Back to school means back to school lunches and it’s something that’s on every mama’s daily to do list.
I see so many adorable Bento-style lunch ideas on Pinterest, but, let’s be honest, I barely have time to straighten my hair in the morning let alone make the boys’ food look like hedgehogs and panda bears. But my heart is truly to make their lunchboxes an extension of my love for them – I want them to open their boxes and feel a little metaphoric hug from their mama.
After 18 months of trying to figure out a quick and easy way to pack lunches every day that are economical, easy to clean and have a few happy touches, here are the lunchbox essentials I have come to rely on!
Can I just say that these lunch bags are just the cutest things EVER? They have 25 different animal designs to choose from and they coordinate with the entire line of Zoo Packs (backpacks), which I also use and swear by.
Zoo Lunchies are sized just right for little hands and have a really “handy” grab handle that can be unclipped and attached to their backpack if necessary. An insulated, wipe-clean interior keeps food and drinks cold, the main compartment holds a drink plus lunch quite easily and an inside mesh pocket holds lunch money, an ice pack or utensils.
When it’s 6 o’clock in the morning and I am bleary eyed and asking God for strength, the simple act of seeing these adorable Zoo Lunchies lined up on the kitchen counter puts a smile on my face.
2. Sistema Bento Box £9.99
Sistema’s Bento Box is ideal for keeping lunch items and snacks separated and fresh until ready to eat. It features a generous centre compartment that can be split as desired with the moveable slide divider, a seal-tight yoghurt pot (that also doubles as a fruit pot) and two smaller compartments with hinged lids for dips, spreads, nuts or raisins.
It’s perfect for Harry because he has serious ‘issues’ with food – he doesn’t like food touching and will only eat things prepared a certain way. However, it’s fairly large so probably better suited to older children.
The ADDIS Clip And Close Colour range provides excellent storage for food and drink on the go, so i find them perfect for the boys’ packed lunches. Available in three colours -lime green, blue and pink- the range is SO versatile, comprising of 500ml beakers, 1.1ltr rectangular containers, 2ltr rectangular containers, 450ml rectangular containers and 900ml containers – there really is a container for every need.
What’s more, they are dishwasher, freezer and microwave safe and are also 100% airtight thanks to an all round silicone seal and 4 clips – making them perfect for busy parents in my opinion. We love them.
We also use the ADDIS Roll & Wrap Box from time to time, particularly if i’ve made the boys wraps or sub-rolls. It’s a fun alternative to traditional lunch boxes. Made from BPA free frosted transparent plastic, it features a lime green non-slip base and clip closure to ensure the box remains sealed. Dishwasher safe for easy cleaning and freezer safe should you wish to freeze items.
These are by far my favourite lunch boxes to use and they fit in the Zoo Lunchie Bags perfectly! (See above). The EasyLunchBoxes Bento Lunch Boxes are designed with kid-friendly lids which Riley and Harry love as it means they can open the lids by themselves and don’t have to wait for an adult to help. I think it’s a great way of encouraging independence at mealtimes.
The lunch box features 3 compartments that keep food separated and it’s perfect for portion control or children on a special diet. They are freezable, microwaveable, portable, stackable and dishwasher safe – what more could you ask for?
5. BRITA Fill & Go £14.99
The BRITA Fill&Go bottles are an easy way to make sure your children are always hydrated at school. It’s great as it can be filled up at any tap and the filter disk will reduce the levels of impurities and chlorine, leaving you with fresh tasting water to power them through school day. Ideal if like me, you live in a hard water area.
There are 4 filter disks included with the BRITA Fill&Go, each one lasting for approximately a week, so it’s much more cost-effective than buying bottled water. It’s available in four colours – blue, pink, green and grey – and comes with a straw for flexible drinking position.
This is actually the water bottle i use for myself.
6. Sistema 475ml Hourglass £4.30
This flip top bottle from the Sistema Hydrate range features a drinking spout with a secure snap closure for easy drinking. If you’re looking to progress your child from a toddler sippy cup to a more “grown up” cup before they start school, then this is the one for you. I’ve used this with both of the boys and they took to it with ease. I think that’s partly to do with its ergonomic design which makes it really comfortable for little fingers to hold.
