack needs to be kept cool.
Also it needs to be able to be opened fast and consumed without fiddling around. Lunch eating time is only around 15 minutes at most schools and kids are champing at the bit to get to other activities including sport, choir, or just play!
- When you are making your bread, make some extra dough, roll out, prepare and freeze a stack of tiny pizzas which you can either cook in advance, or if you have the time, cook as you go (though this latter thought is kind of wasteful of oven energy unless you combine it with baking something else). Choose fillings with imagination and care and downplay the cheese by pre-shredding and mixing with light options. I have noticed that most kids will eat ANYTHING on a pizza so add broccoli, pumpkin etc.. Cold pizza is a terrific snack. You can also freeze the entire stack as you make them and pre-wrap.
- Salad bar at school: each day, pack a selection of peeled, washed veges and cut into nice wedges. Serve with a dip in a separate container. Sticks of beetroot, celery, carrot, capsicum, asparagus in season, Tiny Tom tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage chunks, a tiny cos lettuce heart or mignonette, mushrooms or go for pre-roasted options like pumpkin, eggplant, zucchini, potatoes, and tomato baked with olive oil. Steal ideas from the deli case and make them at home for a fraction of the price and you can lessen the oil used.
- Crunchy surprise biscuits – you can make rolls of freezer cookies when butter is on special and bake these on a sheet in batches for morning tea/recess/play-lunch. Make interesting shapes for the kids or let them help out with their own shapes! You can create a cardboard tube in a cookie-cutter shape (star, dinosaur or whatever) and poke your dough into that before freezing, and then just cut off as many biscuits as you want to cook, using an electric knife to help retain the shape. Making the tube is fiddly by fun. Just wrap a sheet of card around a cookie cutter’s circumference and stick it well. Put your dough into plastic bags or parchment before forcing into the shape. Carefully place into the freezer and freeze them. This is a good use for old Christmas cards. The best source for freezer cookie recipes is Marthastewart.com. It is fun to give the kids a surprise in their lunches! Even the big ones can have a laugh from this.
- Small cans of tuna are really wasteful and though they seem cheap, are quite expensive when you work out the large can price. Instead, consider making a tuna-fish or salmon patty for the school lunch. Wrap in greased paper. Add some lettuce leaves and potato salad in separate compartments, in your Tupperware or equivalent containers. Definitely a case for freezer blocks (juice bottles) to be included as fish is prone to bacteria fast.
- Anti-bacterial handwash seems to be the biggest ‘new’ product in the world. Not a bad idea to include a tiny bottle in a compartment of the school lunch. In the light of various pandemics in the world and the fact that school taps are usually gross and germ-infested, this is just a cautionary measure even though the fluid itself is quite scary! You could use a green alternative of ti-tree oil (half a cap to a litre) in a tightly capped spray bottle.
- Reduce the use of butter and margarine and replace it with low-fat cream cheese, mayonnaise home-made dip made thickly enough to spread.
- An orange can be quite messy to eat at school given the limited time allowed for lunch so you could peel this or pack a bunch of seedless grapes, a wedge of fresh pineapple. I believe that fresh fruit in its peel is a good object lesson for kids in putting in a little effort to get a fresh, yummy result. Bananas chosen should not be too mushy. Keep these away from the cooler bottle as they go brown.
- In winter months, a small thermos flask of soup and a roll will do the trick.
- Rice salad featuring chicken, fruit, nuts, beans and vegetables packed in a yoghurt container recycled or your Tupperware is nutritious.
- Add a pack of home made trail mix starring the fruits your child loves. You can add cereals, nuts, pretzels, dried fruit or raisins, craisins, dried blueberries, cherries and a few high quality dark choc bits for its anti-oxidant effect. You can clump muesli (see our homemade muesli recipe – add some oil and agave syrup or maple syrup and squish together in bite-sides pieces and then bake for 30 minutes) Muesli cookies (from the Women’s Weekly Biscuits and slices cookbook) are great too.
- Make your own potato, sweet potato, beetroot, taro, turnip, swede, parsnip and zucchini chips. Slice wafer thin, spray with olive oil and sprinkle with a LITTLE seasoning which can be salt or other herbs and bake on parchment or silicone baking sheets till crisp.
- Make weak cordial if your child won’t drink plain water. Freeze it each night in the bottle to keep the food cool. Except in Jan/Feb or weather above 30 degrees, use 50% frozen and 50% topped up in the morning so that it defrosts by lunchtime.
- Large Chicken rissoles are a treat with some home-made tomato or chutney in a separate container. Mince or chop leftover chicken, add an egg, some potato, finely chopped herbs especial parsley and crumb* neatly. Shallow fry and store in the fridge.
- Wraps made from mountain bread (whole wheat preferred), containing either lean cold cuts or low-fat cream cheese or hoummus, bean dip or pesto topped with veggie slices. Peanut butter, cheese and vegemite or any of the favourite fillings go well when wrapped in mountain bread.
