Mrs Brightside’s handy school lunch hacks

‘Kia Ora lovelies. But especially ‘ello to my parenting lovelies!

How are you doing? Keeping your head above water? I bet you’re doing about a dozen times better than you think you are. Make that a baker’s dozen.

Parenting is a tough gig! It can be the hardest and most rewarding job there is. And a large percentage of time can be spent figuring out what to put into the kids’ lunchboxes day after day.

It’s like playing Tetris, except you have to supply your own squares and one of your children doesn’t like squares with raisins in them – and on the other hand, you’ve got the Nutrition Foundation saying several of those squares should be fruits and veggies. So not much like playing Tetris at all, really. Anywho, I figured I could share my awesome hacks for school lunches.

It’s my sincerest hope that at least one of these hacks comes in handy, or at the very least avoids a midweek meltdown.

1. Give them a choice

One of my favourite hacks is letting the kids have a say in their own lunches.

I’ll pack the usual ‘main’ that has some decent nutritional value, such as a ham sandwich or a veggie wrap with a piece of fruit. Then, set up two containers, one for various types of muesli bars or packs of dried fruits or nuts, and one for ‘less healthy’ treats. They get to choose one item from each container, so they have some investment in their lunchbox decisions (and you can see what they actually prefer and stock up on).

2. Freeze items in summer

From their squeezy yoghurt to their jelly cups to their bottle of water, you can freeze lunchbox items overnight when the weather gets warmer. When you add it to their bag in the morning, it’ll help to keep the rest of the lunch cool and fresh, and will defrost by lunchtime.

If it’s not warm enough for things to defrost by lunchtime, you can instead soak and freeze a new kitchen sponge in a Ziploc bag to use as an ice pack. This way, you’re not spending a fortune if it disappears every other day.

3. Save with family-sized packs of chips

Does your little one love chips? Silly question – they all do. We all do.

But those individual packets of chips can get costly, so instead, I recommend buying the family sized bags and packing them into small, reusable bags. Be sure to blow a little air in as you close it to keep the chips from getting crushed.

As a totally unexpected (but welcomed) surprise, you get to serve a few for yourself as you go as well!

4. Put the kids to work growing their own lunchbox items

Kids not working, in this economy? Let them earn their keep in the garden by growing some of their own lunchbox items so they can learn about gardening and where food comes from while you save on groceries.

Some of the best (AKA easy to grow but also tasty) veggies and fruit include:

  • baby tomatoes
  • carrots
  • celery 
  • strawberries 
  • grapes
  • cucumbers

5. Sushi squares

Sushi is filling and delicious, but a bit too fiddly to make the real thing, to be honest.

Instead, invest in one of those large square ice cube trays (where the ice cubes are the size of your palm), place a square of Gladwrap in, and fill the square with cooked rice a third of the way. Then add a spoon full of your favourite fillings, such as chicken and avocado or tuna and mayo, and top up with more rice.

Squish the rice right down and chill the whole thing in the fridge so it retains its shape, then pull it out, wrap it up with the Gladwrap, and pop it in the lunchbox.

6. Plan your dinners with leftovers in mind

Two meals, one set of dishes. What more could you ask for?

Plan your dinners with leftover lunches in mind so that you’ll be able to pack up a Tupperware container in the morning and call it a day.

Meals such as pasta salad, roast chicken, quesadillas, sausage rolls, and quiche are all tasty the next day whether or not your little ones can safely access a microwave at school.

Don’t forget that big brekkies can have leftovers, too. This banana and coconut pancake recipe is quick, easy, and delicious, and makes for the perfect lunchbox stuffer. I like to add chocolate chips though as a little treat… your call.

7. Sneak in those wholegrains

Here’s one final hack which was inspired by Kidspot – put that tasty white bread on top of the sandwich, and sneak a wholegrain slice at the bottom.

Will they even notice? Possibly. But they might not mind so much when there’s a piece of white bread on top and their favourite filling in the middle.

What are your best school lunchbox hacks to save time, money, and your sanity? Let us know on our Facebook or Instagram page.

Signing off,

- Mrs Brightside