If you’re looking for some simple ways to save time on preparing a healthy lunchbox for your children, look no further.
We’ve pulled together 12 tried and tested lunchbox hacks (from real mums like you) that will give you a little help to get the kids out the door on time for school.
Need more healthy eating recipes that the kids will love? Try our Healthy Kids Cookbook which is packed with simple tasty recipes.
1. Empty and wash the lunch boxes on Friday night
There’s nothing worse than opening a lunchbox on Monday morning to find leftover food. Get into the habit of giving the lunchboxes a wash in soapy water on a Friday evening so that they are ready to roll come Monday.
2. Freeze dip in ice cube trays
Kids love to dunk, so instead of giving them a Le Snak with its dubious health claims (and cheese from a shelf, what’s that all about?) offer them a healthy homemade dip instead. You can freeze homemade dip in ice cube trays and then just click out one or two cubes into a small container in the morning, with some carrot sticks or brown rice crackers in another container for dipping. The dip will be defrosted in time for morning tea. For 10 tips on handy things to freeze in ice cube trays click here.
4. Prepare what you can at night
Not everyone likes to give their kids a sandwich made the night before, and that’s fair enough. But much of the lunchbox can be ready-made the night prior. Pop in a piece of fruit, fill water bottles, add tubs of yoghurt – then just add the fresh items in the morning.
5. Double batch then freeze cakes and slices
Bake a big batch of morning tea and wrap individually then freeze. The night before, take it out of the freezer to defrost overnight and they’ll be ready to pop into a lunchbox. Think Raspberry and Coconut Slice, a Choc Chip Muffin, or this Healthy Chocolate Date Cake.
6. Try different shapes and sizes
For some reason, crinkle cut carrots seem much more exciting than regular carrot sticks. You can also use them for cutting sweet potato into wedges and baking in the oven with your dinner, then popping some in the lunchbox for a tasty snack the next day. If you are struggling to get your kids to eat sandwiches, try cutting them into fun shapes using a cookie cutter.
7. Make these two and three ingredient treats
Let’s face it, anything where you just throw a handful of ingredients in a food processor is going to be ideal for a busy mum. These Coconut and Date Balls have just two ingredients (can you guess what they are??) and need no oven time either. We also love these 3 Ingredient Apricot Squares. Keep some aside for your own morning tea!
8. Get the kids to make some no-bake snacks
If you’ve got little ones that love to help in the kitchen, encourage them to help prepare food for school lunches for the week. Try a no-bake recipe such as these tasty Sesame Seed Bars (they’re nut free) so that you don’t have to worry about kids near the hot oven.
9. Try reusable pouches
You can buy reusable yoghurt pouches quite cheaply these days, and fill them with your own healthy yoghurt mix (we love thick Greek yoghurt with honey and cinnamon). But you can also use these to send the kids off with a ‘thickie’ – it’s like a smoothie but much thicker (which kids love). Make the night before and freeze, then it will be defrosted and cool for lunch. Try this recipe for a Chocolate Thickie, replacing the Healthy Mummy Smoothie mix with 2 tbsp cocoa/cacao.
10. Pre-chop food for the week
If your kids love cheese and crackers, or slices of watermelon, there’s no need to chop up the cheese and watermelon fresh every day. At the beginning of the week chop up enough cubes of cheese and watermelon slices for the week and keep them in a separate container so that you can just grab them out each morning.
11. Make a healthy popcorn trail mix
Think air popped popcorn, sultanas, pumpkin seeds, dried apricots and chunky shredded coconut. Keep this in a large jar that you can just scoop out into a container for a healthy snack to go.
12. Store wraps in the freezer
Many mums have known the feeling of dread as you realise at 7am that you’re out of bread for school lunches. This is why we recommend that you keep a pack of tortilla wraps in the freezer. They click off the pile really well without breaking, and then you can just defrost on the bench (or in the microwave for 20 seconds) and use as normal.
13. Cook extra at dinnertime
If your kids will happily tuck into a cold sausage or chicken drumstick, always prepare more of these when you have them at dinnertime. You can also throw a leftover slice of quiche or pie into the lunchbox for a change to the usual sandwich. Or turn leftover pasta into a quick pasta salad with some tinned corn, avocado chunks, tuna, or kidney beans added.