Finding creative ways to pack tasty, and healthy, lunchboxes for your kids, week in and week out, can be a challenge. Here are 10 ideas to launch with, and get you and your kids off to an exciting start to the new school year.
1. Fresh fruit hacks
Core and slice an apple, then put it back together with tie a rubber band around it. This slows browning and keeps the slices juicy, and reduces waste by encouraging your kids to eat more than a few bites. Cut costs by looking out for fresh fruit on offer, freezing surplus, and buying what’s in season.
2. Home-packed yogurt
Use bottom-of-the-fruit-bowl ripe or over-ripe fruit, or good-value frozen berries by blending up a fruit purée, then swirling this into natural yogurt for a quick and easy alternative to pricey and added-sugar cartoon-pot yogurts. Reusable pouches helps with making simple yogurts or smoothies in quantity – this way there’ll always be a stash in the freezer ready to go.
3. Tasty sandwiches
Freezing the last bagel, pitta, tortilla wrap or slice of bread means you’ll be able to reach for something different mid-week, enabling sandwich variety between wraps, club sandwiches or cookie-cutter shapes to keep things interesting. If crusts aren’t a hit, cut them off and freeze for breadcrumbs or croutons later.
4. Homemade snacks
Buy dried fruit and nuts, mini pretzels, nut-free granola and the like in bulk and prepare your own creative trail-mixes for lunches and snack time. Add home-made popcorn for bonus variety and nutrition, and it also makes pricier dried fruit go further.
5. Italian-inspired ideas
Italian-type foods are super for repurposing leftovers from family meals. If you make extra of the favourite pasta salad or pizza, this surplus can be added to the lunchbox the next day as an instant, thrifty filler. Bits and pieces from the fridge can always be repurposed into a frittata.
6. Chocolates and sweet treats
You can save big-time by making a stash of chocolate-covered rice cakes at home. Buy rice cakes in bulk, dip these into melted chocolate and you have a cheap and delicious taste of chocolate. Mini pretzels or crackers bought in bulk and dipped into chocolate work wonders too.
7. Dips and nibbles
Tinned white beans, sweet corn or chickpeas can form a base for cheap and cheerful lunchbox salads. Mixing peas or butter beans with quinoa, and snipped leftover herbs and a squeeze of lemon, can create a thrifty and nutritious lunchbox filler.
8. Soups & stews
A small Thermos makes providing cheap and cheerful soups for lunch easy. Soup is nutritious, satisfying and comes in endless varieties – and kids can add garnishes to theirs from their lunchbox. A spoonful of plain yogurt or a sprinkle of grated cheese work wonders. Either cook your soups in batches for the freezer, make a little extra at dinnertime for the next day, or empty the fridge of wilting ingredients and leftovers to repurpose into something tasty.
9. Homemade crisps
Baking slices of sweet potato with olive oil provides the lunchbox with delicious and hearty crisps. Why spend money on processed packets of crisps when it’s so easy to make your own. Sprinkled with a little salt these are a hit every time.
10. Infused fruit water
Making your own fruit-infused water to de-cant into reusable flasks and the savings are big for both your wallet and the planet. Water jazzed up with a few odds and ends from the fruit bowl or herb garden creates delightfully refreshing infusions, and the kids can experiment to find their own favourites.