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Simple school lunchbox ideas to keep kids happy and costs low

Rachel Stirling offers five ideas to keep lunchboxes exciting at great value

Thursday 23 March 2023 06:30 GMT
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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Lunchtimes can be a struggle for many parents and coming up with new ideas to make lunchboxes both fun and great value is a real challenge,” says The Lunchbox Mama, AKA Rachel Stirling, “especially when families are having to tighten their belts.”

But packing lunchboxes doesn’t have to be dull. Stirling has teamed up with Aldi to create a series of lunchbox ideas for under a fiver.

“I’m determined to show that there are lots of ways to make lunchboxes more exciting while still making sure they’re packed with nutritional value to see children through the day,” says Stirling.

From healthier twists on sausage rolls and pepperoni pizzas to smart lunchbox snacking staples, these recipes are designed to keep lunchboxes exciting at great value.

And to offer parents simple and affordable lunchtime inspiration, all ingredients can be found at your local supermarket.

Breakfast muffin sandwich

This fun and filling lunchtime idea provides a healthier spin on a breakfast muffin
This fun and filling lunchtime idea provides a healthier spin on a breakfast muffin (Aldi)

Serves: 12

Cost per portion: 54p

Prep time: 5 minutes | Cooking time: 14 minutes

Ingredients:

500g Ashfields 100% British 5% Fat Lean Pork Mince

1 small Wonky Brown Onion (approx 50g)

1 Mini British Apple

1 Toasting Muffin

1 Emporium Kids Original Cheese Slice

½ tsp Stonemill Garlic Granules

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200C and place a 9cm circular cookie cutter on a baking tray (you will need two trays in total, so have both ready).

Tip pork mince into a medium-sized mixing bowl.

Grate the apple and onion, and add to the pork mince along with garlic granules (and a little black pepper if you’d like).

Using your hands, combine everything in the mixing bowl.

Use a knife to roughly divide the mixture into quarters in the bowl. Remove one quarter and split into three on a plate.

Take one portion of the meat mixture, roll it into a ball and then squash. Place this inside the cookie cutter and press it out evenly (you can do this with a teaspoon if you’d rather). When you have removed the cookie cutter you should have a perfectly round patty. Repeat for all 12 patties.

Pop the trays in the oven for 12-14 minutes, flipping halfway.

Once fully cooked through, remove from the baking tray and cool on a cooling rack.

Once fully cooled you can transfer them to a tub to put in the fridge or freeze them flat in freezer bags until needed.

Pop the toasting muffin in the toaster, then transfer to cooling rack to cool.

Once both items are fully cool assemble your sandwich by sparingly buttering the muffin and adding the patty and cheese slice, and pack with an ice pack.

Optional: Add a little pot of reduced sugar ketchup for dunking, if you have a ketchup fan.

To make into a full lunchbox, pack with:

1/5 Dessert Menu Strawberry Flavour Jelly

1 British Mini Pear

1 Nature’s Pick Carrot

¼ Pack of Asia Specialities Lightly Salted Rice Crackers

Cheese and veggie swirls

The perfect crowd pleaser and enough for the whole family
The perfect crowd pleaser and enough for the whole family (Aldi)

Serves: 12

Cost per portion: 39p

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

1 Greenvale Puff Pastry Ready Rolled

1 small Nature’s Pick Red Onion

100g Everyday Essentials Cherry Tomatoes

½ Nature’s Pick Loose Red Pepper

100g Emporium British Medium Cheddar

Method:

Take puff pastry out of the fridge and leave to come up to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 200C and line two baking trays with parchment paper/reusable silicon mats.

Finely chop all the veggies. Add red onions to a frying pan with a splash of oil and gently fry until softened. Add the peppers and tomatoes and cook for a further few minutes.

Unroll pastry sheet and top with the vegetable mix, spreading it out evenly across the sheet leaving an inch wide gap along one long side.

Top with grated cheddar.

With a pastry brush, add a little milk or water to the ‘gap’ edge of the pastry.

Starting with the long edge without the gap, start rolling the pastry up, keeping it as tight as possible (you can roll forwards a bit, then tuck the roll back and under to keep it tight). When fully rolled, use the dampened edge to stick the roll together.

Cut the long roll in half, then quarters. Then cut each quarter into three slices – this should give you 12 even slices. Brush with milk.

Tips for cutting: You can remove a thin slice at each end first – this will give you 12 neat slices.

Use a bread knife to cut you slices, gently saw rather than pressing down to keep your swirls in circles rather than squished shapes.

