Back To School - Surviving The Packed Lunches!

by Deborah McCaughan

Back to School

At this time of year, parents all over the country are starting to think about uniforms, PE kits and shoes. Is everything properly labelled? Does anything fit anymore? Just where exactly did the PE kit get dropped on the last day of term?! However one thing is for sure - if you ask parents what they like most about the holidays it's not having to prepare packed lunches every morning! Juggling breakfast, shoe search and tie tying with hunt the lid for the lunch containers is not anyone's idea of fun! We start off the term full of good intentions and matching lunch box lids, but it can quickly slide back into chaos! We have put together a few tips to help you survive the start of term and keep the mornings calm (ish!)

Create a 'lunchbox cupboard'

Lunchbox ideas

 Taking some time to put together a 'lunchbox cupboard' can really take the stress out of putting lunch together in the morning. Keep your bulk snacks and any treats in there, making sure you have enough to last the week, and simply transfer to a small container in the morning and pop in the lunch bag. By planning ahead, you can avoid last minute purchases of crisps and chocolate bars simply to pad out lunch, saving money and waste.

Get your equipment right

It really helps to have the right equipment! And if your children like it too then you never know, you might even get a hand putting their lunch together (no guarantees!) Try these for a full lunch set:
  • U-Konserve insulated food jar. These insulated food jars add a whole new dimension to packed lunches as they allow your children to take along a hot meal to school, perfect for when the days start to get a bit chilly! Ideal for including warmed up leftovers from supper the night before too.
  • U-Konserve nesting trio with their brightly coloured lids, you should have no trouble finding the right one. What's more, if you do lose the lids (it happens, a bit like disappearing socks, we know!) you can buy replacements. Perfect for packing yogurt, fruit salad, pasta salad, crisps, hummus, and lots more!
  • Fluf organic snack pack. This fun set of two reusable snack packs is made from high quality organic cotton, has a water-resistant, food-safe lining and easy, velcro closure. Each one has space on the back to personalise with owner's name. Ideal for snacks, mini bagels and sandwiches.
But how about a drink? We all know how important it is to stay hydrated at school. Classrooms can be warm and concentration can dip in the afternoon if your child is thirsty - probably from galloping around the playground at lunch time!
  • Qwetch insulated stainless steel bottle is a handy size for smaller children at 260ml, perfect for little hands, easy to open and drink out of and will happily keep drinks cold for up to 7 hours. And, best of all, easy to keep clean- no valves or plastic parts to trap the drink and go a funny colour..urgh!
  • The Qwetch 500ml stainless steel bottle comes in turquoise and green and is perfect for older children who will easily drink a half litre a day at school. Keeps drinks cold for up to 24 hours and hot for up to 12 hours, so they could take a tea or hot chocolate on colder days. A leak-proof lid means no spills on school books!!
And to carry it all in: 
  • The Fluf Lil B is as the name suggests, a little back pack!  Made from thick, organic cotton with a yellow, water resistant, food safe lining with interior pouch pocket and chunky zip closure.  Cute and compact, it makes a perfect hands-free lunch kit bag and is a great size for independent children who like to be in charge of carrying their own essentials!
  • Keep Leaf organic cotton lunch bag is insulated made from high quality, thick organic cotton canvas on the outside and is perfect for lunch or snacks
  • Fluf zipper lunch bag  is a reusable lunch bag made from thick, organic cotton with a yellow, water resistant, food safe polyester lining with interior pouch pocket and chunky zip closure. Fun and colourful cactus design, printed on both sides with low impact, azo free dyes.

What makes a good lunch?

Lunchbox builder

So now you have the lunch kit - time to think about what to put into it! A balanced selection makes a good lunch that will give your child the energy to concentrate throughout the afternoon. Variety will make sure they don't get bored with the same old sarnie and a snack! Plenty to drink will keep them alert and hydrated throughout the day too. Instead of plain old sliced bread, why not try;

  • Bagels or pitta breads- cheese and ham or cream cheese and cucumber are favourite fillings.
  • Wraps- ham and lettuce or chicken and red pepper rule in our house.
  • Homemade mini pizza- look at this fantastic & easy recipe.
  • Pasta or rice salad with tuna tuna/chicken or beans for a vegetarian lunch.
Our friend, The Lunchbox Doctor has come up with 5 ways to make packed lunches less of a chore and you can read all about it here. As tempting as it is to buy mini packs of biscuits, crisps and treats to pack into a lunch box, it can be just as easy to provide healthier alternatives that will be cheaper and produce less waste.  Here are a few ideas:
  • Mixed fruit and nuts (if your school allows them) are great for bulk buying, and make a sweet treat that is packed with fibre and protein to keep the energy levels up all afternoon.
  • Pretzels, crisps and biscuits or chocolate are ok for a high energy treat, as long as the meal is balanced. Try buying large packets and splitting down into individual portions. Better still, if you have time, make your own. Some good recipes for biscuits and other lunch treats are on our sister site, A Slice of Green's Lunch Box Ideas Pinterest board.
  • Fresh fruit can be easily bruised, but putting strawberries, blueberries or sliced oranges into a small food container will make sure it arrives fresh and appetising.
  • Yoghurt is another lunch favourite for younger children. Save money and lower the sugar content by providing a container with natural yoghurt, flavoured with a drizzle of honey or a handful of soft fruit. Just don't forget to pack a spoon!

We hope a few of these tips and ideas will help the transition back to school next week. Just need to remember to get the alarm clock set now!

Meet the author - Kate