Two simple, easy-to-make, delicious bits for a primary school lunch box

It’s that time of year when we set out to establish new routines and start thinking about school lunches

We’re at the end of the summer (what summer…?) and the start of the new school year.

It’s that time of year when we set out to establish new routines around back to school. We write lists, prepare the kids with earlier bedtimes and we start talking and thinking about school lunches.

In some pretty unscientific research I did on my Instagram stories recently, making school lunches was the thing that more than 50 per cent of parents dreaded the most about back to school. Early starts was the second biggest dread, with uniforms trailing behind in third place.

Why do we parents hate them so much? Here are some of the reasons that were given:

  • Lack of time.
  • Don’t know what to be putting in the lunch boxes.
  • Trying to keep the lunches healthy and varied.
  • It’s so boring putting the same things in over and over again.
  • Waste of time as kids don’t eat them. (That’s a whole other issue)

Well, I am here with solutions to some of these problems. If you want your kids to eat their lunch, and save yourself some time and heartache, then listen up.

Drumroll please... let the kids make their own lunches. All by themselves. Then you don’t have to do it, they are more likely to eat a lunch they have made themselves and you won’t be bored out of your mind making them. It is a win for everyone.

I know what you’re thinking: “If I let my kids make their own lunches they’ll just have crisp sandwiches or chocolate bars on repeat.” No – that doesn’t have to be the case. They will only have crisp sandwiches if you give them crisps. There is a strategy for feeding children, developed by American feeding guru Ellyn Satter called, The Division of Responsibility in Feeding. It states that the parent provides the food that they want their child to eat and the child decides whether or not they want to eat it.

In the case of school lunches, you, as the parent, provide the food you want them to have for their lunch. It may be bread, cheese, tuna, fruit, yoghurt etc. and they then decide what they will take to school with them. This has been working in my house since my son was six years old. I have barely made a school lunch in six years. I make sure there’s cooked chicken, tuna or ham on hand, as well as wholemeal bread or wraps, and plenty of fruit, and then let them at it.

I also like to have at least one extra “bit” on hand for lunch boxes to go along with the sandwiches and fruit. Here are some of our favourite extra “bits” we make for lunch boxes.

Fantastic flapjacks

These flapjacks are nut-free and packed full of whole foods. Get the kids to help you make a big batch on a Sunday when you’ve the oven on for the roast.

Serves: 0
Course: Snack
  • 1 cup coconut oil (melted)
  • 2-3 ripe bananas
  • 1-2 cups dried fruit (like raisins, chopped apricots or dates)
  • 3 cups oats
  • 1 cup mixed seeds (chia, pumpkin or sunflower)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips (optional)

How to make it:

  1. Turn your oven on to 200 degrees and line a large tray with baking paper.
  2. Mash the bananas and add to a large bowl.
  3. Add the dried fruit, oats, seeds, vanilla, maple syrup and melted coconut oil to the bowl too.
  4. Mix everything really well.
  5. Tip the mixture into the baking tray and press down well with the back of a spoon.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Allow to cool. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for the week ahead.

Powered up energy balls

The kids will love that these are made with Weetabix! A great little extra “bit” for the lunch boxes or even for a handy breakfast for those mornings when nothing goes to plan.

Makes: 0
Course: Snack
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 4 Weetabix or wheat biscuits
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
  • 8 large pitted dates, halved
  • ¼ cup cacao powder (plus extra for rolling)
  • 2 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
How to make them:
  1. Put the chia seeds into a small bowl. Add four tablespoons of water to the seeds and leave to one side (the kids will love seeing what happens with these).
  2. Meanwhile, break your wheat biscuits into two and pop them into a blender, along with the dates, cacao powder and melted coconut oil.
  3. Add the chia seed mixture – it should be a gooey gel now.
  4. Blitz everything together. You will have to do this in short bursts, scrape down the sides and go again. If it’s not combining, add some water, a teaspoon at a time.
  5. When it’s combined, roll into balls (this will be messy so definitely a job for the kids).
  6. Mix the remaining cacao with the cinnamon on a plate and roll the balls in this mixture.
  7. Pop in the fridge for 20 minutes or so and they are good to go for lunch boxes.

Recipes taken from Deirdre Doyle’s children’s cookbook, Chop, Cook, Yum. Deirdre Doyle is a food educator, children’s cookbook author, blogger and social media influencer