Bake for 20-25 mins until golden brown. Cool fully on a cooling rack before packing for lunches.

To make into a full lunchbox, pack with:

20g Everyday Essentials ‘Wonky’ Blueberries

½ Nature’s Pick Carrot

Mamia Organic Strawberry & Apple Oaty Bar

Little Delights Fromage Frais

Chicken and carrot mini sausage rolls

If your kids love sausages, try this healthier version made with just three ingredients
If your kids love sausages, try this healthier version made with just three ingredients (Aldi)

Serves: 24

Cost per portion: 70p

Prep time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

10 Ashfields Italian Style Chicken Chipolata

8 Village Bakery Mini Tortilla Wraps

1 Nature’s Pick Carrot (medium sized)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200C and line two baking trays with parchment paper/reusable silicon mats.

Remove the skin from the sausages and put the sausage meat into a large flat dish.

Peel and finely grate carrot, then place inside some kitchen towel/a clean tea towel and squeeze out most of the moisture (this will stop your sausage rolls getting soggy). Add to the sausage meat.

Using the back of a fork, mash the carrot and sausage meat together so it is all evenly combined.

Using a knife, cut the mixture into eight portions.

Take one eighth of the sausage meat mixture and place it on a mini wrap, at about a third of the way up. Using your fingers, make a long sausage shape with the meat mixture, then roll the wrap from the bottom up.

Cut into three even sized pieces and place on your lined baking tray.

Repeat on all wraps.

Note: if some of the wraps are pinging open a bit, you can secure them with a wooden cocktail stick.

Brush with a little milk, then bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown. Be sure to check the sausage is cooked all the way through with a meat thermometer.

Enjoy warm at home or fully cool on a cooling rack before packing with an ice pack.

To make into a full lunchbox, pack with:

Little Delights Fromage Frais

Mini Banana

Cucumber

Chocolate and courgette brownie muffins

Brownie muffins made with natural yoghurt and courgettes for some extra, hidden goodness
Brownie muffins made with natural yoghurt and courgettes for some extra, hidden goodness (Aldi)

Serves: 12

Cost per portion: 20p

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

200g The Pantry Self Raising Flour

30g The Pantry Cocoa Powder

100g Dark Brown Sugar

1 Nature’s Pick Courgette

200g Brooklea Greek Style Natural Yoghurt

1 Merevale Large British Free Range Egg

85g Cowbelle British Unsalted Butter

100g Everyday Essentials Dark Chocolate

Method:

Heat the oven to 220C.

Sift flour and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and stir to combine.

Finely grate the courgette onto a clean tea towel, then squeeze to remove excess moisture. Place dry courgette in a separate bowl.

Beat the egg then add to the courgette, along with yogurt and melted butter. Mix, then add to the dry ingredients.

Chop the chocolate bar into small chunks then add to the mixing bowl.

Mix to bring everything together. If it seems a little dry you can add a tbsp milk to help bring it together. Divide the mixture between 12 muffin cases and pop in the hot oven.

Bake at 220C for 5 minutes then reduce the heat to 180C and cook for another 15-17 minutes.

Check with a cake tester (or cocktail stick) that when inserted it comes out cleanly – this will tell you the muffins are cooked through.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely before packing.

To make into a full lunchbox, pack with:

Breadsticks

Cheese Spread (10p)

Strawberries

Red Pepper

Hard-boiled egg

Pepperoni muffin pitta with veggies

A great lunchbox main with carbs, protein and added veggies
A great lunchbox main with carbs, protein and added veggies (Aldi)

Serves: 1

Cost per portion: 54p

Prep time: 5 minutes | Cooking time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

Wholemeal pitta

2 tsp (10g) Tomato Puree

1 Mini Original Meatster – finely sliced to make mini pepperoni rounds

2 tsp (15g) Tinned Sweetcorn

10g Red Pepper

30g British Mild White Cheddar

Method:

Pre-heat your grill then lightly toast one side of the pitta bread.

Add tomato puree to the non-toasted side, and spread.

Top with sweetcorn, finely diced red pepper, and grated cheese then top with meatster slices.

Pop the pitta back under the grill until the cheese is bubbling.

Enjoy hot at home, or if packing for lunch, cool fully on a cooling rack before packing with an ice pack.

To make into a full lunchbox, pack with:

1/6 Cucumber

Everyday Essentials Cherry Tomato

Strawberry, raspberry and apple smoothie

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