Thursday, 2 October 2014

The Winning Formula for School Lunchboxes

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So far, in my journey through motherhood, I have had three children to prepare lunchboxes for. Of course, all three have/had very different attitudes towards what constitutes an acceptable/edible school lunch.

Eldest would eat anything. His father has been known to pack him the same thing every day for a week and it would always come home eaten. Always.

Next son is very hard to please. That egg sandwich he loved last week? Well, that comes home untouched this week because he “doesn’t like those anymore” (!!) 

Number three? Fussy but only in that he likes to keep it simple. Jam sandwiches are a winner. My incredibly delicious, Award Winning* gourmet chicken and cream cheese sandwiches remain uneaten. Sigh.

Should I insist that they just eat everything I pack and go hungry if they don’t? Probably. Though, I hate wasting food. I’m not keen on hungry children either. And, quite frankly, I’ve never liked sandwiches myself.

So, I went searching my favourite blogs and Pinterest for some inspiration- new ideas for lunches and snacks.

Katrina at The Organised Lunchbox has this great planner. She uses it for her children who are old enough to pack their own lunches. Personally, I’ve tried supplying my kids with this three (or four) item variety and it’s just not working.

Then,  I stumbled upon the winning formula for lunchboxes. Inspired by this Pin...

and using this template I plan out my weekly menu using the winning formula...

and it works a treat for us!

Each lunchbox should include:

* one main item (usually with a protein),
* one dairy,
* two vegetable,
* two fruit,
* one savoury
* and one sweet item.

You can also combine a few categories in one food item. So, Sushi would cover savoury (rice), protein (tuna) and one or two vegetable (corn mixed with the tuna or a vegetable filling with carrot, avocado and cucumber). I often count the banana or blueberries in a muffin as a portion of fruit too.

The main reasons this formula is such a winner?

1. Small amounts of things mean my kids don’t get sick of eating something before they’re finished it.

2. Cut up portions are less work and faster to eat. All the better to hit the playground quicker!

3. It’s easy to have lot of variety throughout the week/s.

4. All the variety and different colours look really appealing. This is the way kids – and adults - are won over.

Now, I'm pretty strict about what my kids eat on a daily basis. (Parties and special occasions are another story!) We have a "No numbers" rule - that is if it's got any ingredients that are numbers (colours, preservatives etc.) we don't eat it. This rule is broken on occasion, usually out of desperation and for my convenience. 

Most of the sweet items I give my kids are homemade and none of them- even the store-bought bars- contain any refined sugar.

So what does a week look like for us? Here are some of the combos I’ve been busting out this term...
1. Sushi (Tuna, carrot and cucumber), Choc balls, Salada crackers, Cheese, Apple and Kiwifruit
2. Chicken cream cheese sandwich, muesli bar, rice crackers, carrot and cumber circles, Rock- and Honeydew melon balls
3. Tuna and avocado 'sandwich sushi' rolls, Mini date muffin, Pretzels, Yogurt, Strawberries and Blueberries
4. Salami, Apple Muffin, Cheese, Rice Crackers, Carrot and beans, Mandarin
5. Ham & Cheese Kebab, Pineapple & Coconut Muffin, Salada crackers, Carrot and Celery sticks, Strawberries and Blueberries
6. Sushi (Tuna, corn and avocado), Muesli bar, Flavoured crackers, Mandarin and grapes
7. Salami, Muesli bar, Rice crackers, Cheese, Cucumber, Apple and grapes
8. Ham sandwich, Custard, Rice crackers, Carrot and celery sticks with hummus, Grapes and Kiwifruit
9. Boiled egg, Blueberry muffin, Salada crackers, Cheese, Celery circles and carrot sticks, Strawberries and Blueberries
10. Ham Sandwich, Sultanas, Flavoured crackers, Celery with cream cheese, Rock- and Honeydew melon balls
11. Chicken wrap, Banana muffin, Sweet chilli cream cheese dip, carrot and celery sticks, watermelon

Now, tell me, what's the one thing you put in lunchboxes that never comes home?

* I made that up.


  1. I think this is the first "school lunchbox" post I've ever read and thought "Yup, I will be trying that when she's older".

    I find a lot of these type of posts are a bit...well...they're just not me. They're either a little too 'healthy'. You know the ones. They think carrots are evil and they'll only eat fruit from the rare African guava-nut plant which blossoms on the fourth Tuesday of the blue moon. The others are the opposite and start a lunchbox post with glorious sugar-filled replica fruit treats.

    I have longed for a lunchbox post that not only contained vegetable portions alongside fruit, but also had them as plain old fruit and veges. No disguises, not mashed in other food or just left out completely. There's watermelon, carrot, grapes, celery and a whole host of fruits and vegetables all naked and out there for the world to see. I love it and the reason why is that it is teaching your children that they can, in fact, just eat fruit and veges. They don't have to be part of some exotic thrice-cooked Heston B. wonderland. You can quite literally reach into the fridge, pull out said fruit/vegetable item and munch away. The most preparation might be a wash or peel.

    This is definitely something I will be doing when the poppet is at school. Thanks Sarah xx

    (P.s. To anyone reading this comment, I completely understand that some kids simply won't eat those foods and that they need to be disguised. I'm only speaking from my experience and being one of the very few lucky that has a child who loves fruit and veges. I mean no disrespect....fist bump and cheek kisses mwah mwah).

    1. Thanks, Rach. The ones that baffle me are the themed ones where everything is shaped like a character from Frozen - ain't nobody got time for that!
      S x

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