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An entire week of school lunchbox ideas

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The kids are (finally) back to school. Cue the daily grind of preparing school lunchboxes.

To make your job easier, I’ve put together a week’s worth of lunchbox ideas—complete with pictures, creative twists, tips and shopping lists—to get you started for a healthy year ahead.

This guide will help you to create a lunchbox with foods that tick all the boxes: tasty, nutritious, able to stay cool in summer, reasonably priced, conveniently sized and time-efficient.

How to use the guides

The plan below outlines five different lunchbox combinations that include a good range of different foods. They are based primarily on whole, fresh foods, with the inclusion of more processed foods where appropriate.

Please note: It’s perfectly fine for there to be repetition within your child’s lunchbox from day-to-day. There is no need to have each day look completely different; this can get expensive and time-consuming with all the different ingredients to buy and the daily food preparation.

An option is to choose two lunchbox combinations and alternate them each day—a little bit of repetition makes planning and preparation easier day-to-day. Save time by making extra for your lunchbox for work too!

Each lunchbox has been split into three distinct breaks that most ACT primary schools would follow:

  • Fruit break
  • Recess or Morning Tea
  • Lunch

We have then included each of the five food groups into each of the lunchboxes and assigned them to one of the above breaks. The lunchboxes below are just a guide.

Involve your kids in the process—trial and error is a normal part of finding what works for you and your family! I hope you enjoy the combinations below. Happy back to school! 

Monday

Lunchbox 12

Fruit break: Watermelon cubes

Recess: Spinach and pumpkin muffin + red and yellow capsicum sticks

Lunch: Chicken, lettuce and mayo wrap + tub yoghurt

Creative twists for this lunchbox

  • Rockmelon or honeydew melon are also great to cube up. You can also pack a mixture of all three for some extra colour.
  • The spinach and pumpkin muffins are so easy to tweak. You can chuck in a tin of corn kernels, cubed capsicum and feta, and swap the pumpkin for sweet potato.
  • Wraps are a great alternative to sandwiches. Add hummus, grated carrot, tomato, shred leg ham, grated cheese, avocado, vegemite, baby spinach and cucumber slices.

Tips

  • Cut up a whole watermelon segment at the beginning of the week and keep the cubes in a large container. Pop into a small container as you pack the lunches each day.
  • Make the spinach and pumpkin muffins on the weekend; they take less than 30 minutes to cook. Freeze individually and chuck into lunchboxes as needed.
  • Cut up the capsicums into sticks and separate into small snap-lock bags. You can get four different colours (red, orange, yellow, green) so you can make lunch boxes look bright and vibrant!
  • Squeeze yoghurt pouches are great, choose the brand with the least amount of sugar or if you’re on a budget, buy a large tub of natural or plain yoghurt and pop into small containers with some chopped fruit such as strawberries or banana as you pack the lunchbox. Store yoghurt with an ice block to keep cool. I encourage my kids to eat it first, so it doesn’t get warm.

Recipe

Shopping List

  • Wholemeal or whole grain wraps
  • Chicken
  • Baby spinach
  • Low fat mayonnaise
  • Wholemeal self-raising flour
  • Fresh thyme leaves
  • Fresh parsley leaves
  • 250g pumpkin
  • Baking powder
  • Low-fat milk
  • Eggs
  • Olive oil
  • Pepper
  • Watermelon
  • Red capsicum
  • Yellow capsicum
  • Low-fat yoghurt tub or pouch

Tuesday

health 122

Fruit break: Mixed fresh berries.

Recess: Wholegrain crackers with cheese, cucumber + cherry tomatoes.

Lunch: Baked beans with toast fingers + air-popped popcorn.

Creative twists for this lunchbox

  • As fresh berries can get expensive (but when strawberries are in season you might find a bargain), you can swap them for watermelon pieces or kiwi fruit. Just remember to pack a spoon!
  • Swap larger crackers for smaller ones that can be dipped into hummus, tzatziki, or herbed ricotta cheese. You could also swap the cucumber and cherry tomatoes for other vegetables that could be dipped such as carrot, celery and raw green beans.

Tips

  • Fresh berries will do better in a container rather than a snap-lock bag, otherwise they can get squished.
  • You can store the crackers, cheese and cucumber separately for your child to make their own cracker toppings once they get to school. For smaller children, you may want to make them up and then wrap them in cling wrap all ready to go.
  • Cherry tomatoes can go into a lunchbox whole, but your child might find them easier to eat cut in half.
  • Older kids can open baked beans in a small can with a ring pull. This may be difficult for smaller children so pack the beans in a container that they can open. Cold toast soldiers are totally fine to include in a lunchbox and will be firm and crunchy enough to dip by the time lunch comes.

