making it easier - school lunch box process

A lovely reader of the blog wrote to me earlier this month with a couple of starting school questions. I had already scheduled posts on a number of topics that were discussed, but there was one topic which I hadn’t and it was on school lunches.

Thinking of interesting food to put in the school lunches everyday can become quite a challenge after a while, so I thought it would make a great idea for a post. Thanks for the inspiration Sharon!

School Lunches – A Process

If you have been in the school routine for more than a year, like me you probably have a routine or process that you follow which takes some of the hard work out of making the school lunches. If this is your first year into the school routine, you might like to think about making one. School mornings can be stressful if there is too much to do, making the school lunches into an easy job can help things run more smoothly.

Establish how much food is required.

Through trial and error I have worked out how much food my children need to get them through the day. I originally placed 6 – 7 items in the kids’ lunch boxes, but found there was too much coming back home uneaten or half eaten in the lunch box at the end of the day.

For the last two years I have settled on five items which seems to be the sweet spot – the kids have enough variety in their lunch box which sustains them through out the school day with out (too much!) waste.

Create a template for school lunches

You can only really do this once you know how much food is enough for your children. Each time I make the school lunches I aim to include:

  • 1 main lunch item eg sandwich, wrap or home baked savoury item
  • 1 whole piece of fruit – apple, banana, mandarin, pear etc
  • 1 container of veg – carrot, capsicum, cucumber, celery etc OR
  • 1 container fruit pieces – strawberries, grapes, watermelon, rockmelon etc
  • 1 home baked treat – muffin, biscuit, slice of cake etc
  • 1 selection of crackers – rice crackers, rice cakes, etc OR
  • 1 selection of dried fruit / seeds – apricots, sultanas, sunflower seeds, etc

Once I have included the 5 items in each lunch box, I know that there is enough food for each child and mix of the appropriate food groups.

Prepare as much as you can the night before.

Lots of the preparation for the school lunches can be completed the night before.

  1. Cut up fruit and veg and store in fridge. I find that watermelon, rockmelon, strawberries etc can be cut the night before and placed in air tight containers until the morning.
  2. Cut up fresh ingredients for sandwiches if required. I like to make fresh sandwiches in the morning, purely as personal preference. Some people are happy to make up large batches of sandwiches and freeze them in advance. I will often grate carrot, shred lettuce, slice tomato etc, the night before so that I can just place the ingredients into the sandwich/wrap in the morning.
  3. If there is a home baked savoury item for the lunch box, wrap it and keep in the fridge ready to go.
  4. Make up cracker or dried fruit packs.
  5. Wrap up home baked treat and place in lunch box.

Have a regular baking day/s for treats for school lunches.

I have found that having a regular baking day, helps make sure that there is  home cooked food in the children’s school lunches. Through out most of the year I will have two baking days:

  1. Sunday evening where  I do the bulk of the cooking and do it quickly by myself.
  2. A weekday morning when I cook with the preschooler. See my post on Children’s Timetable for more info on this.

Here are a few easy to cook recipes that are a hit in my children’s school lunch boxes:

You can find all my lunch box recipes here – lunch box recipes.

Buy in season fruit and vegetables

Not only is this cheaper, but it also helps keep variety in the lunch boxes through out the year.

Then if you are anything like me, there is a sigh of relief when school holidays come around and you can take a few weeks off worrying about what to give the children for their school lunches!

How do you go about the business of school lunches?

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  • Marita January 29, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Excellent tips there. Thank you.

  • Grace January 29, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Thanks for the tips. Certainly will need these tips for 2010 when Arielle starts school and baby#2 is 6months or so… (scarey thought)

    Graces last blog post..Watercolour Paintings

  • jen January 29, 2009 at 10:34 am

    My son’s a big eater so when he first started school I packed heaps of food for him. I’ve cut that down because the play factor comes in. They get an allotted amount of time to eat and if he’s not done too bad, he won’t finish eating. He’s 7 and I pack him a sandwich, a little yoghurt or custard, some biscuits (or similar), fruit (depending on what’s in season), and a fruit drink. I’m also a fresh sandwich kind of girl.

    jens last blog post..First baby tooth gone

  • ickle Kids January 29, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    What great tips! My little one is starting school on Monday so we’re very excited. I am baking on the weekend to prepare for his school lunchbox – so I’ll try out your recipes. Thanks!

    ickle Kidss last blog post..New ickle Website!!

  • Kathy January 29, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    Thanks for this post, Nicole – very timely for me as my first baby starts school next Monday! I already used the cubing melons / cutting up strawberries the night before trick for kinder snacks and will definitely continue with that.

    Kathys last blog post..Hot

  • ribbon January 31, 2009 at 1:31 am

    I like your blog!
    Thanks for visiting me & I hope you’ll come again.
    Best wishes & great tips :-)

    ribbons last blog post..The Gift of Giving!

  • ribbon January 31, 2009 at 1:37 am

    Me again. Just had a good look around and the one word that comes to mind is ………. you’re quite amazing!
    Best wishes with all that you do. I’m a Mum to one.

    ribbons last blog post..The Gift of Giving!

  • Catherine January 31, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    As a teacher and parent of young children I’ve also found that separating recess and lunch into two boxes (at least to start with) can be quite useful. Children get very hungry and will tend to gulp down the entire contents of their lunch boxes at recess and not leave anything for lunch!

  • Trish January 31, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Super ideas Nicole …even for mums taking their toddlers /preschoolers on a day out.
    Thankfully , the daycare I am planing for one day a week we don’t have to prepare to take anything …I will need some practice later on though.

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  • Natalie January 25, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    I have made a 10 meals menu for school time. It is so easy that way and I get a lot of variety for my daughter. At the end of 10 days I go back to number one on the menu list. Stick it up inside your kitchen cupboard.
    .-= Natalie´s last blog ..AUSTRALIA DAY PREPARATIONS =-.

  • Pasty Muncher January 29, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Dont forget the humble pasty, if made properly, is an ideal lunch item for kids.

    Munch on!
    .-= Pasty Muncher´s last blog ..Australia Celebrates Oggy Oggie Oggie Oi Oi Oi =-.

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