Updated: Jun 20, 2022
With the start of spring, the end of lockdown and kids going back to school, I wanted to do a blog post all about lunchboxes. The tips below will help whether you're looking forward to picnics in the park, long country walks on the weekends or just some new ideas for your kid's school lunches.
I’ve been making lunchboxes for my kids for over five years (see my story below on how it all started!) and always want them to be nutritious, fun and delicious. However, with three children, my own job and a husband that works long hours, I don’t have that much time to spend on meal preparation. Therefore, I’ve worked hard to make the process as easy and quick as possible.
Below are my top tips to help you achieve lunchboxes that are colourful, tasty, healthy and practical as lockdown restrictions start to lift and we all start moving again! I've also linked to my favourite recipes for lunchbox fillers for both kids and adults.
1. Buy a few lunchbox accessories
Colourful sticks, cookie cutters of different shapes and sizes, cards with notes, little eyes or animals on sticks and silicone jelly moulds to shape food all make great additions. They ensure lunchboxes look exciting even when you’re lacking inspiration with the food!
2. Plan your shopping list ahead of time
Make a long list of foods to try (e.g a list of 20 different vegetables that could possibly go in a lunchbox) and then each time you go shopping buy a few new ones. My top lunchbox fillers include different coloured vegetables, fruits, seeds, cheese, olives, meat and yoghurt. You can see some of my go-to ingredients here.
3. Try varying the way you cut things
Cucumber can be batons, slices, crinkle-cut or be stamped into fun shapes (flowers and stars) with a cookie cutter. This gives children the impression they are eating really exciting new things, even if it’s the same ingredients that just look a little different.
4. Use a great container to easily separate food
Bento style lunchboxes are easy to wash, store and travel with, rather than lots of little separate containers, and keep foods separate and fresh. When I'm in a rush, I just open one, throw some vegetables in one compartment, fruit in another, lump of cheese in another, a handful of nuts and few slices of ham/salami… done!
5. Think seasonal
This makes things both cheaper and tastier – as well as being better for the environment. Print a list of months and what’s in season so you know ahead of time what to buy that’s local. This food calendar is a great place to start.
6. Buy real / unprocessed food
As well as the health benefits, such as less emulsifiers, additives and sugar, buying real food helps the environment as it means less packaging and plastic; instantly your food will be healthier, more colourful and better for the planet.
7. Keep things cool and warm
In summer add frozen fruit to yoghurt to keep it chilled; this is such a simple trick and works so well. In winter a good thermos flask is a great way to keep hot food, such as soups, warm and enticing.
To sum up, think of a variety of food, shapes, sizes, colours and ways to present lunchboxes in an appealing and attractive way. You will find that once you start, after a bit of trial and error, the process becomes much easier very quickly.
You can also get your kids to help you to make the process feel more like quality time spent together rather than a chore at the end of the day!
Below you will find links to a selection of my recipes that are great for popping in lunchboxes:
You’ll also find ideas and recipes on my Instagram. Below is a small selection that are easy and quick to make. Scroll through my posts to find more.
No-sugar milk, coconut, herbal tea, chocolate or fruit jellies
Sugar-free raspberry cheesecake
Number shaped frittatas
Rainbow or healthy raspberry vanilla muffins
Savoury superfood strudel
Avocado and chicken fritters
Easy left-over meat and veg samosa recipe
Cheese egg-pancake roll-ups
Low-sugar vanilla seedy flapjacks (nut free)
Avocado no-sugar brownies
P.S Most schools insist on nut-free lunchboxes these days. There are ideas on my Instagram grid of recipes that give the same salty ‘crunch’ and similar great sources of nutrients, protein and good fats that you get from nuts.
Toasted Cinnamon Coconut flakes
Toasted spiced seeds
Dried fruit with salty cheese
I also wanted to share the story of how my lunchbox journey began…. I started my Instagram account five years ago when my daughter started school. I was disappointed by the food provided so started trying to make her varied and colourful healthy lunches to take to school instead of eating at the canteen. I discovered Bento style lunchboxes and found it the easiest way to separate all the different parts of a healthy lunch displayed freshly, neatly and in a child-friendly way, which all stayed intact for hours until she ate it.
Finally, there is a great charity that I’ve raised money for (by doing a Zoom cookery class in lockdown) called Chefs In Schools that are transforming school dinners into real, good, home-cooked food. I’m passionate, like them, about children eating nutritious food and I really hope school dinners will improve! Check them out if this is a cause that interests you too.
I hope that all the above helps with preparing healthy, quick and tasty lunchboxes for the weeks ahead; whether at school, work, weekend picnics or on the move. Good luck!
As always, if you have any questions please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, DM me, drop a comment below or fill in the form on my contact page. I’d love to hear which lunchbox tips and recipes work for you!