Shopping list

  • Baked beans
  • Wholemeal or wholegrain bread
  • Vitawheat crackers
  • Cheese
  • Cucumber
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Air-popped popcorn

Wednesday

Lunchbox 41

 

Fruit break: Banana

Recess: Fruit and oat slice + celery sticks

Lunch: Tuna sandwich rollup with tuna, grated carrot, avocado + tub yoghurt

Creative twists for this lunchbox

  • You can use any dried fruit in the slice: apricots, cranberries, apple, sultanas, etc.
  • Celery sticks can be swapped for raw green beans.
  • You can swap the tuna in the tuna sandwich rollup for chicken or smoked salmon and swap the carrot for sticks of cucumber or a small bunch of green lettuce.

Tips

  • Bananas are so great, they come with their own biodegradable packaging and are so nutritious!
  • The oat slice is a healthier version of a traditional home-baked treat, and is so quick to make. It’s nut-free, with added fibre and nutrition from wholemeal flour, oats, seeds and dried fruit. Make ahead on the weekend and cut into small squares ready to pop into the lunchbox each morning.
  • The tuna sandwich rollup is a great twist on the boring old sandwich! Remove the crusts, spread the bread with the ingredients and roll up! Store in the lunchbox with an ice block to keep cool.

Recipe

Shopping List

  • Wholemeal or wholegrain bread
  • Avocado
  • Tuna in spring water
  • Carrot
  • Mayonnaise
  • Banana
  • Celery
  • Low-fat yoghurt tub or pouch
  • Wholemeal self-raising flour
  • Wholemeal flour
  • Rolled oats
  • Shredded/desiccated coconut
  • Raisins
  • Mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, linseed)
  • Margarine
  • Low fat milk
  • Eggs

Thursday
Lunchbox 31

Fruit break: Apple slices

Recess: Blueberry and coconut pikelets + sugar snap peas

Lunch: Potato salad with baby corn, lean leg ham, grated cheese, parsley + mayo

Creative twists for this lunchbox

  • Apples can be swapped with pears and are delicious paired with cheese slices or spread with cream cheese.
  • Pikelets can have many variations. You can swap blueberries for raspberries, grated apple or smashed banana. You could also make them savoury by adding grated cheese or crumbled feta and dried herbs.
  • Sugar snap peas are a good swap for snow peas, and are sweet and crunchy. If you get to the markets over the weekend, pick up some fresh peas, as kids love opening the pods and eating the sweet little morsels.
  • Cooked and cooled potato with the skin on is great for your child’s gut health. You can add other diced vegetables like capsicum, shallots, baby spinach, etc. Swap the ham for boiled eggs or shredded chicken meat.

Tips

  • You can pop apples into your kids’ lunchbox whole if they don’t like it going brown. Otherwise, chop it into segments and then reassemble and wrap in cling wrap – put a rubber band around it to hold it together. You could also use a snap-lock bag and suck out the air before sealing it.
  • Pikelets can be made over the weekend and kept in the fridge to pop into lunchboxes throughout the week.

Recipes

Shopping List

  • Potato
  • Canned baby corn
  • Lean leg ham
  • Cheese
  • Parsley
  • Low-fat mayonnaise
  • Wholemeal self-raising flour
  • Low fat milk
  • Eggs
  • Frozen blueberries
  • Baking powder
  • Desiccated coconut
  • Apple
  • Sugar snap peas

Friday

health 222

Fruit break: Orange segments

Recess: Air popped popcorn + carrot sticks with hummus

Lunch: Cheese & spinach sandwich + plain milk popper

Creative twists for this lunchbox

  • Mandarins are great for lunchboxes when they’re in season over winter. Blood oranges are also a great option for something different. They’re so beautiful with their bright red colour.
  • Try adding different spices to popcorn-like cinnamon or nutmeg, just to change things up a bit.
  • You can use lots of different veggie sticks with hummus or try your hand at making your own legume-based dip. Just mix white beans or chickpeas with garlic, lemon and a little olive oil. Season lightly with pepper.
  • Sandwiches are perfectly fine to include in lunchboxes. Use whole, multi-grain or sourdough style bread and use your imagination with your fillings:
    • Mashed boiled eggs and avocado
    • Cottage cheese and grated carrot
    • Vegemite and cheese
    • Tuna, lettuce and mayonnaise
    • Herbed ricotta
    • Ham, tomato and mustard

Tips

  • You could also freeze the orange segments during the warmer months so the wedges are still cold by the time fruit break comes along.
  • You may need to teach small kids how to peel off the orange skin. It’s a skill for life!
  • Place popcorn in a snap-lock bag or look for a brand of pre-popped popcorn that contains little or no added oil and is low on added salt.
  • Cut up the carrot or veggie sticks at the beginning of the week. They will last a few days in your fridge and then all you need to do is grab and go each morning. Storing them in a snap-lock bag and removing as much of the air before sealing the bag will help them stay fresh.

Shopping list

  • Wholemeal or wholegrain bread
  • Cheese
  • Baby spinach
  • One orange
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Cows milk
  • One carrot
  • Hummus

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