Five expert lunchbox tips for healthy meals on a budget

Amidst rising food prices, many financially stressed parents are hunting for ways to save on school lunches this month. As a guide, the food experts at Eskort have therefore put together some handy tips and recipes for nutritious lunchboxes that won’t break the bank.

Melindi Wyma, Group Technical Manager of Eskort and professional food scientist, notes that nutritious, balanced lunches are not only crucial for your children’s growth and development but are also key to instilling children with healthy eating habits that will stand them in good stead for the future.

“School lunches set the standard for the types of foods that children should be eating as part of their daily routines. The good news is that with a few small changes to your shopping routine and a bit of planning, you can save huge amounts of time, effort and money on school meals.”

With children returning to school, