Top school lunch ideas

Thinking of putting the usual jam or cheese spread on bread for your child’s lunch box? There are other more creative things that you can give your children that don’t cost a fortune. We speak to chef Dion Vengatass of the Mount Nelson Hotel to find out what he would recommend when it comes to cheap and creative kiddies lunches.


What are the cheapest school lunches you recommend and why?

I would suggest that parents opt for wraps, pitas, sandwiches or rolls, with an apple or banana and a bottled juice. Wraps, pitas, health rolls and sour dough bread. They are ideal because they all freeze and defrost well. Keep these breads in your deep freezer and just take them out when needed. You can also buy them in bulk as it will cost you less.

The fillings can be as simple as last nights roasted vegetable or the left over pepper steak with some cheddar cheese and crisp iceberg lettuce on a whole wheat  roll.


How can you prepare it?

Try use what you have left over from your previous night’s dinner, here are a few examples:

  • Roasted vegetables: Make a wrap with this, spread some humus on the wrap, shred left over roast chicken over the vegetables and some fresh rocket.
  • Left over lamb stew: Take a pita and spread some olive tapenade on it. Put in the lamb stew with some plain yoghurt, mint and coriander for a tasty meal.


What ingredients do you need?

Get different spreads. Choose the ones that can go a long way and that can be used for more than one purpose, e.g. humus, olive tapenade, cream cheese, Marmite, pesto etc. Use your imagination and see what flavours work with bread as your ‘canvas’.


What healthy options are there that you would advise parents to prepare and why?

Stick to health breads. They seem unappealing but once you taste them you will never go back. Go for seed loaf, five grain and sour dough. These breads are full of anti oxidants, high in carbohydrates and rich in fibre.


Which snacks are unhealthy or more expensive to make?

Stay away from these expensive processed cheese spreads. They are also unhealthy and taste artificial.

When it comes to healthy food, stay away from junk food, potato chips, chocolate bars and candy. Rather make your own vegetable chips. Instead of frying them you can dry them out in your oven over night.

Instead of chocolate bars make your own muesli bars (see recipe below).

Replace candy with dried fruit, which you can also dry out in your oven over night. Simply slice your fruit or vegetables paper thin, lay them out on to a silicon mat, place into an oven set at 70 degrees, leave over night for at least then hours.

Remember its usually cheaper to make food at home as opposed to buying it. The added advantage is that you have full control on the nutritional value, portion size, quality and freshness. If you are a parent juggling work, supper, cleaning etc., just do everything the night before to save time.


What should parents add to lunch snacks to make it healthy?

Raw carrot and cucumber sticks with humus, rice paper wraps with lettuce, sweet soya sauce and raw stir fry vegetables. Always have fruit in the house just add one or two to the lunch box and or a mini potted yoghurt. Include dried fruit and muesli bars as snacks.



 Muesli sticks 


1kg Plain muesli

80g Sunflower seeds

80g Pumpkin seeds

80g of Mixed bar nuts

40g Raisins

40g of dried cranberries

40g Sultanas

1kg Honey



  • Combine all the dry ingredients together, mix well.
  • Add the honey in a slow steady stream while mixing into the dry mix.
  • You may not need all the honey just add till the whole mix comes together.
  • If you grab a bit of the mix in your hand, squeeze and let go. If it stays together its ready.
  • Line a baking tray with silicon paper.
  • Lay out the muesli honey mix onto the paper and spread flat.
  • Place in a oven at 150 degrees celsius for 30-40mins just until the muesli is dry.
  • Allow to cool down before portioning.
  • It will completely harden once its cooled down.


Rice paper wraps


Rice paper wraps

Bowl of cold water to rehydrate the wraps

Your filling of choice (raw crisp julienne vegetables preferably)

Sweet soya sauce

Shredded iceberg lettuce



Put a sheet of rice paper in the bowl of water, leave for about 40sec. Remove from water, it should be soft pliable. Spread the soya sauce and place the filling and wrap everything inside. It’s easy to eat, fresh, healthy and surprisingly very tasty.