Creating a Lunch Box System

I’ve become a somewhat expert at school lunches after doing them for 8 years (so far).  My lunch boxes started out looking a lot like the picture below, with a lot of processed, pre-packaged food. I’m not here to make anyone feel guilty for throwing together pre-packaged lunches!  It’s just over the years, I’ve focused on what’s important to me in regards to food for my kids, and have refined the processes over time to achieve that, and I want to share my tips with anyone who wants to know.

lunch box

Here’s a snap shot of the lunches I make for my kids at school these days.

Lunch Box Ideas

Lunch boxes used to stress me out but I’m surprised to say that, while I wouldn’t say I enjoy doing school lunches, I find it quite easy now, plus I do find myself thinking about creative ways to fill the lunch box with nutritious food my kids will enjoy.  This transformation comes down to this: you need to have a system. 

1. Have goals

It’s important to have a sense of direction when it comes to what sort of lunch boxes you want to create for your kids.  You don’t necessarily need to achieve them straight away but it’s good to have goals and work your way towards them.  For me, I strive for mostly rubbish-free lunch boxes that contain wholefoods, including a fresh fruit and vegetables. I also like to provide variety, and a bit of fun sometimes.  I’ve come a long way in my goals, and next on my agenda is to experiment with healthier baking options.

2. Invest in great products

I’ve tried many different lunch boxes over the years.  To achieve what I want with my children’s lunches, the lunch box needs to have compartments.  I like the Bento Laptop Lunch boxes which I review in detail here.  They aren’t cheap but do last well. Another more affordable way to achieve this is to buy an insulated outer case and simply fill with different sized containers which are filled with food (like Decor and Sistema containers you can get from the supermarket).  

Lunch Boxes

The drink bottles I buy for my kids are the Contigo brand.  I reviewed them here.

Drink Bottles

Another product I have found REALLY fabulous for the lunch box are silicone muffin cases.  I use them to cook bakery items. Then, I freeze them in the cases, and they go straight into the lunch box of on a school morning.  Anther way I use them is when they are empty, they are a great way to section small food in the lunch box (there are examples at the end of the blog post).

silicone patty cases - great for the lunch box

Using the freezer is imperative to my lunch box success (which I go into further below) and so I have dedicated containers to store lunch box food in.  These Sitema containers are great, and they are clear so I can see what is in them easily.

Create a lunch box system

I also have a few fun things to include in the lunch boxes to make things interesting. My favourites are the eye food picks I bought from Lunch Boxes With Love.  However, I don’t do fun stuff all the time, maybe about once a week or fortnight. If you head over to my Instagram @beafunmum and search for the hashtag #BAFM_Lunchbox you will see many examples of the realistic lunch boxes I make for my kids. Sometimes they are fun, and sometimes they are boring!

Creating a lunch box system

My Lunch Box Product List

3. Have a dedicated lunch box storage section

The system I use requires the need for containers. This is a bit of a pain, but it really makes it quick in the mornings.  I have lunch box items stored in my pantry in baskets.  One for drink bottles and lids, one for the containers and one for the lunch boxes and other bits and bobs I don’t use everyday.  

Creating a lunch box system

Creating a lunch box system

Of a school morning, I line up four lunch boxes, fill with containers and then throw in the food.  Last step is to place a lunch box size freezer brick in the insulted case and place the entire lunch box inside.

Lunch Box System

4. Use the freezer

My freezer is my best friend when it comes to the lunch box.  Food items can be taken out of the freezer in the morning and put straight in the lunchbox.  They will be thawed and fresh by eating time. The following items will keep for 2 weeks in the freezer. 

Sandwiches:

I tend to make sandwiches fresh, because I prefer to do that, but if you have a mad busy week ahead, it’s good to know you can freeze them ahead of time.

Make sandwiches with fillings like cheese and ham, vegemite, jam, tuna or egg.  It’s easy to include some fresh salad in the morning if that’s a preference.

