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5 lunchbox prep habits you wish you knew sooner

Jessica Beaton

Jessica Beaton

Accredited practising dietitian, family mealtime coach, and co-director of One Handed Cooks (a baby, toddler and family food website), Jessica gives parents the knowledge and confidence to navigate the challenges of feeding their children, and whole family, so that mealtimes are nutritious, happy, and enjoyable. She combines her journey as a mum of four fun-loving boys with...
Created on Apr 26, 2024 · 6 mins read
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As a mum of four boys (and a dietitian) I understand the mental load of navigating the different appetites and food preferences between my kids.   

Plus, there’s the mental load of “‘what’s going in who’s lunchbox and is there even any food in the fridge and pantry?”

The following habits have transformed our lunchbox prep and morning routine from chaotic to calm. So, whether you’re navigating picky eaters, tight schedules, or a never-ending to-do list, these habits will allow you a little more time, space and connection with your family in the mornings.

1. Create your own fruit and veggie grab boxes

Spend just 15 minutes on a Sunday and create your own fruit and veggie grab boxes

It’s my secret weapon for ensuring we have a variety of nutritious options readily available throughout the week. By investing this small amount of time upfront, you’ll save precious minutes each day too. 

Wash and chop a selection of fruits and veggies your kids already love, along with a few new ones they’re learning to enjoy. Store them in convenient, airtight containers in the fridge, making them easily accessible. Our go-to options include qukes and cucumber sticks, colourful capsicum slices, crunchy celery, and sweet snow peas or sugar snap peas – all prepped and ready to munch on.

For carrots, try slicing or grating them and storing them in a container or reusable Stasher bag with a splash of water to maintain their crispness and vibrant colour. And don’t forget about citrus fruits, melons, pineapple, grapes, and berries; they all store beautifully in grab boxes, ready to add a burst of flavour to any snack or meal. 

These grab boxes aren’t just for lunchtime. They’re perfect for any occasion, whether it’s a mid-morning snack or to halt the pre-dinner hangries. 

To keep your grab boxes fresh and enticing, prep just enough to last a few days and rotate the selection regularly. Trust me, once you introduce these grab boxes into your routine, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. 

2. Embrace the homemade freezer stash

Create a freezer stash of homemade sweet and savoury lunchbox snacks for a game-changing lunchtime solution.

We’ve all experienced the frustration of the “travelling sandwich,” prepped with care in the morning only to return home untouched in the afternoon. Enter baking boxes – the ultimate hack for busy families juggling multiple lunchboxes and seemingly endless snack times.

Not only do baking boxes save you money by reducing reliance on convenience snacks, but they also offer a healthier alternative, often packed with nutritious ingredients like seeds and oats. They’re also adaptable to suit your family’s tastes and any allergy requirements, ensuring everyone finds something they love in their lunchbox.

Think homemade doughnuts made with olive oil, eggs and greek yoghurt, sunflower seed bliss balls, black bean brownies, ricotta and jam pikelets, bolognese pasta slice, BBQ pizza scrolls, hawaiian muffins and so much more. 

These tried and tested recipes are easily adapted for allergies, food preferences, are freezable and transport well and are found in One Handed Cooks Lunchbox Collection 

3. Your morning routine starts the night before

Our morning sets the tone for the entire day, but did you know that it all begins the night before? 

Stepping out the door with bags packed and everyone’s shoes on the right feet, feeling like you’ve already conquered a small victory. It all lies in your evening routine.

Mastering your evenings can transform your mornings from chaotic to calm, giving you the clarity and preparation you need to start each day on the right foot. Imagine a kitchen bench free of clutter, lunchboxes prepped (even just the morning teas), clothes and library bags at arms reach, and socks and shoes ready at the front door. Taking 15 minutes in the evenings can make a world of difference in how smoothly your mornings unfold.

If you’re new to the idea of evening routines, start small. Choose one or two habits that are the most achievable and commit to them consistently. As you find your rhythm, gradually incorporate additional habits into your routine. Before you know it, your mornings will become a breeze, or at the very least, you’ll have more time and space to connect with those little ones who struggle with the morning rush. So, let’s make evenings the launchpad for smoother, more serene mornings. 

4. Invest in high-quality bento-style lunch boxes

While considering your budget, prioritise durable, airtight containers that are easy to clean and open.

These lunch boxes streamline the process of offering a variety of nutritious foods from all food groups, ensuring your kids get a balanced and satisfying meal.

To maintain variety in their lunchboxes throughout the day and week, consider using a nutrition checklist. You can either write it down and stick it to the fridge or keep it in mind as a mental note. 

Here’s my simple nutrition checklist to guide your lunchbox packing:

  • Opt for quality carbohydrates and whole grains whenever possible
  • Include a source of protein to fuel their bodies and keep them feeling full
  • Pack a colourful assortment of veggies to provide essential vitamins and minerals
  • Offer fresh fruits as a sweet and hydrating snack option
  • Don’t forget to include water for hydration throughout the day.

5. Tune in to your child’s appetite and lunchbox eating style

Each child is so unique in their appetite, eating style, and food preferences.

And after spending time in the classroom sitting still, listening, and concentrating, some children find it challenging to sit down and eat as soon as they transition to the playground. Instead, they crave moment, play and physical activity.

Taking the time to observe what food your child brings home uneaten and what’s enjoyed from their lunchbox can help you adjust what you offer in their lunchbox to suit them best. 

If you notice that everything is eaten more often than not, it’s a sign that you’re sending just the right amount of food. Just check there’s enough variety from all the food groups to meet their nutritional needs. If your child still seems hungry, add a little extra to their lunchbox. 

On the other hand, if you find that most of the lunchbox returns home untouched, use the ‘less is more approach’. Try offering smaller quantities and portions to make lunchboxes more manageable for these little ones and focus on providing variety throughout the school day, rather than at each individual meal.

Offering nutritious options for breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner will help take the pressure off lunchboxes. Your child may prefer, and show more interest, in eating in their home mealtime environment. 

Wrapping it up

Enjoy a smoother start to your term and take the stress out of lunchbox prep by incorporating these five lunchbox prep habits into your routine. They’ll leave you with more time, space and connection with your family.  

That’s the good stuff.

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