Lunch box inspiration

So school is back in full swing and we're either clapping our hands in glee at the thought of a new term, or grudgingly accepting that the school run, homework and packed lunches are here to stay for another few weeks at least. Despite all key stage one pupils in England now being entitled to free school lunches, it seems that some of us still prefer to send in a lunch we've prepared ourselves. There can be many reasons for this- be it dietary requirements or fussy eaters, it seems that not all parents are taking the government up on their offer. And with this in mind, we wondered how exactly those parents are keeping packed lunches interesting (and appetising) for their little ones? Which leads us to a few tips and tricks for lunch box inspiration- thanks, of course, to our wonderful Twitter followers!

Lunch box inspiration ~ SnoozeShade.com

Why e packed lunch over school dinners?

It's a personal preference in many cases. Perhaps you've seen the menu and know that your child won't enjoy many of the choices there. If you send a packed lunch, than at least you stand a chance of sending food that your child will eat, and you also have the benefit of knowing what he doesn't- since that will be coming home again! Or maybe your little one, like Melaina's (@Melaina25) son has allergies that need to be considered before school dinners are an option. Some parents, such as Carol (@caroljs) have opted for school dinners on some days, and packed lunches on others. It seems most schools are entirely flexible over this so go for whatever works best for your family.

How to pack a lunch

Yes, it can be as simple as popping some sandwiches into a box, or you can get really clever. Mumra (@stepfordreject) recommended these super Packit cooler bags, which we have to say look super. They're basically insulated lunch bags with a freezable gel inside the lining. This means the lunch bags are like little mini refridgerators, making it possible to keep food cool and fresh for much longer than usual. Ingenious idea! Alternatively, you can pop reusable ice cubes or small ice packs into the lunch to keep food cool- but make sure your child knows to bring them home again! Another tip from Mumra is frozen yogurt tubes- less mess than pots and spoons and the yogurts will stay cool too.

Melaina sends her son's lunch into school in a reusable bag, like these from Lunchskins. What a super idea! No waste, no need to keep buying little plastic bags, and the designs are bright and cheerful too. You can also go for reusable sandwich wraps, like these from Eco snack wrap. A super way to keep sandwiches fresh and good for the environment too.  Perfect!

Bex (@mummyadventure) uses lots of little pots to keep her son's lunch both interesting and fresh. Little pots of fresh fruit, veg and treats keep little fingers busy and the lunch box varied too. Alternatively you could go for the Bento style boxes like these at Yum Box, which are proving highly popular right now. For more inspiration on Bento style lunches, revisit this post here. 

What to pack in your lunch

Think packed lunch, think sandwiches, right? And there's nothing wrong with that, especially for the child who would live on peanut butter sandwiches if you let him. Don't be afraid of serving up something a little different though. Even kids get bored of the same thing sometimes. Ideas to try:

  • wraps
  • crackers and cheese/ dips
  • cold pizza slices
  • bread sticks and dips
  • cold pasta/ rice salad

There are some wonderful lunch box ideas on Pinterest too. We found this awesome set of ideas at Bless this Mess and these super Simple and Healthy school lunch box ideas over at Simple as That made us smile too.

Whatever you decide to pack, make sure that your child will eat it, and that it follows school policy on healthy eating too. A treat is fine, but if your school is going to confiscate it you might want to save it for home time instead.

Be prepared

One of the biggest reasons why we parents hate packed lunches is because they can be a pain to make every day. If that's the case, then school dinners are certainly a more attractive option, and there's no shame in that. We all lead busy lives after all. But if you do have time, here are some tips to help you stay on top of the game:

  • Get your child to help. No matter how old they are, give your child some responsibility in both choosing what they want to eat, and helping to prepare it too. And make sure they help to clean it out after school too.
  • Meal plan for your packed lunches. If your child likes something different every day, ask him to help you plan the meals he wants and then he can help during the grocery shop too.
  • Make the lunch the night before and store in the fridge overnight. There's nothing worse than making a hurried lunch in the morning!
  • Use up your leftovers. If you have pasta spare after dinner, use that to make a cold salad to pack up the next day.
  • Keep an eye on what's not being eaten. enjoyed and make sure you leave that out next time to eliminate waste.

So, tell us. Is your little one on packed lunches or school dinners this term?