A polytunnel can really make it a whole lot easier for you and your family to eat healthily all year round. You may already be using up your harvest to make a range of delicious evening meals for your family. But polytunnel produce can also be used to create school lunch box meals for your children. To inspire you to send your kids off to school with a range of healthy and tasty treats, here are some back to school lunch box ideas using polytunnel produce:
Sandwiches Using Polytunnel Produce
Sandwiches are, of course, a popular lunch box staple. But sandwiches do not have to be boring – especially when you grow a lot of your own food. From cheese and salad, to egg and cress, to home-made jams, there are plenty of home-grown sandwich ingredients to consider. If you are looking for something a little different, how about a homemade veggie spread? Or a bean hummus? Or making a sandwich a little more interesting using a pesto made of home-grown herbs?
Lunch Box Wraps Using Polytunnel Produce
Of course you could make your own bread for your sandwiches, but making flatbreads for wraps is even easier – and you can make a batch ahead of time. Consider making some tasty wraps with a thin flatbread and a range of different vegetables or herbs from your polytunnel. This is a great way to get kids to eat a wide range of vegetables, often without them even realising that they are eating something that is good for them!
School Lunch Box Pizzas
For a special treat, you could also consider making some little pizzas for your kids to eat cold with their picnic lunch. Mini pizzas might have tomato sauce and cheese – but you may be able to smuggle in a range of other veggies in the sauce, or hidden underneath the cheesy topping. Make your own pizzas, including the bases, from scratch and you can control exactly what your kids are eating and make sure they have a nutritious diet even when they are outside your home.
Thermos Flask Soups
If you have flasks that will keep them warm until lunch, soups are also a great packed lunch option. Kids will often enjoy a simple tomato soup, for example, or a warming lentil and vegetable soup that will fend off the autumnal chill. Soups are also a great option for batch cooking, and you can make a whole vat ahead of time to warm up a little at a time. Soups are also handy for polytunnel growers as they allow you to use up whatever vegetables you have available throughout the year.
Mini Quiches or Crustless Frittatas
If your kids eat eggs, mini quiches or crustless frittatas are another healthy lunch box staple that you can whip up in next to no time for your kids to enjoy. As with soups, quiches and frittatas are another great way to use of whatever produce you have available at a given time. They can help you ring the changes and move away from those boring old sandwiches and inspire your kids to enjoy a more varied and adventurous diet.
Mini Vegetable Spring Rolls, Pakora or Other Savoury Snacks
If you are feeling a little more adventurous in your cooking, there are also a range of other savoury snacks that you can whip up using polytunnel produce ahead of time. For example, you might be able to make some mini vegetable spring rolls, onion bhajis, vegetable pakoras and other Asian cuisine inspired snacks. Even the most unadventurous eaters might be inspired to try something new, especially if you involve them in making these new snacks to try.
Cold Pasta, Potato or Rice Salads
School lunch box meals do not have to involve bread. Already, we have discussed several options that will allow you to move away from bread-based foods and try something else for those packed lunches. Other ideas include a range of pasta, potato or rice-based salads. There are a range of recipes that are delicious to eat cold, that incorporate a wide range of polytunnel grown ingredients.
Carrot Sticks and Other Raw Veggies
In addition to the main meal in a packed lunch, you can also consider including a range of other healthy snacks and treats. Simply popping in a few raw carrot sticks or bell pepper slices could be a great idea, and might encourage your kids to eat some of the fresh produce that you grow. Why not try incorporating these items into a face or other ‘bento box’ style design, to make fresh veggies more fun?
Lunch Box Dip Ideas
To go with those raw vegetables and other items, you could also consider adding some lunch box dips to those packed lunches. From a simple tomato based dip, to red pepper and herb pesto, to cream cheese or tahini based dips, there are plenty of options to choose from that many children will really enjoy.
DIY Vegetable Crisps
Another way to sneak some healthier snacks into a packed lunch for school is to make your own healthier alternative to store bought crisps. You could simply use potatoes, but to mix things up a little, you should also consider using other vegetables. Use carrots, beetroots or other root crops to make your own healthier vegetable crisps.
For a healthy pudding, fruit salads are an obvious choice. Throughout the summer and autumn, you can simply switch out the types of fruit as summer berries give way to plums and other stone fruits, and then apples and blackberries as autumn is in full swing. Use a little lemon juice to stop apples from turning brown.
Dried Fruits for Lunch Box Treats
In addition to including fresh fruit in those lunch boxes, you could also consider preserving some of your polytunnel fruit harvest by drying fruits for later lunch box use. Dry some plums to make some juicy prunes, for example, dry grapes to make raisins, or dry apples to make some zesty apple rings.
Home-Made Fruit Roll Ups
Another way to incorporate fruit in packed lunches is to make some home-made fruit roll ups or fruit leathers. These are a healthier alternative to the shop bought options out there that are full of sugar and other additives. Stew fruits and spread them out on a tray. Then dry this in the oven on a low heat until it makes a shiny mat that can be cut into strips and rolled up in grease proof paper.
Healthy Lunch Box Flapjacks
There are plenty of healthy home baked dessert options that you could make for your child or children’s packed lunches. One relatively easy option is to make flapjacks, using different ingredients like fresh or fruit fruits, nuts and seeds to enliven the oats. Instead of using syrup or sugar, add honey or agave syrup for a healthier treat.
Healthy Lunch Box Muffins
Similar ingredients can also be used to make a range of healthy lunch box muffins. For example, you could make some savoury muffins using cheeses along with herbs or vegetables from your polytunnel, or a fruit-filled option using seasonal fruits that you have grown in your garden. There are a huge range of different recipes online that you can choose from, many of which are very low in fat and sugar – providing a sweet treat without the harm to their health.
As you can see from the suggestions above, there is no need to be boring when it comes to packing back to school lunch box meals for your kids. When you have a polytunnel and use it to grow your own food – there are always plenty of enticing and tasty options to choose from. You do not need to spend a lot of time or money to make sure that your kids eat right. And even the fussiest of kids is sure to love at least some of the ideas outlined above.
Do you have some favourite lunch box ideas to share? What do you make for packed lunches using the produce that you grow in your polytunnel? Let us know in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.