If you follow my Instagram stories in the mornings, you will know that 3 or 4 times a week I like to share my children’s lunch boxes. Some very interesting conversations have taken place in my DMs as a result, i.e. people asking me how I set aside the extra time in the mornings to pack them, or people asking about quantities, nutritional value etc. I’ve also had a few people telling me they preferred the school canteen option, which I can actually relate to, as my children used to eat in the canteen prior to the pandemic.
I’ve written this post to break down my lunch box process from beginning to end, but bear in mind that my approach is extremely simple and suits my busy lifestyle. My children’s lunches are nowhere near as creative as the ones you have probably seen on Pinterest and Tik Tok. In fact I take my hat off to any parent out there who finds the time, energy and creativity to make fancy-looking lunch boxes for their kids everyday! This is not my reality, and I’m sure many parents will relate – we don’t necessarily have it in us to make the fanciest lunches, but we still want our kids to enjoy the experience and the food!
1. Set time aside to prepare the lunches
I wake up at 5:30am every morning, but only because we have quite a hectic morning routine – 3 children, lots to do, lots to prepare before we all head out at the same time. I set aside 20 to 30 minutes between the moment I shower and the moment I put on my make up, to prepare their lunches. That’s what works for me.
2. Use compartmentalised lunch boxes
I bought my children’s lunch boxes from Ebay, but the choice online and on the high street is immense. Whether you go for bamboo lunch boxes, or Bento boxes… the choice is yours, as long as they have compartments, or ‘sections’, to better separate the different foods and ingredients you will fill it with. You can also buy a lunch bag to put the box in, which makes it easier for your child to carry.
3. Pre-cut some fruits and vegetables
This is a lifesaving tip you don’t want to ignore. Generally speaking, I’m the type of person to prepare things in advance to help me save time. So this is something I like to do – chopping carrots the night before, or even placing some dry snacks in the boxes in advance… anything to make my job easier in the mornings.
4. Offer a variety of food and a balanced meal
Okay so this is the important bit. You want to provide a balanced, healthy selection of foods – fresh fruit, a meat or protein, fresh vegetable, starchy food (bread, pasta…), something dairy and a snack. This sounds pretty balanced to me. But mind you, I have fussy eaters who hate most types of vegetables and dairy, and aren’t always willing to try new things. This means their lunch boxes tend to be a little bit repetitive, but the most important thing is that they are fed. So manage your expectations and don’t beat yourself up if you struggle to come up with new ideas. And in regards to quantities, I was asked on a few occasions if these meals were just snacks, and if the kids went home hungry. My children are not big eaters at all, so yes these are their lunches and it fills them up at lunch time. In fact they don’t always finish it all – which is okay, because I believe they get all of their nutrients from their 3 meals everyday. When they get home from school, they do tend to snack one last time and we have dinner around 7pm. Our evening meals are a lot bigger and ‘hearty’ family meals.
5. Leftovers can make for great lunches too
My husband and I usually eat the leftovers from the night before, but what’s to say that the kids can’t enjoy them too? Of course you need to think about the practicality of it – does the meal require re-heating in the microwave? Do your children have access to a microwave at school? You also want to avoid foods that will go bad if they stay out of the fridge for a few hours. All of these things need to be taken into consideration.
6. Get your children involved
Ask them what they like, take them food shopping with you, let them select a few of the fruits or snacks… This is a great way to get them involved in the making of the lunch boxes, and can also be a teaching moment. I believe that choosing some of the foods can prompt them to be more open to trying new ingredients and products.
7. Keep things as creative or as simple as you want
There is absolutely no reason why you should put pressure on yourself to create magical-looking lunch boxes. I’ve seen all sorts – fruits and veggies cut into different shapes, fruit kebabs, love notes etc (I tried love notes with my kids, they were not a hit!). I mean, these ideas are all fantastic and I’m sure most children would want a fun and interesting lunch box. But this is really depending on whether you even have the time to do it. I like to keep my lunch boxes simple because I live quite a hectic life already, I don’t need the added labour! But if this is what you’d prefer, then by all means put in the effort!
I hope this post has been helpful. If you have any additional tips, let me know in the comments below!