Other Food:

Cakes and slices, muffins, canned fish, baked beans, zucchini slice, quiche are some snack ideas that are able to be frozen.

Organising the freezer:

  • It’s helpful to have dedicated draw in the freezer for lunch box items.
  • Separating portion size is easy with zip-lock bags. For a more environmentally friendly option, use individual containers or freeze in batches and place directly in the lunch box of a morning. For layering in containers, use a sheet of baking paper.

This is a heap of food I prepared ahead of time to freeze. 

Creating a lunch box system

5. Pre-Prepare

To aid the morning rush, much of the lunch preparation can be done the night before and the weekend.

Night before:

  • Cut up fruit and vegetable pieces
  • Portion yoghurt and crackers. I also make custard the night before sometimes and let it set in the containers that fit into the lunch box. Then in the morning, they get slotted in.

Weekend:

  • Make a batch of sandwiches and place them in the freezer
  • Bake home goods and freeze in portion size

6. Break it down

Instead of thinking morning tea/lunch food, I break the lunch box down into food types. So in each packed lunch I aim for this balance:

  • 1 x Fruit 
  • 1 x Vegetable
  • 1 x Snack Food (baked goods, energy balls, crackers, egg, cheese, yoghurt)
  • 1 x Lunch Item 
  • 1 x other (if needed, depending on the child)

This system allows for seasonal variety and helps me to shop smart. I’m fairly consistent with this system and so my kids are used to seeing vegetables in their lunch box.

7. Lunch box staples

It’s great to have your lunch box staple foods you can fall back on (like the humble sandwich). I have certain foods that I know work well in the lunch box and here are some of the items on my list:

Vegetables: corn on the cob, cucumber, mushroom, snow peas, carrot, celery sticks, baby corn, tin corn, avocado, cherry tomato

Fruit: small apple, tin fruit, stone fruit, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, kiwi fruit, small pears, watermelon pieces, pineapple pieces

Snacks: muffins, nut-free choc energy balls, apricot balls, rice crackers, popcorn, trail mix, muesli slice, corn & cheese muffins, coconut bread

Protein: ham, salami, salami sticks, bean dip, cheese, boiled egg, hummus, yoghurt

Lunch: sandwich, mini quiche, zucchini fitters, meatloaf, pizza scrolls, zucchini slice, wraps, pizza, salad, flat bread 

Lunch Box tips

Lunch Box tips

7. Make it safe

I have a guest post from a dietitian you can read which gives great tips on making the lunch box healthy and safe: Lunch Box Tips

8. Make it fun

Once you have a good system down, it’s easier to find ways to make lunches fun. Try new foods and different ways of presenting them.  Below are a few links:

9. Lunch Box Examples

Below are a few lunch box examples and you can find even more ideas by looking through the lunch box tips on the blog under Lunch Box Ideas or on my @beafunmum Instagram feed.

Lunch box ideas

Tip: Depending on what is on the wrap, I separate the fill ingredients from the wrap in the lunch box and the kids make it up themselves fresh at lunch time.  

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Tip: Energy balls are fabulous in the lunch box and they freeze well.

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Tip: Silicone muffin cases are great for separating food in the lunch box.

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Tip: Leftover rice or pasts can be turned into an easy lunch box food.

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Tip: Food picks work well with cut up fruit and veggies. 

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Tip: You can make a big batch of pizza and freeze in small square portion for the lunch box (if kids like cold pizza)

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Tip: Try growing cherry tomatoes in a pot in the backyard. They are so easy to grow and it’s wonderful to be able to include food you grow yourself in the lunch box. Here’s a guide: Plant Pot Garden.

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Tip: Make sandwiches a bit more interesting by cutting them in different shapes sometimes, or make soldiers.

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Tip: Try new foods! The kids may not like it, but they might too, and it’s all about building your lunch box repertoire.

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Tip: Make quiche in muffins trays so they are in individual sizes.  This make it easy and quick to use in the lunch box. This is the recipe I use: Quiche Recipe.

