You’ve got breakfast to make, coffee to drink, kids to get ready for school and you still have to get yourself ready for work.
And there’s also the dreaded lunchbox to pack.
It’s tempting to reach for the packaged food (or the tuckshop menu).
It makes the job so much easier.
And while no one is fooled by the fancy marketing that assures us what’s under the wrapper is healthy, it makes us feel less guilty about it anyway.
Or is that just me?
Looking for lunchbox inspiration only makes it worse.
All those fancy bento boxes on Pinterest and Instagram scream MORE WORK when you know you just don’t have time.
Sometimes I get an attack of the shoulds as in, ‘I should feed the kids quinoa salad and low-fructose fruit…’ or whatever other crazy thing goes through my brain that they’ll never eat.
And following along right behind SHOULD is OVERWHELM shaking it’s head and saying “well, that’s just too hard.’
Why do we make things harder on ourselves than they need to be?
Especially when we grew up just fine on vegemite sandwiches, arrowroot biscuits, all smelling like mandarin.
Well a healthy lunchbox doesn’t have to be hard or fancy!
In fact, you can have a healthy (and frugal!) lunchbox packed and out the door in the time it takes to say ‘no you can’t have an LCM‘.
Here are some tips for packing a healthy lunchbox the easy way.
HAVE A PLAN
Just like menu planning dinners makes life easier, having an outline of what goes into the kid’s lunchboxes also takes the guesswork out of it.
It’s pretty much the same every day and it is totally non-complicated.
You don’t want to have to stop and stare into the fridge wondering what to pack.
And you certainly don’t want to be wasting precious time cutting sandwiches and fruit into fancy shapes (who eats the scraps? – or do they get thrown in the bin?)
If you have a set idea of what goes into their lunchbox each day, you can throw it together in a few minutes without mental effort, which is essential in the mornings.
In our house, a lunchbox consists of:
- Morning tea: fruit and one or two items from a selection of (usually homemade) pre-prepared snacks.
- Lunch: a sandwich, wrap or leftovers and some raw vegetables.
Every. Single. Day.
It’s simple, but there’s enough variation within those parameters that it doesn’t get boring (check out the printable below for ideas).
And if your kids are old enough, it’s easy for them to pack themselves.
GET THE RIGHT LUNCHBOX
The right lunchbox can actually make packing lunches easier in the morning, especially lunchboxes with little compartments like this one:
- Throw the sandwich in this compartment – check.
- Fruit in this compartment – check.
- Vegetables in this compartment – check.
- Add a muffin – check.
Lunchbox packed in under 5 minutes.
You can get compartment lunchboxes like the Smash brand from Kmart or Big W, or you can check out Biome for their range of eco-lunchboxes.
Don’t forget the insulated bag and ice pack (we never seemed to get food poisoning, despite our beef and chutney sangas sitting in the hot sun all day, but anyway…) and a good water bottle.
Then label everything really well to make sure it all comes home.
FILL YOUR FRIDGE FOR THE WEEK
Have you ever peered into the empty fridge in the morning, wondering what you’re going to pack today?
I have. Last minute scrounges don’t look pretty (I now keep an emergency packet of arrowroot biscuits and a tin of fruit hidden just for these days).
On the weekend, double check you’ve got enough food for lunchboxes for the upcoming week.
If you’ve got a rough plan of what you’ll pack each day (check out the printable below for ideas), it’s easy to write a list and make sure you’ve got the items on hand.
DO A 10 MINUTE PREP ON SUNDAY
If you want to, you can make a week’s worth of sandwiches and put them in the fridge or freezer, ready to go in the morning.
I confess, I’m not that organised (and the idea of defrosted sandwiches is kind of gross to me).
But it is a good idea to do a little prep for the week to come on Sunday. It should only take about 10 minutes while you’re cooking dinner.
It’s even easier if the kids do it themselves.
Things you might pre-prepare on Sunday include:
- bake a batch of muffins. This takes about 8 minutes from scratch + 20 minutes cooking time.
- pre-pack snacks like trail mix in zip-lock bags or reusable snack bags
- boil some eggs
- pre-cut fruit
- pre-cut vegetables
- wash salad leaves
- place yoghurt or dip into individual containers
- slice leftover roast meat for easy sandwiches – a Sunday roast is a great way to set yourself up for weekday lunches
- pre-cook rice or pasta for easy salads
DOWLOAD THE LUNCHBOX PLANNER PRINTABLE
The lunchbox planner printable makes lunchbox planning super easy. You can download it here.
Choose a couple of sandwich options for the week or sandwich alternatives, a couple of fruit and vegetable options and a snack option and you’re set.
Make sure you’ve got the ingredients on hand, pre-prepare anything you need to on Sunday and packing the lunchboxes each morning is as easy as 1 2 3.
What are your tips for packing a healthy lunchbox each day?
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.