It’s a new year, and with that comes the aspirations to pack your kids a fabulous, mostly balanced lunchbox that you hope will get eaten and not chucked in the bin or left stagnating in the bottom of said kid’s backpack for days. Much like our dinner routine at home, I wind up making the same lunchboxes over and over again – starting out strong (and creative) and ending in sandwiches and apples. Over the holidays Becks (In These Stilettos) and I were chatting about it and decided that if we pool our thoughts, we can drum up enough inspiration for not only you, but ourselves too!
We’ve compiled some fab lunchbox options, each blog has a different printable so be sure to check out Becki’s one here that you can print and stick it on the fridge for daily inspo and then of course our handy hacks and top store-bought favourites!
My kids (or Oli rather) are pretty picky eaters so while I’d love to fill their boxes with carrot sticks and hummus, I just know it’s coming straight back home, so these are our go-to lunch box fillers (Soph and Oli approved) – you’ll notice the veggie options are very scarce on mine – Sophie still gets a hot meal with veggies at school so she doesn’t need too many other lunchbox additions, and Oli, well, my best chance of getting veggies into Oli is at supper time at home.
We all need a couple of go to recipes (I say recipes loosely – besides from the muffins and cookies – the rest is basically just assembly!) when it comes to lunchboxes – our 5 favourites are: BBQ Chicken & Pineapple Skewers; Ham, Cheese & Lettuce Wraps; Banana & Strawberry Yoghurt Muffins, Bow-Tie Pesto & Sausage Pasta and the most delicious Walnut & Chocolate Chunk Cookies.
BBQ Chicken & Pineapple Skewers
I make a versatile BBQ sauce to use as a dipping sauce, marinade and to brush on at the end – you can double the quantities for a larger batch – taste as you go to what you think your kids will love!
What you’ll need:
Skinless chicken fillets
Skewers or large toothpicks
For the BBQ sauce:
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 ½ tbsp honey
3 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp chutney
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 tsp Olive Oil
Mix all of the BBQ sauce ingredients in a bowl. Grill your chicken fillets (either marinated or just spiced – remember with the sugar component it will char if you marinate it instead of brushing on at the end) and cut into bite-sized chunks. Cut the pineapple into the same sized pieces as the chicken and thread onto a skewer or large toothpick. Brush will a little extra sauce or add some into their lunchbox for dipping.
Ham, Cheese and Lettuce Wraps
What you’ll need:
Wraps (I buy the Multiseed ones at Woolworths)
Lay a wrap flat and mircowave for 20 seconds then smear with mayo. Add your lettuce, ham and grated cheese. Roll it up like you would a pancake and cut in half – easy peasy! You can use a toothpick to secure it if you need to or wrap the lower halves with foil or sandwich wrap.
Bow-Tie Pesto & Sausage Pasta
My kids love the bow-tie shaped pasta and it’s easy for them to spear with a fork, but you could easily swop it out for penne, spirals or whatever else they enjoy. I use half a packet of pasta to half a tub of the Woolworths fresh Basil Pesto tub.
What you’ll need:
½ packet of pasta
½ tub of fresh basil pesto
4 cheese grillers, cooked and sliced (any sausage here will do)
Make the pasta according to the packet, drain and add in the pesto. Stir and add in the cooked and sliced sausage – couldn’t be simpler really and my kids adore this!
Who doesn’t love a good hack? Anything to make life, and lunchbox packing simpler and appealing! Here are some of our fav hacks, tried and tested:
- Make extra for dinner so you can pack some into the lunchboxes – pasta is always easier to bulk up and make more of, and it doesn’t come at great expense.
- Make lunchboxes colourful and compartmentalised even if you don’t have a bento box by using reusable silicone muffin cups.
- You can find cute lunchbox accessories online to add eyes etc. to your food – an instant hit with the kids.
- Party stores carry fab ‘embellished’ food picks – the perfect skewer!