- Consider stewed fruit in a container for a treat. Apricots are especially nice.
- Mini-burritos made with rice, black beans or refried beans in a tortilla with tomato salsa and a little BBQ chicken. These can be heated or eaten cold
- Whole grain bagels filled with low fat cream cheese spread and salmon is good brain food and bagels require effort to chew. Good for the teeth.
- Microwave popcorn with no butter. You can sprinkle herbs (ground) and perhaps some grated Parmesan cheese for a zing of taste.
- Savoury muffins – to your basic muffin recipe, add bacon, sundried tomato, some onion and cheese. These are very filling.
- Sweet muffins – go easy on these but fruity ones are fine.
- Raisin bread with low fat cream cheese is yummy for play-lunch.
- Include something in the box that can be used for ‘teeth cleaning’ – such as an apple! It is a long time for kids to go without rinsing or brushing teeth.
- For older kids who are besotted with the idea of the school canteen, contract them to taking a packed lunch prepared by them in return for additional pocket money. Tell them you will teach them to cook various foods. They will save money, control intake and learn cooking all at the same time.
- Get the kids involved in making and planning their lunch. When our niece lived with us she became a whiz at making pizzas with interesting toppings and would put her lunch together by herself in the mornings. They were ALWAYS healthy options and she seemed to make a real sport of it.
- I am not a great fan of using special ribbons, stickers etc. in the lunch box. I believe that the school playground is an important place for your child to learn self-reliance, to cut the cord as it were! However, if your child is being bullied or you notice any signs of loneliness, then perhaps it is worth trying this! Put a little slip of paper in the box with a riddle on it. This would need to be really funny. But as an ice-breaker for a shy child, it actually can work. This needs to be something that requires a response from another kid. You will find that the resultant laughter of a respondent child or group around your child will be noticed by the so-called ‘cool’ group and can remove the pressure. Anything too ‘Martha Stewart’ in the lunchbox can have the reverse effect. Keep it simple!
- Frozen sandwiches – pre-freeze sandwiches that have simple fillings (strasberg and tomato chutney goes well) and you will find the bread is nice and fresh by lunchtime. I do this with corned beef, any meaty fillings, even vegemite. Not with salads. Good for picnics and road trips too.
- Stuffed apples – put some trail mix in an apple with some maple syrup and bake it. These are delicious cold.
- Get feedback from the kids as to what stays freshest and most delicious. Adapt your recipes accordingly.
- Put a pickle in if your child likes deli foods. The Jewish deli pre-meal snack of pickle and coleslaw is a great lunch. You can shred broccoli stalks and raw beetroot for extra wham.
- Change breads regularly from seeds to rye to pumpernickel. Keep the kids on their toes!
- Sneak spinach into the wrap recipe!
- If you are sending nuts, be careful that there are no allergic kids in the class. Be prudent.
- Home made yoghurt can be packed in Tupperware (or substitute) and you can use agave syrup or maple syrup to add some OK sweetness. I used to freeze this and the kids had an additional bonus of a freezing treat.
- Quiche or frittata make great lunches – add some large lettuce leaves to wrap them in.
- Vietnamese spring rolls are cheap and easy to make at home and you can make them the night before. This way they are not PERFECT but they are good enough for a school lunch. Vary the contents. So expensive to buy but so cheap to make. Worth the effort of practicing the art so that you can make these for picnics. Make sure the sauces used don’t have food preservatives or enhancers, especially MSG.
- Make quesadillas with the ingredients your kids love as these are actually quite nice to eat cold. (a bit like pizza).
- In the depths of winter, put a thermos of hot cocoa in. Very cheery! Make sure your child knows how to handle a thermos and choose a stainless steel one not a glass one.
- Make homemade fish fingers with good fish. These are great lunch snacks and don’t forget to put in the lemon or lime.
- The good old sandwich – be creative, use great bread but cut the sandwich into easy-to-eat segments. No massive boutique sandwich shop sangos in the playground! Wrap in greaseproof paper, not plastic.
2 cups SR Flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3/4 cup white sugar, 1 egg, 1 cup milk, 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Mix wet ingredients together, Mix dry ingredients together. Fold dry ingredient mix into wet until there are no lumps. Add fruit or whatever you like to this. You can substitute brown sugar and wholemeal flour but first make the recipe to this standard and observe the texture. If your substitutions make it any different, add some wet or dry to balance it. Put into patty cases and bake 200 degrees C for 15 minutes. For savoury, omit the sugar.
*NOTE: Use greaseproof lunch wrap or invest in some reusable sandwich wraps, not plastic wrap. It is just as effective.
*NOTE: Any left over bread can become breadcrumbs. Toast with a little olive oil till crisp. Crush to the size you require.