Wednesday, May 23, 2012

in the lunchbox

 I've had a few readers ask recently what I pack in the kid's school lunchboxes.

I will warn you now that I've never been one of those mothers that baked chicken wings or made little quiches just for the purpose of school lunches. Though my kids probably wished I did.

We don't have fancy lunchboxes here. I think I bought them when both started preschool, and we've been using them ever since.

I used to buy packets of things for their lunchboxes. Muesli bars, popcorn packets or little sesame bars. I have to say that they were incredibly convenient. Just throw them in and all you have to make is a sandwich. But when I examined the ingredient list, and mind you they are far better than some options, a few of those ingredients didn't quite sit right with me. Not exactly great on the budget either. So I stopped buying them.

Which was a little scary at first. How do you do lunch boxes from scratch? With nothing to fall back on?

Most of the time I bake our own bread here, so butter and a simple filling are usually for lunch. Recess, the realm of the packet food, is a little trickier. When I do make muffins or biscuits, I try to do a double batch to save time later in the week when I might be busier. And then there's fruit break. Now that's an easy one. Trickier, sometimes, to get them to actually eat it.

3 days of lunchboxes from the past week:

  • muffins from here (flavoured with vanilla and quince jam)
  • homemade bread roll with butter, grated carrot and grated cheese
  • local apple

  • muffins, again from here, plain sprinkled with cinnamon and rapadura sugar
  • homemade bread with butter and peanut butter (freshly crushed at our local health food store)
  • orange

  • homemade bread with butter, cabbage slaw (sliced cabbage, dressed with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, sea salt and touch of mustard and cream) and sliced tomato from the garden
  • wholemeal crackers (I will post this recipe soon)
  • slices of cheddar
  • orange (again)

Being a small school there hasn't been an issue from their classmates with the kids eating slightly different food. Living some distance from town, there are quite a few other parents who bake from scratch, garden and make preserves. Not to mention the influence of the kitchen garden.

How about you? Any lunchbox ideas that you might like to share? 


  1. you really are an inspiration. levi has always been a terrible lunch box eater - home baked foods or not. i do believe our little penny though will be different. i love what you have packed. you know your kids will never leave home :) with such a good cook around! enjoy your day tania. xo

  2. Our lunch boxes look very similar. A bread staple, home baking and fruit. Sometimes we shuffle it up with a homemade trail mix, frozen homemade yoghurt or cheese and crackers but our children have simple tastes.
    I have not ever purchased any of the packet lunch stuff...I always figured if it was good enough for me to take home lunches it was good enough for our kids, plus I can't justify the expense. I am so glad that schools are now trying to encourage parents to move away from convenience foods.
    Your lunches look delicious Tania :)

  3. What a great post Tania. Thank you.

  4. I would certainly eat all that yummy goodness ! I'm finding it challenging, and I only have 1 at preschool 2 days a week - next year - oh dear !! those wholemeal crackers look great and filling!
    are you allowed to have peanut butter at your school??

  5. A couple of years ago I got so so incensed at the LCM marketing, that I did a whole year of "Muesli Bar Challenge" recipes. A group of local kids aged 5 to 15 agreed to be reviewers for me. The rules were that the recipe had to be healthy (ie, low sugar, low fat, wholegrain), based on local in-season produce, fast and easy to make, and that the reviewers had to rate it as preferable to a supermarket muesli bar in their lunch box. I won the challenge every single week for a whole year.
    The recipes are here, and the kid's (uninfluenced) reviews are in the comments. I think the interesting thing though was that once I got into the rhythm of it, I really enjoyed baking every week.

  6. Hi Tania,

    Homemade lunchboxes are one thing I'm finding harder as my kids get bigger. They are happy to eat a homemade lunch at home, but are finding it hard at school where it seems almost everyone else has a packet lunch. My daughter in particular struggles with the peer pressure of it. I try and compromise and do some homemade and some store bought things.

    I've been cooking a lot from the River Cottage Family cookbook for school lunches. Do you have that one? The banana and apricot cake, the flapjacks and the brownies are all really well received.

    Also, my kids never seem to get sick of the WHO bread, which I know you make good use of as well.

    Great post!


  7. My kids are past packing lunches these days but I well remember the challenges. I wrote up an article here covering some of my ideas. In high school, my youngest enjoyed the "bento" lunch ideas. She liked the variety and felt like it was healthier, which in the teen years comes back into style thankfully!

  8. I find making lunches one of those things that can be a bit of a chore sadly but I do cook every week so they have some treats to eat. Sometimes I add a boiled egg, some nuts or dried fruit, today I added some carrot sticks and also some muesli that I made the other week. The girls will get mountain wraps too instead of a sandwich and then if we have left overs like pizza or fritters I'll put that in the lunchbox but it is hard coming up with yummy things to eat each day. Thanks for sharing your lunch box ideas.

  9. Hi Tania. I wish you were packing my lunchbox. I would very happily eat any of those three you featured.

  10. love your lunches! we don't do packet stuff either. Our preschools are all nut free so that makes life a bit harder (it's amazing how many of my default meals have nuts in them!!) Luckily my kids like eating sticks of capsicum and whole little carrots. If I have left over cous cous, pasta or rice I'll usually put that in with some tuna or cut up veg. Homemade yoghurt with a drizzle of honey and some frozen berries is another favourite.

  11. Tania, this looks lovely. My mum, bless her, used to send me off to school with rubbishy white bread smeared with IXL plum jam. And then every other day, lunch money for a pie or hot dog. No wonder I blew up by highschool! My eldest starts in 2014 but already I am panicked and planning what I will do for his lunch box. This post is very inspiring. And it is good to know, as Tammi pointed out that schools are now more supportive of scratch-lunch rather than pre-packaged. Nice post :-) xx Fi

  12. I love the inspiration you give me for making healthy, home-made goodies for snacks and meals. Thank you so much for sharing with us. We're planning to move from Switzerland to NZ at the end of this year and, with that, planning to sell/give most of our things before we go. Often when I think of the other side of that, getting rid of lots of our 'stuff,' I think of the glimpses of your home that I get through your blog, and look forward to living more simply, creatively/crafty and growing a lot of our own makes me look forward to that time :) You inspire!

  13. I'd love the recipe for the crackers...I am yet to find one the kids like yet.

  14. Oh your lunches do look good.

    I struggle, but this year have tried to include protein everyday: chicken legs, tuna etc.

    Also a favourite was yogurt and a container of cereal from the pack we had for breakfast.

  15. Oh Tania. How I wish I could make my bread look like yours! What recipe do you use for your bread in the last two pics? x

  16. Fruit in season is such an easy thing to pop in with lunch.
    Sometimes my daughter has 2 pieces of fruit.

  17. Fruit in season is such an easy thing to pop in with lunch.
    Sometimes my daughter has 2 pieces of fruit.

  18. Fruit in season is such an easy thing to pop in with lunch.
    Sometimes my daughter has 2 pieces of fruit.

  19. Great post!
    I do much the same, homemade rolls/bread/pizza rolls or sometimes wraps. My kids also like snacky lunches where I put cut up veggies, cheese cubes and/or slices of cold meats in a container with some saladas or sao's.
    I've purchased some Thermos containers for them so especially during the cooler months I will give them dinner leftovers for a hot lunch like soup, stews, pasta etc. My son even likes cold leftover meatballs with buttered bread or homemade pizza leftover. My girl likes garden salads, sometimes with a can of tuna.

    Lucky I've just had lunch, all this food talk would make me hungry ;-)


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