With kids back in school, many parents are breathing collective sighs of relief… quickly followed by groans of frustration when they realize they need to start making school lunches again! Between picky eaters, allergy restrictions and healthy lunch protocols enforced by schools, packing a lunch that your kids will actually eat can get tricky.
And it can end with a lot of waste.
While we’re all for teaching kids about food waste, let’s face it. No matter how on board they seem, if they don’t want to eat their lunch they’re just not going to eat it. And that can get frustrating for parents as we want our kids to eat well and get the energy they need to thrive during their busy days.
Here are five of our favourite lunchbox tips for reducing waste by getting kids to actually eat. These tricks have been tested by our FoodHero parents and we’re hoping they work for you too!
For many kids - especially picky eaters - looking at a full meal can feel discouraging. But, when that same meal has the appearance of several small snacks, many picky eaters will dive right in.
Enter, the bento box! Except that actual bento boxes can get pretty expensive. And, if they don’t work out for you, you’re then stuck with a very cute container that no one’s using.
Instead, use reusable silicone muffin liners to create the bento experience in any square or rectangular container. These liners often come in bright colours, making lunch even more enticing for kids.
And there’s no rule that says you have to put something different in every section. You can even cut a sandwich into small squares and divide it among the cups. If you have a kid who looks at a full sandwich and cries, “But I caaaaaan’t!!!” … this little visual trick can make that lunch mountain feel a lot easier to climb. Just note that anything with a sauce or very small pieces of food like green peas or tiny blueberries may jump ship into other sections.
This is another gimmicky trick, but what can we say? Kids love gimmicks! This trick is especially effective if you have trouble getting kids to eat fruits and veggies. You can buy all kinds of cute little lunch picks with different animals or other characters on them. They usually aren’t very expensive, but for a more budget friendly version, you can get plastic hors d'oeuvre picks at your local dollar store. Just be sure to wash and reuse! There’s something about using these little picks that kids just love and they’ll be poking at grapes, melon cubes, cucumber slices and more in no time!
Skewers are another kid favorite that often get them eating their fruits and veggies instead of leaving them to waste. Find short bamboo skewers and make fruit ’n’ veg kabobs! You can also use cubes of cheese, baked tofu, small meatballs or even cube and sandwich and kabob it! You can reuse the skewers by soaking them in a vinegar solution and letting them air dry.
Does your kid love noodles? Many kids do, but what parent wants to be cooking pasta in the early morning? Here’s the thing… cooked pasta keeps for 3-5 days in the fridge, so you can cook a batch Sunday night, store it in the fridge (with no sauce), then all you have to do to reheat it in the morning is to boil a small amount of water, drop in the amount of pasta you’re using that day, stir it around for about 30 seconds and it’s ready to go.
You can top it with whatever your kid likes, or even leave it plain if that’s what they prefer.
Does your kid like cold pasta? Even better! For younger kids, you can even use larger types of pasta like rigatoni or wagon wheels, so it’s more like a finger food (assuming there’s no sauce). Then you don’t have to worry about forks and spoons never finding their way home.
Many kids who eat well (or semi-well) at home struggle to eat at school. Especially younger kids. School is a new environment, with lots of distractions and many kids can feel anxious or unsettled, which makes it difficult to get through a meal.
The general recommendation is that kids (and adults), eat a diverse diet with different sources of protein, fruit, vegetables and grains. But there’s no rule that says every meal has to be different. If there’s one lunch that you know your kid enjoys and will eat, embrace that! Don’t be afraid to give your kid the exact same lunch every single day if you know it’s food they will actually eat and enjoy. Embracing that comfort zone can not only reduce waste, but also help kids feel more settled and comfortable in their new environment.
Why are sandwiches the quintessential lunch food? Because they’re easy, cost effective, pack well and they give a much-needed carb boost midday. But some kids just don’t like sandwiches. Many won’t eat crusts. And sometimes you just want to switch it up.
Tortillas are an excellent solution. There’s no crust to go to waste and a “roll up” just sounds a lot more fun than a sandwich.
You can send rolls as-is, cut them on a diagonal like spring rolls, or even slice them into “sushi” and pop them into your DIY bento box.
Some great fillers are nut-free butters like Wowbutter, lunch meat, cheese slices, hummus, shredded carrot, cream cheese and more. You can even make sweet roll ups by filling them with cream cheese and sliced strawberries or another thinly sliced “rollable” fruit.
Do you have a lunchbox tip that gets your kids to actually eat at school?
Download our App Save $5 on your first order
Thank you for your interest in FoodHero and in the food waste cause.
We’re not quite ready to help you save money on perfectly fresh surplus food.
We’ll let you know as soon as we’re launching!