As Australia’s number one savings blogger, Penina Petersen is the queen of nifty hacks to keep the cost down. The mum shares her ultimate school lunchbox tips to make your mornings just that little bit easier.
All parents would agree that the best part of school holidays are those sleep-ins, but what if I told you, you could still enjoy an extended sleep-in each morning even during school time?
These ten nifty hacks will put school lunches on autopilot – that way you can enjoy easier school mornings while still delivering lunches with love.
1. Set up for success
Make sure you have all the gear. Go for what I call ‘Earth-Happy’ containers – lunchboxes big enough to fit a piece of fruit, snacks and a sandwich. I use these larger lunchboxes and little pot that I can wash rather than snack bags.
2. Create a menu
Get organised by creating a kids lunchbox menu for the month. This way you can take stock of what you have on hand and what you need. Download my FREE Lunchbox Planning Kit here.
3. Plan ahead
Be practical about planning lunches according to your schedule. For example, put a note in your diary to shop for groceries online at a time that suits you each week. For non-perishables, shopping online is good, you can sort by price or unit price and find specials – this is very time-saving.
4. Get bread smart
Bread can be expensive. I buy the cheaper $1 loaves for ‘toast’ bread and keep these in a separate area in the freezer. Then buy fresh bread from bakeries at the end of the day and then snap freeze for sandwiches. You’ll save much money over time.
I visit bakeries right before closing and usually buy up to four loaves at once. In this picture, my daughter takes the pink lunches and my son takes blue.
5. Freeze sandwiches
My biggest time-saving trick is to spend Sunday afternoon making sandwiches – the kids and hubby get involved too.
Lay the baking paper out and make all the sandwiches in bulk. We usually go for ham, salami or chicken slices and cheese. Then snap freeze in reusable bags. Saves time making them every morning.
6. Create a snack box or cupboard
Keep a box of pre-made snacks in the cupboard. You can package up pretzels, crackers or homemade muesli bars ready to go so kids can pack their own snack. Try avoid sugar-filled supermarket versions.
7. Fruit bowl or containers
Create a simple fruit bowl for kids to easily grab a piece of fresh fruit. Alternatively, you can also freeze fruit. For example, Buy pineapple and skewer pineapple ‘ice-blocks’ for quick grab-n-go snacks for kids. Blueberries or frozen juice ice-blocks also make great freezer snacks.
8. Empower your kids
Teaching kids to pack their own lunches gives them a sense of responsibility and also pride. My kids enjoy choosing from a range of healthy food on offer and opting for food depending on their mood.
9. Breakfast station
One of the best ideas I’ve implemented is creating a breakfast station. Think the kind of continental breakfast you would see at a hotel. Pack the station with cereal, bowls, cups, plates and bread for toasting. Teach your kids how to make their own breakfast each morning and clean up after themselves.
This way – a busy mum might also be able to enjoy a little bit of a sleep in or more time to have breakfast themselves.
10. Do it with love & add a little fun
Just like it’s a long day at the office, the same goes for kids. By the time lunch comes around it’s a nice touch to add a little fun and love to brighten up your child’s day. I make little cards using recycled Christmas, birthday cards or old cereal boxes otherwise coloured sticky notes are also a winning move.
Write these on Sunday too and get kids to pick a ‘surprise’ note to pack in their lunch each day. These could be reminders of how much you love them or something more thought-provoking and fun.
So here we have it. A simple, frugal, healthy lunch made with responsibility and pride, as well as beaming with fun and a mother’s love. And if you need more lunchbox ideas, you can find them here.