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Tip: Think outside the box! My kids love it when I put plain corn chips and dip in their lunch box. The bean dip recipe is here.

If you have any questions or your own tips, leave them bellow.

More

How I encourage my kids to eat veggies

Lunch Box Idea: (Nut-Free) Trail Mix

I have my lunch box staples: stuff I know the kids like. I also like to mix things up sometimes and try new things I can (hopefully) add to my lunch box food repertoire.  I found another one winner with my kids: a lunch box friendly (and nut free) trail mix.  

Just three things in it:

  • Pretzels, Popcorn & Sultanas

It’s a nice sweet/salty snack. Not amazingly nutritious but neither is it really nasty either.

Lunch Box Ideas - Trail Mix (nut free)

Lunch Box

Ham & Cheese Sandwich on multigrain

Date loaf

Carrot sticks

Apple

Popcorn, Pretzel & Sultana Trail Mix

Other Variations

I found this helpful article about building trail mixes with many different combination ideas (some with nuts, some with out).

  • Pretzels, Popcorn & Cheerios
  • Pretzels, Popcorn & Craisins
  • Shredded Wheat Cereal, Sunflower Seeds & Goji Berries
  • Brand flakes, Oats & Dried Apricot (cut up)

Lunch Box Ideas - Trail Mix (nut free)

Sometimes I do only popcorn, or pretzels, or sultanas and sometimes all together.  It all counts as lunch box options. Variety!!

Lunch Box Ideas - popcorn

Lunch Box

Mini Quiche & Salad

Mini Muffin

Popcorn

100% Fruit Juice

* The lunch boxes are Bento Laptop Lunch Boxes and you can read my review of them in the link below.

More Posts

How I Encourage my Kids to Eat Veges (and other good food)

Bento Laptop Lunch Box Review

6 Dinners and How to Turn the Leftovers into Lunch Box Food

More Lunch Box Ideas

Coconut Bread Recipe (only 4 ingredients)

I’ve been making this coconut bread recipe since I was a child and now I make it with  my own kids. 

coconut bread recipe

Ingredients

1 Cup SR Flour

1 Cup Desiccated Coconut

1/2 Cup Sugar

3/4 Cup Milk

Method

1. Gently combine all ingredients with  a large spoon.

2. Spoon into a well greased or lined loaf tin.

3. Cook for about 35-40 min in 170°C (325°F) oven.

Delicious served warm with butter.

Tip: you can make this coconut bread recipe in muffin size to fit easily into the lunch box. Cook for less time (until just golden and knife comes out clean – usually about 15 minutes).

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Coconut Bread
Simple ingredients. Easy to make . Great for the lunch box.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
35 hr
Total Time
40 hr
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
35 hr
Total Time
40 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 Cup SR Flour
  2. 1 Cup Desiccated Coconut
  3. 1/2 Cup Sugar
  4. 3/4 Cup Milk
Instructions
  1. Gently combine all ingredients with a large spoon.
  2. Spoon into a well greased or lined loaf tin.
  3. Cook for about 35-40 min in 170°C (325°F) oven.
Be A Fun Mum http://beafunmum.com/
I found a cute clip of my daughters (from about 6 years ago!) making this simple recipe.

Lunchbox Ideas

I usually make this recipe and cook it in a small or medium muffin pans.  This makes it easy to freeze and pop in the lunch box of  a morning. 

Lunch box 1

  • Ham & Salad Wrap
  • Apple
  • Cherry Tomato
  • Carrot Sticks
  • Yoghurt
  • Coconut bread mini muffins

lunch box ideas

Lunch box 2

  • Ham & Pineapple Pizza
  • Plumb
  • Cucumber
  • Cherry Tomato
  • Coconut bread muffins

lunch box ideas

Lunch box 3

  • Meatloaf (meat balls) with salad
  • Tomato sauce
  • Corn on the cob
  • Pear
  • Coconut bread muffins

lunch box ideas - coconut bread

More

Lunch box ideas

Leftovers into the lunch box

Lunch box safety tips (from a Dietitian)