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The kids are back to school and with that brings the everyday dread of thinking about what to make them for lunch. The aim is to crack not too boring and nutritionally balanced, in the hope that the lunchbox is returned empty!

I’m here to give you some fresh and easy ideas to take the stress out of the morning school run. They are on a budget, can easily be made in bulk and most are freezable too.

There’s something to suit all kids, the fussy ones, the more adventurous, the big and small appetites, the sweet tooth, the vegetarian, the pizza lover, the bread hater and the breakfast avoiders. Each is a healthy and colourful lunchbox that’ll encourage them to try some new things and have all the energy they need for their classes.

1. Sweetcorn fritters

(Perfect for vegetarians or kids who don’t like eating bread)

Makes 12 bite sized fritters or 4-6 larger fritters

Price: £1.11 (9p per mini fritter or 19p per larger fritter)


Top tip: If your kids don’t like sweetcorn, try grated courgette, ensuring that the courgette has little to no moisture in it by squeezing out in a clean tea towel.


1. In a mixing bowl, whisk your flour, milk and egg to a paste, then add in chives, some salt and paprika, then your drained sweetcorn and fold together.

2. In a frying pan, add a generous amount of sunflower oil.

3. Spoon a large tablespoon of each mixture into the hot pan (be careful) and fry for a few seconds then flip over, pressing down with a spatula until cooked through and golden.

4. Alternatively, you can fry for a few seconds each side until the shape is moulded and finish off in your oven or airfryer.

5. Drain on some kitchen paper. These go well with some ketchup, mayo or sweet chilli sauce.

2. Pizza bagels

Makes 1 half bagel per portion

Price: 56p per portion



1. Spray a little fry light over your bagel, and in an oven or airfryer, preheated to around 180 degrees, add for 30 seconds until slightly toasted.

2. Remove and spread over 1 tsp of the tomato purée.

3. Sprinkle a little oregano, then the cheese, and then lots of little sliced mini pepperamis.

4. Spray a little more fry light over it all and pop back into the airfryer or oven until melted.

5. Can be eaten hot or cold.

3. Nacho chicken dippers

Makes 12 dippers

Price: £5.31 (44p per dipper)



1. Crush your nacho crisps until they are almost like dust. A small blender works well or you can pop into a sandwich bag and bash with a rolling pin.

2. Slice your chicken fillets or thighs in half (length ways for thinner strips), trimming off any fat.

3. Into 3 separate bowls, add a whisked egg, the crushed crisps and some plain flour.

4. First, dip each chicken fillet in the flour, then the egg and then cover generously with the crushed crisps.

5. Pop into a preheated oven or airfryer (180 degrees), spray with a little fry light and bake until cooked through and golden.

6. Serve cold in the lunchbox with a dip. Can also be served hot for their dinner with veg and homemade chips.

4. Hidden veggie pasta

Makes 8 portions and is freezable

Price: £4.14 (52p per portion)



1. Chop the ends off the garlic bulb and drizzle some oil over the full thing, wrap it in some tin foil, pop on an oven tray and bake for 30-40 mins.

2. Cut the stalk off the peppers and add to the same oven tray after 15 minutes, along with the tomatoes. Drizzle both in a little oil and salt and roast for the remaining time with the garlic.

3. Boil your pasta.

4. Remove the veggies from the oven. Add the roasted peppers and tomatoes to a blender. Squeeze out the roasted garlic cloves from the full bulb into the blender too. Add a drop of water and a tbsp of tomato purée, and blend to a sauce.

5. Drain your pasta and stir through the sauce. Add the cream cheese and some dried basil.

6. Now add in a handful of grated cheese and allow to melt through the pasta.

7. Either eat there and then, pack cold into the lunchbox or, freeze for future dinner times.

Tip: You can add in other roasted veggies, like sweet potato or butternut squash and blend in greens such as spinach or courgette for extra goodness.

5. Ham & cheese roll wraps

Makes 6 mini swirl rolls

Price: 62p



1. Spread some cream cheese over a wrap.

2. Add some ham or sliced chicken.

3. Sprinkle over some grated cheese.

4. And tightly roll all together.

5. Then slice it width ways so you get a cinnamon roll effect.

More cheap packed lunch ideas:

DIY lunchables

Buy a pack of cheddar biscuits and thinly slice some cheddar and meat of choice - and if they start to get bored, simply switch up the fillings.

Banana oatie & choc chip mini muffins

Perfect for a sweet treat after lunch, a quick energy boost or an on-the-go breakfast!

Makes 10-12 mini muffins or 4-6 large muffins

Price: £2.10 (18p per mini muffin or 35p per larger muffin)



1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.

2. In a mixing bowl mash up your ripe banana with a fork.

3. Whisk in the egg, Greek yogurt, baking powder and baking soda, honey and vanilla paste.

4. Fold in the oats and chocolate chips.

5. Into the mini muffin tray, either spray your fry light or add in a cupcake case.

6. Spoon in the mixture until it’s half full.

7. Bake for 15-20 mins or until golden brown.

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