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Welcome back all, and a happy Lunar New Year to those who are celebrating. We’re going to launch straight into proceedings with a back-to-school lunchbox special. After all, it’s a new year and what better way to start than with 18 healthy and irresistible lunchbox ideas? This week on School Stream, we’re talking about lunchbox ideas for all ages and stages that will keep students and teachers fuelled for a big day of teaching and learning.

Start the year with the global best practice in school communication. Watch this quick video to see how we can help your school simplify communication between home and school or keep reading for our back-to-school lunch ideas.

Lunch ideas for (nearly) everyone

Before we begin, it goes without saying that this is not the definitive guide for fussy eaters. What we hope you do find is a whole lot of new approaches to packing lunch for everyone from preschoolers to teachers. You won’t need fancy equipment beyond a thermos or an ice brick to make or transport these recipes and, while some of these recipes require a bit of prep, they are all suitable for making ahead and storing. Packed lunch, full heart, can’t lose!

Playground specials

When a sandwich won’t cut it but nothing else is ‘right’ either, try something different to tempt taste buds at lunch.

1. Sweet potato pancake – This lunchbox special has two of the magic words in the title: “sweet” and “pancake” – you’re already halfway there! They’re also simple to make and delicious to boot.

2. Mac and Cheese – The recipe for this universally comforting dish includes more veg than cheese – not that you would know from the look or the taste of it. Pack in a thermos for a warm meal at lunch.

3. Ham and corn salad – An appealing, budget friendly, lunchbox friendly dish to keep kids and teenagers going all day. 

4. Cold Udon noodles with carrot and egg – Most kids enjoy slurping noodles, the texture of pasta and a salty sauce. Enter, cold udon noodles with carrot and egg, a tasty combination of carbs and protein that appeals to kids from preschool up.

5. Japanese Bento Balls – Bite size nuggets of rice and tuna, avocado and corn that are as cute to look at as they are tasty.

6. Pesto broccoli pasta – Is there a child alive today who doesn’t enjoy a plate of pesto pasta? This recipe swaps basil for broccoli for a healthy dish that can be eaten warm or cold at lunchtime.

7. Mini Carbonara quiche – What do you get when a classic pasta dish meets classic quiche? A quick and easy lunch!

Make ahead cold lunches for el desko days in the staffroom

These are cold lunches, but not as we know them. While these are great options for the staffroom, teenagers who are ready to try something new might find their lunchtime transformed as well.

8. Summer gazpacho – if you’re in a warm climate, this cold, refreshing gazpacho is for you. An absolute cinch to prepare the night before and a breeze to transport and store. 

9. Cowboy Caviar – What on earth is ‘Cowboy Caviar’, you ask? Good question. It’s a wildly popular salad from Texas that combines cupboard staples like beans, tomatoes and corn with an Italian salad dressing. It’s a very forgiving recipe, so feel free to mix and match ingredients as you like. It’s super affordable to make, stores well, and is sure to appeal to anyone who loves ‘Taco Tuesday’.

10. Salad in a jar – a few years ago it felt like all the cool cafes were serving their meals (and even coffee!) in jars, but there is a practical reason to consider packing your lunch in a jar: salad in a jar will keep four-five days if it’s sealed properly and kept in the fridge. This means you can prep ahead on Sunday night and revel in your organisational skills – and a delicious lunch – for the rest of the week. 

11. Curried peanut dip – if your school allows nuts, this is another winning recipe that will keep you going all day. Dip carrot sticks, boiled eggs, cucumber spears, rice cakes or even rolled up deli meat in this ‘desk dip’ for a tasty lunch that is quite filling, courtesy of the coconut milk and peanut butter. 

12. Miso pesto ramen noodles – prepare for lunchbox-envy on a whole new scale. If you need a break from classic lunch staples, this flavour packed meal will work for you. These noodles work well in a leftover situation too. <

13. Cauliflower pilau – Feel free to skip the faff and the mess of blitzing a whole cauliflower to make the ‘rice’ and pick up a pack of ready-made cauliflower rice from the freezer section instead.

Better than the bakery

14. Ham and Pineapple Pizza Scrolls – Donna Hay is beloved for her consistent and achievable recipes and this healthy, homemade pizza scroll will be a hit in lunchboxes for all ages.

15. Homemade cheesy vegemite scrolls – Vegemite, cheese, bread: what’s not to like? These are a lunchbox staple for the preschool to primary school set – and with good reason. They’re freezer friendly and are easy enough to make so mini chefs can get involved too. 

16. Spinach and feta scrolls with caramelised onion – for the teenagers who like to think of themselves as sophisticates when it comes to baked goods, this elevated scroll could be just the ticket.

DIY Smoothie Bar

Whether you’re tired of seeing abandoned lunches at the end of the day, or you are the one doing the abandoning, drinking your lunch may be a solution. Keep it cool with an ice brick and you’ll be ready to go when lunchtime rolls around. 

17. Smoothie with hidden veg for preschoolers – the trick to the successful preschool smoothie is texture. A smooth smoothie is the way forward, but don’t be tempted to jam-pack a preschool smoothie with too many flavours and avoid adding chia seeds – it’s a short cut to creating a sludgy smoothie. When it comes to prep, you can even make batches ahead and freeze them –they’ll be perfectly defrosted by lunch time. Consider reusable, squishy packs or plastic jars with lids for easy transport and access.

18. Smoothies for big kids (and adults) – Banana smoothies are delicious but there are so many more recipes to explore; try a strawberry and avocado breakfast smoothie or a carrot and orange smoothie on the days when you can’t face another sandwich.

Are you ready to streamline your school communication? Let’s get started.