The first week of school is over! Luke has really loved being back at school and has made lots of new friends, but by far the most exciting part of his day has been lunch time. Ever since he started school, he has wanted packed lunches. Being the horrible mother I am, I took advantage of the free school dinners, much to his disappointment. So when it came to starting Year 3, I was pretty inexperienced when it came to making packed lunches for school.
If you’re in the same boat as me, this is the blog post for you! If you’re a veteran when it comes to making packed lunches for school, don’t close the page just yet – there might be some great tips or food ideas here for you that will make your life even easier. So please, read on!
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So you’re new to Year 3 and you’ve suddenly remembered you have to become the master of fun and nutritionally balanced packed lunches.
Sounds somewhat daunting, doesn’t it?
As a fellow year 3 newbie, I thought so too. Because of this, I decided to seek some advice, and hopefully some inspiration, from some fellow blogging friends of mine who have all been acing the packed lunch game for way longer than I have.
After asking a lot of questions I’ve ended up with some really helpful advice and some great packed lunch ideas for school that I’m going to share with you now in the hopes that I can help out some other fellow year 3 parents out.
Luke’s School Lunches.
I’ve also taken a picture of Luke’s school lunches for the first week of school, just in case anyone’s interested in what he’s been eating during the day. I’m still learning what works and doesn’t work, so there might be some silly things here.
I must admit that during the first week of making packed lunches for school I was also pretty worried about just ‘getting it right’, so I didn’t focus on making meals cheaply. This is definitely something I’m going to work on when moving forward!
If you want to see them, they’re at the end of the post, so keep reading.
Tips and Tricks for preparing packed lunches for school.
Separate different food groups with cupcake cases or small tubs.
My first tip is to make sure you have a lunch box with compartments so that it’s easy to organise the packed lunch. If you don’t have one with little sections in it already, using little tubs or silicon cupcake cases also works really well for separating all the different foods.
Jemma from Have Kids Will Travel UK says: We have a yumbox which is a bento style box which is divided into sections and labelled up for what you should put in each bit (protein, grains, veg, fruit etc). It makes it much easier to put together lunch and always is balanced.
Preperation is key!
A great tip from Shel at The Willow Tree is to always be prepared! She says: I give my kids packed lunches, I would always say prep as much as you can the night before it really does save time in the morning (and gives you more time to enjoy a cuppa 😉) I also get their water bottles soaked and cleaned ready to be filled. There’s been so many times I’m hunting the house for lost water bottles before school! Prep is the key!
Use your freezer.
In keeping with being prepared, Zoe from My Allergy Kitchen suggests using your freezer to help with preparation, as well as helping to minimise waste.
She told me: I like to bake batches of healthy treats eg muffins or cookies and freeze them. Then I can just defrost an individual portion in the morning and pop it into their lunchboxes. I also freeze different types of bread eg pitta, wraps, rolls, so that I can give them a good variety without any waste. She even has a blog post full of allergy friendly packed lunch ideas for school.
Food that stays warm until lunch time.
I hadn’t even thought about trying to make a packed lunch for school that would still be nice and warm come lunchtime. That thought hadn’t even occurred to me! However, a few people have given me some great pointers on how to prepare and wrap the food so that it stays warm throughout the morning.
Michelle from Time and Pence says: My son has allergies so his lunchbox has always been a bit of a challenge. We tend to stick to simple sandwiches but I cut up spinach into tiny pieces to add a bit to his sandwich so he gets a bit of veg without realising! I add fruit pots, raisins, dairy free yoghurts and allergy free cookies to his lunch box and try to vary it as much as possible. Some days as a treat I make him a fresh sausage sandwich in the morning and wrap it in foil so it’s still a little warm by lunchtime which he loves.
Nikki from Recipe For Home takes it to a whole new level with her packed lunch tips. She told me: I have just bought an insulated food jar – about £15 from Amazon. My plan is to batch cook a lot of pasta, with different style sauces (think macaroni cheese, pesto, tomato etc). Then weigh out portions the size of my food jar before freezing them. Then on a school morning I can quickly defrost and heat up, before putting it in the food jar. It should keep hot for five hours. Perfect for winter lunches and you can add veg in there too!
Sweet snacks don’t have to be unhealthy.
Lots of schools have rules about what can and can’t go in your children’s packed lunch box; many don’t allow sweet treats like chocolate bars or biscuits.
Robbie has come up with a great way to satisfy your kid’s sweet tooth while still providing a healthy snack. Here’s how: I bought a cheap food dehydrator online to make fruit crisps for my kids. They love being able to choose different fruits to see what each will taste like dried. Pretty much anything can go in, but mangos and pears have revealed themselves to be the favourites in our house.
It’s ridiculously simple and cheap to prepare. A big plus is that I know there’s no additives or preservatives in my kids’ sweet snacks.
Sandwiches, wraps and crackers.
The most basic packed lunch staple is, of course, the humble sandwich. However, there are loads of ways to make this classic school packed lunch more exciting.
Jennifer says: My boys tend to like the same lunches (ham for one, cheese for the other) so I sometimes use different shape cookie cutters to make it a bit more interesting. Next week they are having shark shaped sandwiches!
Josie from Business For Mums prefers wraps in her kid’s lunch boxes and here’s why: My kids prefer wraps to sandwiches and we find they seem to get less soggy. We go for simple fillings like sliced chicken or grated cheese. I also include a small pot of hummus and some breadsticks in their lunch as it’s one of the few nutritious food they will eat!
You don’t need to have something bread related to build a sandwich. Crackers make a great packed lunch filler for those children who are less keen in having bread or wraps.
Victoria‘s son prefers crackers, so here’s what she does when making his packed lunch for school: My son isn’t particularly keen on any type of bread so we use various types of crackers for his lunch box instead. We use Ryvita and rice cakes, for example, with 100% fruit jams or 100% nut butters as his school allows nuts in the lunchbox. To mix it up we sometimes give pasta as the ‘main’ or even a vegan sausage roll as a weekly treat lunch.
As the ‘sides’ we add fresh chopped raw veg and salad such as carrots or cucumber, dried fruit such as raisins or dates and a fruit puree pot.
Luke’s lunches for the first week of school.
Now that you’ve read all the tips and tricks from other parents, here are some of the lunches that Luke’s taken in on his first week of school.
His lunch box is the Bento Lunch Box* for kids from Amazon; it has sections for different food groups and it also comes with a fork and spoon – great for pasta/yoghurt etc. It comes in different colours and is made from the renewable raw material, wheat straw. All in all, it’s pretty great value at £11.99.
The vinyl name sticker* (extra important thanks to COVID 19) is also from Amazon and can be found here. You can get stickers in different sizes, different fonts and loads of different colours, including glittery ones. Luke has a black sparkly name sticker in the size 6cm.
What are your go-to school packed lunch ideas?
Now that I’m officially packed lunch mum, I would love to hear all your ideas. What do your kids prefer in their lunch boxes? What’s a definite no-no when it comes to packing a lunch box for school?