It also has a handy finger ring carry handle, making it just as easy for them to carry and take to school.
7. KIND Snacks £0.99 each
A delicious, wholesome snack, KIND bars are made, quite simply, from whole nuts and fruits, bound together in honey. Not only do their unique flavour combinations taste great, they’re also gluten-free, high in fibre, and contain no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives.
There are two ranges currently available in the UK -Nuts & Spices and Fruit & Nut- and the flavour combinations are amazing! If you haven’t tried any yet, then i would highly recommend Caramel Almond & Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate & Cherry Cashew and Almond & Coconut.
These are a delicious and healthy alternative to chocolate bars or biscuits and they make a wonderful lunchbox treat. They also come in handy as a quick and easy snack on the way home from school – my two are always moaning they’re hungry after a fun-filled day, so KIND bars are an ideal pick-me-up when they need a boost!
If you’re looking for a quick, convenient and tasty snack to add in the kids’ lunchbox or to refuel them on the journey home from school then Wahoo! Chocolate filled crepes are the way to go. Individually wrapped in packs of 8, they are made with ‘just cracked’ eggs, fresh milk and churned butter from local farms, and even better there are no added preservatives.
The boys particularly like it when I pop them in the microwave for a few seconds as it turns the filling all gooey and choclatey. Heck…they can even learn some French whilst indulging in their favourite snack as each pack teaches them a new word or phrase.
9. Sunny Fruit Mix-Ups £1.99
These are fairly new to the market, having only launched in July, but Riley and Harry are already obsessed with them so they’re going to be a popular addition to the lunchboxes when it’s time to head back to school.
Sunny Fruit Mix-Ups are made from 100% fruit (dried and chopped) with no added sugar, artificial flavourings, colours or preservatives. They come in three varieties: -Strawberries & Sultanas, Apricots & Mango and Pineapple & Raisins- and each one has it’s own character, designed to encourage children to get excited about lunchbox snacking. It certainly seems to be working with my two.
I use one of these insulated jars in the boys’ lunch bags all of the time (usually for pasta or fruit) as they are perfect for keeping food warm or cold. This colourful stainless steel container keeps kid-sized portions warm for up to 7 hours or cold for up to 5 hours. The handy Spork can be easily stored in the built-in holder so kids are ready for meals on-the-go. It’s dishwasher safe as well, which is always a bonus.
I love these little penguin ice packs and the boys do too, which is a bit of a bonus. They are perfectly sized to fit in all types of lunch bags and boxes so i can send the boys off to school with cheese, milk or fruit and veggies, knowing that what I’ve packed in their lunchbox will stay cool, fresh and yummy.
This cute Skip Hop Zoo Snack Cup with a bee design is great for encouraging independent snacking without the mess! It features an easy-grip handle which is just the right size for little hands, and the snap top lid ensures snacks stay fresh in the cup. It also has a flexible inner gasket to prevent snacks from spilling out and a clear body that enables you to see when a refill is required. I use one of these for snacks in the boys’ lunchbags, car journeys, picnics etc. There’s a hole in the handle so you can even secure it to your buggy or changing bag for on-the-go snacking.
I know i know, i said i didn’t do bento lunches, and i don’t, but sometimes i add in a silicone cup just for a pop of colour and something different. I like to think it keeps lunchtime a little more spontaneous and interesting for the boys when i change things up.
I tend to use the silicone cups in the ADDIS containers i mentioned above as they’re perfect for separating different foods and helping with portion control. Plus they have many more uses around the kitchen which is handy if you like to make your money go further – freezing yoghurt, chocolate moulding, baking cupcakes and muffins.
14. Peagreen Mini Lunch Notes £7.00
I mentioned earlier that i like the boys’ lunchboxes to be a metaphoric hug from their mama so i always use this adorable notecard set to include a little note in their lunch bag. They can’t read yet obviously, but i know that they get an adult to read the notes to them so it’s definitely worthwhile. The fun animal illustrations and sweet catch phrases (‘Feed Me!’ ‘Yummy! Yummy!’ and ‘Super Delicious’) are perfect for brightening up boring lunches.
The set includes 30 cards and more than 20 silly stickers.