Packing school lunches – my process

Over the next couple of months I am going to be posting updates on some of my processes. I have been writing on this blog for seven years now. When I first started the blog I had four children, the eldest was 10 years old. Since that time, we added another beautiful child to the family and the kids are now 16, 13, 11, 8 and 6.

Family plans and processes change regularly in our house. Sometimes it is just small changes, other times they are substantial. The different ages and stages of the kids determine the need and frequency for change.

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In 2009 I wrote this post which, I updated a couple of years ago – Making It Easier – School Lunch Box Process. I have learnt quite a bit about what works, what doesn’t, nutrition and creating an efficient process to pack the kids’ school lunches.

By no means am I an expert and please note that I am not a dietician or nutritionist. This is what is working for my family. Every family is unique, so you need to adapt a process that works for yours, hopefully mine will give you some ideas or inspiration.

Macronutrient make up

When putting together the kids’ lunch boxes I am now mindful to include food items representing all macronutrients. The three macronutrients of protein, fat, and carbohydrates all perform essential roles in the human body and for little brains and bodies to perform at their best, they need to be fuelled well with them.

In the kids’ lunch boxes, the main lunch box item included is generally protein based, fruit and veg provide carbohydrates and the home baked treat or extra item will include carbohydrates and fats.

Kids to make their own

Once kids reach secondary school, the onus to make the lunch boxes falls to the child. I know many families that do this from a much younger age with great success, but I am happy to leave it at this. I have home cooked food available for the older kids to pack and they choose the other items themselves.

Establish how much food your kids need

For those who I do pack for, I tailor it to make sure there is enough food to meet their individual needs. One of the three primary school kids for example has a big breakfast and only eats 3 – 4 items in his lunch box depending on what it is. While another eats almost all five items every day.

Create a template for lunch box items

A template takes the thinking out of the lunch box process for me. It makes it simple and it also helps me when I am putting together the shopping list, so I can make sure I purchase the right mix of items.

The current template for packing the kids school lunches looks like this:

  • 1 main lunch item
  • 1 whole piece of fruit or veg
  • 1 container cut fruit or veg
  • 1 home baked treat
  • 1 extra item if needed – rice cakes / dried fruit and seeds/ eggs / yogurt and fruit

Prepare the night before

Most of the lunch box can be prepared and/or packed the night before like:

  • Pack up containers of cut fruit and veg and place in fridge
  • Put seed mix into containers and into the lunch boxes
  • Wrap up the homemade lunch box items and place in the fridge
  • Put ice bricks into freezer

Then in the morning it is just a matter of picking and packing!

Have a regular baking day

If you follow my facebook page, you will be familiar with my weekly prep sessions I undertake on the weekend. I will make a savoury and sweet item for the lunch boxes, prepare some veggies for lunches for me during the week and make other miscellaneous items for the lunch boxes and snacks at home.

Where possible, I try to create efficiencies by planning meals on the weekends (and cook them in larger quantities) so that we will have left overs for the kids lunches like:

I then will choose recipes that make large batches and keep well for a few days. I will often bake again Wednesday or Thursday to see us through to the end of the week.

Buy in season fruit and vegetables

Not only is buying in season fruit and vegetables cheaper, but it also helps keep variety in the lunch boxes throughout the year. You can see a list of seasonal fruit and veg in Australia here.

Do you still pack the school lunch boxes for your kids? What’s your process?