By now, the school year will be up and running: assignments will begin, homework sent home and extra-curricular activities burning up all their excess energy. Your children are a year older and now they want something a bit more interesting than ham sandwiches and apple slices in their lunchbox. What are you supposed to do?
P.S if you don’t have kids, keep reading anyway. We have a bunch of great ideas for smoko, easy dinners, meal prep and delicious snacks. If you’re constantly on the move and want to find some delicious food to eat as you go, we’ve got you covered.
Using leftovers for lunches is an excellent way to fill the lunchbox and reduce food waste. With the clever use of containers, ice packs and collaborating with your kid, you can use up leftovers from the fridge and encourage your children to eat something more substantial than tidy teddies.
Any leftovers which are suitable for school lunches do best with an ice pack to keep things cool (and food safe) and an insulated lunchbox, too. Water-tight containers which are easy for your kids to open are vital for saucy or liquid meals (like leftover spaghetti bolognese, curried sausages or soup). Also, don’t forget little tubs for condiments! Tomato sauce can really upgrade boring old chicken tenders.
If your kid is a bit picky and doesn’t like eating leftovers, you can freeze the leftovers to defrost at a later date and include in their lunch boxes: it’s not quite leftovers if you didn’t have it the night before, right?
Leftover chicken legs from dinner can be put in lunch boxes with an ice pack and serve as a delicious and filling lunch. Marinade the chicken in honey, soy sauce, garlic and ginger (powder or grated), sesame oil and apple cider vinegar, serve with a side of drained noodles or green salad and your kid will have the most interesting lunch on the playground.
Any child would be lucky to have sausages in their lunchbox, but you can spice it up by mixing the (cut up) sausages with roasted potato, carrot and cauliflower. There is, of course, the classic option: wrap the sausage in bread and a bit of tomato sauce, and they’ll happily eat it while bragging to their friends.
Leftover bacon (does that exist?) is an extra special treat in a kid’s lunchbox. You can put a few slices plain in their lunchbox, or make a kid-friendly BLT wrap. You can toss bacon bits into any salad to inspire your children to eat their greens, or mix it into leftover rice for a quick fried rice.
If you have a little bit of extra time in the morning, or even the night before after the kids are put down to bed, there’s a few easy things you can do to make an exciting, filling and delicious lunchbox addition.
Chicken breasts and boneless thighs can be cooked overnight in a slow cooker (along with some veggie stock, salt and pepper) to make delicious and easy pulled chicken sandwiches in the morning to go into their lunchbox. You can even press them in a sandwich maker and send the kids on their way with toasties. If your kid is a flavour fiend, you can marinade the chicken with any flavours you like!
Back to that leftover bacon: nothing says decadent like a homemade quiche. You can make homemade mini quiches quickly and easily (with eggs, spinach, cheese, bacon and, of course, storebought crusts). Once you’ve baked these quiches, they can last a few days in the fridge, so you can put them in lunch boxes up to 4 days! Any extra quiches should be put in the freezer for next week. There a few kid favourite things which are underrated in the luncboxes.
There’s nothing quite like a cheerio to snack on as you shop, and the same is true at lunchtime. You can just include a few links of frankfurt (or cheerios) in their lunchbox with some dipping sauce, or make hotdogs with dinner rolls, sauce and cheese. These are especially good during the hot weather because they’re filling but happily eaten cold. Another option is pigs in a blanket. All you have to do is wrap franks in puff pastry, the secret weapon of lunch boxes.
We’re thankful for delicious, versatile and cheap puff pastry! There’s so much you can do with puff pastry to excite and fill your children up, many of them excellent for lunchboxes.
Puff pastry is an excellent base for dozens of different lunchbox ideas: egg cups (like a quiche but with puff pastry base instead of shortcrust pastry), tart (just make sure you shape the puff pastry, poke the pastry with a fork and cook for about five minutes before you put your toppings on to prevent the puffing from disrupting the top), or lunchbox scrolls.
Vegemite and cheese scrolls are a total classic, all you have to do is lay out some vegemite and grated cheese onto a sheet of puff pastry, roll, cut, bake and voila! But you can make a dozen variations of lunchbox rolls depending on your child’s interest: pizza scrolls with ham, cheese and tomato, olive and anchovies, pepperoni and cheese, or mince. With puff pastry, the options really are endless!
Fresh sandwiches are a classic option, but they’re not the only one.
Sandwiches can get a bit soggy waiting in the lunchbox all morning, especially if there's tomato, cucumber or other wet ingredients involved. You can make sandwiches more lunchbox friendly by toasting them: fill them with vegemite and cheese, ham and tomato, leftover mince, spaghetti or shredded chicken, press them and then they’re done, delicious, filling and easy.
You can do something similar with tortillas and make easy quesadillas with chicken, mince or refried beans. If your child is looking for something other than sandwiches, you can make lunchbox friendly pizzas with mini pizza bases or english muffin halves. Just build a pizza, bake it and then put it in their lunchbox for the next day.
If we're talking about fancifying lunchboxes (or simplifying them), there's nothing fancier than a charcuterie board. Charcuterie is another form of a deconstructed meal, a low-effort but high-reward way to eat a whole meal.
Your child isn't interested in eating sandwiches? Instead try plain buttered bread, or toasted bread soldiers, a boiled egg cut in half, carrot sticks and a few leaves of fresh, crunchy lettuce. It's basically an egg and salad sandwich, without the effort.
Slices of ham, cheese cubes and cherry tomatoes, with plain pasta on the side? That's a whole pasta dish, simplified!
Fancy doesn't have to mean complicated, and healthy doesn't have to be boring. Check out our recipe blog where we break down a few marinade flavours your kids will love.
What's your favourite thing to eat for lunch?