A helpful guide to assist with choosing a lunchbox and what to pack in it
A new school year is nearly upon us, which feels strange as I’m writing this only days after school finished. But I know a lot of parents out there are searching for lunchbox ideas. And so help is here…da da da dahhhh… in my School Lunch Guide!
This School Lunch Guide has been written for you, to assist with choosing a lunchbox that works for your child. It will also give you tips and tricks and lots of great ideas for what to pack in those lunchboxes. So grab a cup of coffee, sit down and take the time to read my first School Lunch Guide!
This School Lunch Guide includes affiliate links and discount codes where I will earn a small commission at not additional cost to you if you decide to purchase.
What lunchbox should I choose?
If you follow me on Instagram you will no doubt see I have a problem. “Hi, I’m Bernadette and I am addicted to lunchboxes”. But my addiction is not without purpose – I think I am becoming somewhat of an aficionado in this space!
Choosing the right lunchbox is not a trivial matter, you want to ensure it’s functional. It needs to be sturdy and hold enough food to sustain your child at school. But there are so many to choose from aren’t there? Well, let my School Lunch Guide assist you with your decision making.
I love Bento style lunchboxes as they lend themselves to offering a variety of foods and they make it easy to control the portions of food. I also love that you don’t need to worry about using lots of plastic wrap – always a bonus for the environment.
You have probably noticed that I have a few lunchboxes that I use. Now I cannot tell you which lunchbox is my favourite any more than I can tell you which of my children I love the most. I will however explain in this School Lunch Guide what we love about our lunchboxes.
Little Lunchbox Co Bento Five
OK, so when I say I love all my lunchboxes equally I do have a special place in my heart for the Bento Five box by the Little Lunch Box Co*.
It was Mr 6’s first school lunchbox and I was drawn to the bento style and the funky designs. I wanted a lunchbox to hold enough food to last the day and that would also be leak proof. And the Bento Five delivers. The box is designed so that wet foods such as yogurt will stay in their own compartment. There are packing instructions you can review and I can say hand on heart I never had a leak following these instructions. I love how you can offer so much variety in this box and the compartments are deep so that they hold a substantial amount of food. Also we have used this lunchbox a lot over the year and it is still in really great condition. I also love that the Little Lunch Box Co* range is designed and owned in Australia by a lovely Mum Chantal #supportsmallbiz.
Little Lunchbox Co Bento Three
Like the Bento Five the Bento Three comes in great designs that are really appealing to kids. What I love about the Bento Three is that the large ‘main’ compartment size mean you can pack larger sandwiches, bagels and other bigger foods. I also chose Little Lunch Box Co* Bento Three for the twins for our outings out and about.
You can purchase the Little Lunch Box Co Bento Five, Bento Three or the all new snack boxes (Bento Two) over from the gorgeous Chantal over at Little Lunch Box Co*. If you would like a discount on your purchase use code GOODIE for 10% off your order. Please note that if you use this code or visit the site using the *links above and purchase goods I will receive a small commission.
The other lunchboxes I use are Yumbox. I was lucky enough to test drive a range of lunchboxes from a friend who is quite possibly more addicted to lunchboxes that I am (you know who you are xxx). And I loved using the Yumbox range that she’d lent me so much that I had to get my own.
Quite possibly the hardest decision however is which Yumbox to use!
The Yumbox Original is a smaller sized lunchbox which is great if you have a small eater or if you need to send your lunch to school in separate containers for each food break. I often use the original on tuck shop day as I let Mr 6 choose something from the tuck shop in addition to what we pack. The compartments are leak-proof so you can pack yogurt along side the other food. I love the little dip (or treat) compartment the the Yumbox range has. You can also pair this lunchbox up with the Yumbox Snack Box if your child has a bigger appetite.
The Tapas is a larger lunchbox that easily provides a full day of food for Mr 6 including an after school snack which is great for the days he is at after school care as I can just use the one lunchbox. The Tapas has an interchangeable tray so this can either be a 5 compartment as pictured below or a 4 compartment with a quick change of the tray, and this is a fantastic feature. I can easily use the Tapas for my lunches and if your child has a larger appetite the Tapas would be a great fit for you.
You can purchase the Yumboxes discussed in the post and a large range of other bento boxes and accessories from The Bento Buzz, a fantastic Australian owned and operated business by Peta, a lovely fellow Mum.
What else do I need to consider?
It is a good idea to read your school’s parent handbook or ask what guidelines for food exist for your school. Here are three main things that you should consider:
When and what are the food breaks and does your school have specific requirements for these breaks? At our school our food breaks are as follows:
- Munch and Crunch (morning tea) where children are only able to have fruit or vegetables. Larger fruit and vegetables are to be cut up and this snack is sent to school in a separate container from the lunchbox.
