Salvaging school snacks

Our top six recipes to repurpose lunchbox rejects!

We all know that sometimes the lunchbox comes home with a few bits and pieces left rattling around. Luckily the bits that get left behind don’t have to end up in the bin. Whether it’s a bruised banana, some chewy carrots, or a mushed-up muffin, we’ve got you covered with some simple ways to salvage the food that didn’t get eaten.

Banana Bread

Once it’s rolled around in the lunchbox all day, a banana can end up pretty bruised and brown. Not all kids love eating them like this, so if a banged-up banana or two comes home, it’s time to whip up a banana bread. Get the kids into the kitchen with a fun and healthy banana bread recipe. Substitute the sugar and butter for ½ cup of low fat yoghurt and some cinnamon, and make a treat that is sure to get eaten. If your kids really like getting involved, they can even mash the bananas with their hands to help with the prep.

Banana Bread

Bonus tip: Eat them green!

If they like under-ripe bananas, eating them with a tinge of green on them provides our gut with some prebiotic starch which is great for gut health.

Mini Carrot Cakes
Two carrots

Sometimes the lid doesn’t go back on the lunchbox at recess and the crunchy vegie sticks turn a little rubbery. If they go uneaten, try them in mini carrot cakes. These can also use up any leftover dried or tinned fruit you have and that last splash of milk that wasn’t enough for cereal at brekky.
Bonus tip: Add some spice! Cinnamon and nutmeg are great companions to carrot, and can help make leftover carrot muffins, cakes, and even pikelets a delicious vegie snack.

Yoghurt Cups

Yoghurt is one of the most helpful heroes for hiding anything uneaten throughout the day. You can mix in leftover cereal to provide a high protein, high fibre snack, or try chopping up any uneaten or unwanted fruit to make delicious fruity yoghurt cups. Add some oats, cinnamon, or a teaspoon of milo to top-off your tasty yoghurt snack and stop apples, pears, bananas, or berries going to waste.

Bonus tip: Add some crunch! Add a homemade rolled oat crumble, or some toasted pepitas or walnuts to encourage kids to try new things.

Savoury Muffins

It is really important to let kids explore fruit and veg in their whole form, so they can make healthy choices later in life. It can also take up to 20 “yucks” before they say “yum” to a new food, and vegies in the lunchbox might come back sometimes, or most of the time, depending on where your child is at. Don’t be disheartened by uneaten veg, as it is another step closer to a “yum,” as well as a great excuse to make some savoury muffins that will be a family favourite. Don’t be constrained by the recipe, any veg can be baked into them, and be sure to use low-fat cheese and spices to reduce the fat and salt.

Savoury muffins
What about afternoon tea and dinner?

Sometimes, the easiest use for leftovers is to offer them again or include them with dinner. Vegie sticks, sandwich fillings, and even fruit can be grated up and tossed in to bulk up dinner if you think they might not get eaten the next day. Most foods stored with an ice-brick or frozen water bottle in a lunch box will still be fine to eat after school, when kids aren’t distracted by their friends or play time. If you think your child is fussy, and you’ve ruled out so many foods because they come back uneaten, try offering them again to see if it might just be the playground environment that is the issue, not the food.

Bonus tip: Never punish kids for uneaten lunches!

In a lot of ways, lunchboxes coming back partially (or fully) uneaten can be a good thing. If you know what foods are hits and misses, you can understand your child’s preferences much better. If a punishment is involved, kids quickly learn to “get rid” of things they don’t eat, which means they are missing out on healthy food, and you are wasting money. The next time something comes back in the lunchbox, simply ask your child “why?”.