- Add a little note to your lunchbox, the smile on their face will be priceless even if they need to ask their teacher to read it and it’s the perfect little confidence boost they might need while away from you.
- Etch a little message on a banana, and like magic the writing will appear!
- Pop a batch of popcorn on Sunday, put it into an airtight container and add some as a snack into their boxes for a couple of days.
- Use cookie or sandwich cutters to add a dose of creativity to their lunchbox – from cutting fruit, to sandwiches, crumpets or cheese, the options are endless and might just entice a fussy eater!
- Instead of a sandwich, try sandwiching two Salticrax with your child’s favourite spread (ours is always peanut butter).
- Give the kids some variety to choose from – having a say in their lunchbox for the next day will give them some independence.
- Pack lunchboxes the night before! If I left it to morning, my poor kids would starve!
- We only send water to school, but in summer add in an extra bottle that’s been frozen to ensure they have cool water throughout the day.
- Don’t forget to add a serviette for messier foods and some cutlery should they need it depending on the meal.
- Keep all the sachet sauces you get from takeouts – they’re perfect to pop into a lunchbox to go with some chicken pops, sausages or nuggets!
- You can buy reusable ziplock bags from the likes of Woolworths – the come in two sizes with cute patterns on so no need to feel guilty after turfing out sandwich bags day after day.
Right, time for our store-bought favs. These are the items the kids ask for time and time again and are staples in my lunchbox container of ‘supplies’ in the pantry, fridge and freezer.
- Kiri Dip & Crunch – I think Laughing Cow does one too – these are a huge hit for Soph.
- Mozzarella Stringy Cheese from Woolies – again, the cheese queen insists on these and they’re the perfect size.
- Pretzel Snack – filled with peanut butter. This salty and sweet snack is a weekly lunchbox filler for us, available at Woolies.
- Montagu Roasted Corn – the perfect little nibble!
- Dried mango strips from Montagu are divine, as are the Berry Blaze Mango Bites (you have to try them!).
- Fruity ABC’s and Fruity 123’s – both from Woolies – they’re portion controlled, educational and have hidden veg in them, score!
- Mini salami sticks from Woolies are a lifesaver for us – the kids love this and a bulk pack (when they go on special) need to be rationed or they’re polished!
- My kids eat breakfast at home in before school, but they love a delicious Nature Valley pack of granola bars – they have a great variety to choose from too and we love the Nut Butter Biscuits which I normally find at Dis-Chem!
- Kiddylicious – well, literally everything from this brand is relished in our home but the top favs would be the baked mini Coconut Rolls, the Cheese Straws, Fruity Bakes, Fruit Wriggles and more recently, the raspberry Crispie Tiddlers!
- Mini Cheddars – a staple (since I was a kid).
- Dr Oetker Ital Pizza Pizzinis from Pick ‘n Pay – the perfect sized mini pizzas to fill a lunch box with!
- Playful Penguins – the kids love these cheesy biscuit snacks from Woolies
- Drinking Dairy Snack from Woolies – strawberry or granadilla – these don’t last very long in our house. They used to be called Howaru drinking yoghurts – or something to that effect – but they’re a great sized ‘drinking yoghurt’ to fit into a lunchbox.
- Zoo Biscuits – an absolute rite of passage for any kid. Oli is always so excited to see what animal he’s getting!
- The Clicks ‘On The Go’ Strawberry Gums are so delish – the kids believe they’re sweets and are always super excited to get a packet.
- I always airfry the Crumbed Chicken Nuggets and Southern Fry Chicken Nibbles from Woolies and then add some into their box as their main protein along with some tomato sauce.
- Dry wors or biltong slices from our local butcher are a great snack and source of protein that I know will always be first to go!
There’s loads more, but these are the most popular store-bought fillers for my kids – I’d love to hear what yours are!
Hopefully this has sparked some inspiration for you – here’s to delicious lunchboxes our kids can’t wait to tuck into, and empty!