- Afternoon tea
Will the food be refrigerated? More often than not lunches will not be able to be refrigerated at school so you will need a good insulated lunch bag to keep lunches cool. We use the Apple and Mint insulated lunch bag and I have been really impressed with how cool it keeps lunches (these bags are available at both Little Lunchbox Co* and The Bento Buzz). The other great thing about using an insulated lunch bag is that it keeps the lunchbox a bit protected from bumps so they look nicer for longer!
Does your school have any prohibited foods? For example some schools do not allow nuts. Ours does not allow any nuts, seafood or seaweed. It is important to be aware and adhere to allergy guidelines to avoid serious medical incidents. You will notice the vast majority of my recipes are nut free as a lot of my baking is focused on school lunches.
What are some good food ideas for the lunchbox?
So now you have your lunchbox but what do you pack in it? Well keep reading, my School Lunch Guide gives you lots of lunchbox ideas!
My site has oodles of lunchbox friendly recipes which are generally all nut free and freezer friendly so you can make in bulk and have enough for the term and I post a lot of pics of lunchboxes on my Instagram account. Go check out the recipes now and get some great lunchbox ideas!
I love offering a variety of foods. And I think it’s important to introduce new foods alongside familiar foods to keep expanding little (and not so little) taste buds. This has been especially important for me because Mr 6 is a little picky with new foods. I offer new foods along side familiar foods and it is his choice on what he will eat. It doesn’t matter if the new foods are not eaten, it’s all about exposure. Some ideas for what to pack in your lunchboxes are:
- Sandwiches, Pita Pockets and Wraps
- English muffins
- Homemade pizza
- Muffins – savoury and sweet (try these delicious refined sugar and dairy free Pumpkin and Coconut Muffins)
- Hardboiled eggs
- Frittatas, zucchini slice, quiches or tarts (try this Zucchini Pea and Ricotta Slice)
- Leftovers from dinner
- Vegetables (carrot sticks, cucumber sticks, cumber sticks, corn on the cob)
- Fruit (a tip with apples, if cutting up soak in salinated water or orange or apple juice to prevent browning)
- Dips and hummus
- Crackers (try my Healthier BBQ Shapes Sour Cream and Chives Crackers)
- Nuts (if allowed)
- Raisins and other dried fruit
- Home baking (these are super quick Fruit and Chocolate Chip Muffin Tin Pancakes)
- Pancakes and pikelets (delicious and sweetened only with fruit Apple Blueberry Pancakes)
- Low sugar muesli bars
Making food fun!
I am a big advocate for making food fun and this doesn’t mean loading the lunchbox up with a lot of sugar or treat foods. Sugar and learning don’t mix that well!
Sandwiches can be transformed by serving them as ‘sushi’ or cut them into little squares, thread on a skewer (such as Stix*) and serve as sandwich kebabs. You could also use lunch cutters or cookie cutters to turn your sandwiches into a work of art.
The Lunch Punch* makes a lot of fun lunch supplies that I use a lot. I have already mentioned using Stix which are reusable skewers and they are quite possible my all time favourite product from The Lunch Punch. I love that they are reusable and to be honest I think my kid would eat anything off a stick! These have been a fantastic addition to our lunches.
As a special discount to my readers, if you wish to purchase any of the great products from The Lunch Punch* use code GOODIE to receive 10% off on all products purchased. Please note that if you use this code or visit the site using the *links above and purchase goods I will receive a small commission.
The Bento Buzz also have a great range of bento accessories such as food picks and cutters that take lunches to the next level. One of my favourite bento accessories are cute bento eyes. Check them out, they are super cool.
You can also make lunches special by making lunches themed for holidays or special occasions at school. It adds a bit of excitement and fun.
- Bento boxes are a great way to offer a range of food
- Check your school guidelines around food at school – especially with respect to allergies
- Offer a variety of foods in the lunchbox and change it up, try to avoid packing the same things each day
- Introduce new foods in addition to familiar foods to encourage trying new food
- Be colourful and keep it fresh – offer a rainbow of fruit and vegetables
- Make food fun, invest in sandwich cutters, Stix or bento accessories
- Cut veggies into fun shapes or cut with a crinkle cutter knife or make balls of fruit with a melon baller
- Meal plan what to pack in the lunchboxes over the week
- Do bulk baking and store in your deep freeze that way you will always have something on hand. I generally do a big lot of baking at the beginning of each term which will see us through to the end of the term
- Ask your kids to help pack their lunchboxes
- Pack the lunchbox the night before and for even more efficiency try to prep the lunchbox while prepping dinner
- I hand wash all my lunchboxes. This keeps them looking nicer and the seals will also last longer. Most lunchboxes can be washed in the dishwasher (top rack) but check the supplier’s recommendation
I post a lot of lunchbox ideas over on my Instagram account so come on over and follow along for more inspiration! I hope this School Lunch Guide has been helpful. If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear from you.
Happy lunching…Bernadette x
I have been compensated with products from the businesses mentioned in this blog post. However, and importantly, the opinions are my own and based on my experience using their products. I wouldn’t write about them if I didn’t love them!