I guess it goes without saying that I’ve always made sure my kids’ lunchboxes are filled with homemade foods. Otherwise, there’d be no point to this blog.
So my freezer has always been stashed full of baked goods and every school day my kids have enjoyed varied foods that are full of goodness. Packets of processed foods were rare special treats.
But last year, a few things changed and I started relying on processed foods on (pretty much) a daily basis.
First, all three of my kids now go to schools that are a 25 minute drive from home. Next, after a decade of working from home, I started working in an office for three days a week. My kids are getting older, which also means they are hungrier. And we’re spending more time driving around to after-school activities, which means that my kids all need more lunchbox food to cater for after school snacks as well as all their usual school foods. This is especially important because I go straight from work to collect them. I don’t have any opportunity to arm myself with gorgeous homemade snacks before we hit the road.
Don’t get me wrong, making nutritious lunchbox food remains my priority and despite spending more time at work, I still cook and bake a number of times per week. But with the increased lunchbox demands, I don’t have the time (or the freezer space) to be creating even more homemade goodies.
So instead, I’ve started to rely on non-perishable processed foods. This is a big departure from my food philosophy and so it’s challenged me a bit. But these days I’m fairly happy with the selection of processed foods that I rely upon. And perhaps they’ll be useful to you, too.
Bel Smith, who blogs at The Root Cause has written a number of blog posts about packaged food in lunchboxes. For example, what to do if your kids are teased because of their lunchbox food, or the impact of food additives on kids’ behaviour and learning. Bel is also an ambassador for the No Packet November movement, so she really knows her stuff and she’s passionate about it, too! You can check out her articles here:
Tanya at Additive Free Pantry has dedicated her entire website (and career) to telling readers about additive free pantry foods. I urge you to check out both websites and show your support. They’re doing a ripper of a job educating everyone about making great food choices.
What to use
Remember that most packaged foods will either contain plenty of salt or sugar, so moderation is key. I have these items on regular rotation:
- Rice cakes – brilliantly versatile, get them thin or thick, eat plain or with toppings, sweet or savoury, and unlike many other GF processed foods, they’re fairly cheap.
- Rice crackers – Watch the salt content, but they’re great to have on hand for a quick carb fix and a heap of crunch.
- Corn Crunch and Roasted Fava Beans – both are great for a salty, crunchy snack. And they come in individual packets. They’re more expensive, but worth it if you’re in need of a little bit of convenience and variation.
- Sultana packs and banana chips – both high in sugar so use sparingly. But if you need a handy, non-perishable fruit snack, they’re both great to have on hand.
- Pumpkin Seed Munch – this is the nut-free option in the Think Food “Munch” range. It’s relatively low in sugar (for a processed food) and pumpkin seeds are high in nutritional benefits. Again, they’re expensive, but handy if you’re after a lunchbox filler.
- Popcorn – I buy lightly salted popcorn, with no other additives. Popcorn is cheap, especially if you make it yourself. It’s always a great snack.
Do you have a go-to processed lunchbox snack? Please leave a comment below and let us know.