Back to school is fast approaching and I know for many mums it feels like a countdown is under way. The pressure mounts as an endless list of Back to school jobs has to be completed over the summer holidays. Sometimes this seems too much, particularly with the kids with you 24/7 for 6 whole weeks! This week I’ve agreed to take part in Hartleys Back to School Lunchbox Challenge and share with you all our top tips for lunchbox inspiration!
So hopefully by now you have managed to get the uniform sorted and are now feeling like you are on the home straight? So maybe now is a good time, and we can start thinking about their school lunchtimes, whether to opt for school dinners or to send the kids in with a packed lunch. (For us this has never been an option whilst at primary school). For a lot of us, it can be a very apprehensive time, particularly if the kids are on the picky / fussy eater side, are slow eaters, or you are simply new to this, not sure how hungry they will be, not sure if they will even eat, or how they will last the day until home time…
So today, I am going to share with you some quick and easy tips and lunch box ideas, that will hopefully help you overcome those back to school nerves you may be facing as a mum and help you with the first couple of weeks into the new term. Remember you can then simply repeat this formula, tweak for your own child’s likes and dislikes, but at least have a framework to work from.
We have written about this a lot before, so do check out the hints and tips sections, the lunchbox ideas and recipes sections, for lots of packed lunch inspiration. Our mantra has always been to help put the fun back into packed lunches, whilst keeping them healthy, fresh and fun!
Our Top 5 Lunch box Tips
1 Planning the lunches is key! Involve the kids in creating a chart
Draw up a list of possible sandwich fillings and lunch ideas to make a chart. Involve the children (if they are old enough). They could even draw their favourite lunch, or cut pictures from the free supermarket magazines and create a chart! Ideally gather enough ideas for 2 weeks, that’s a minimum of 10 ideas, that can then be rotated. Use colourful card as a background if you have it, a pritt stick, scissors and get to work!
Once created, this can be stuck on the fridge door, noticeboard or somewhere prominent in the kitchen. This can change as the tastes and likes change, but at least you then have a go-to board for first thing in the morning to help you focus.
To help get you started, here is our list of 10 sandwich filling ideas:
- tuna mayonnaise with either cucumber slices or gherkins
- roast chicken slices, mayonnaise and cooked bacon
- salami and cheese
- grated cheese and ham
- egg and tomato with a smattering of mayonnaise
- egg and bacon
- egg and cress – ideally sliced egg, no mayonnaise in this one
- cream cheese with ham or red pepper (or both)
- cooked sausage and pickle
- bacon lettuce and tomato (BLT)
I then love mixing this up with using different types of bread, whether it’s a bagel, a sandwich thin, a submarine roll, a wrap, or a crisp roll or bread… It just mixes it up for the kids too!
2 Make the whole lunch box experience fun! Get the kids involved!
The kids can help select items for the lunch. Let them choose their lunch box for the year, maybe a new lunch bag. Within the budget you have in mind, the kids can then choose a bag, bottle and lunch box.
(I even do this even now with my kids in their teens. There is a lot of peer pressure in school, and it is important to make sure your kids feel comfortable with the kit they are taking in for their lunches.) You set the budget though, and keep to whatever you can afford. There is a huge selection of lunch boxes, bags and bottles out there to hit every budget.
3 Make sure you have got the key elements to go in a lunch box meal covered
Just a reminder, we wrote about why a healthy lunch box is important in more detail here, but a quick overview is below:
You need to be sure the lunch box contains – fruit, veggies, dairy, protein, grains and of course something to drink. Some lunch boxes have lots of compartments labelled as a reminder to help you pop in lots of healthy options.
Many schools advocate water as the preferred drink of choice, and our local schools here in Buckinghamshire recommend you purchase the school water bottle so that the children can have these out on the desk during lesson times, in case they get thirsty. For more interesting hydration facts, check out the blog post I wrote here.
I think the key thing to remember is the kids generally don’t have a lot of time to eat their lunch before they are kicked outside to play. (This is definitely the case at primary school.) So don’t pack too much otherwise the dinner ladies can stand over the children, piling on the pressure to eat up! Remember, in the early days this is a learning experience for both the child and the parent to get the balance and amount right. You can always be ready at the school gate with an after school healthy snack to help them get home! This could even be a Hartley’s jelly if you didn’t pop one in the lunch box for lunch!
4 Make the lunch box when it suits you and you have the time
Some of us like to make the lunch fresh in the morning, others prefer to make the lunch the night before. Do what works for you. I often get the lunch boxes laid out and get the non-perishables ready the night before, so that would be the chew bars, snacks, maybe the bottled water ready. Then I make the sandwiches fresh, or gather the finger foods or pasta salad together in the morning.
5 Gathering lunch box inspiration – where to get it from?
For me, I look out for ideas in the supermarket magazines, or online. Pinterest is a great resource and instagram too. I love creating food art – kids eat with their eyes and it just makes the whole experience that much more fun! OK this one did take a while to create, but you get the idea…
My kids are older now, so I now create simple but cute food art lunch box ideas for my nephew (nearly 2) and niece (just about to start school).
I’ve even started checking out the sandwich ideas that some of the high street food-on-the-go retailers offer, and also the meal deals in the supermarkets. They are coming up with some interesting combinations even for us adults to try!!
How can I get one of these lunch boxes?
If you fancy getting your hands on one of these fun lunch boxes shown in the photos, you will need to hurry! Look out for the Hartley’s jellies with the special edition green lids from their No Added Sugar jelly pots range in the supermarkets. To claim your free lunch box, complete with free stickers and alphabet, you will need to collect 12 of these special edition green lids. For full details, hop over to the Hartley’s jelly website. Then your kids can truly personalise their own Hartleys lunchbox!
This post is an entry for Britmums #HartleysYourLunchbox Linky Challenge, sponsored by Hartley’s Jelly . All thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.
If you have some lunch box ideas to share, we love hearing from you, so please comment below. Also if you found this post helpful, we would love it if you would share it. So make my day and share away!
Thanks for stopping by!
The Lunchbox Lady x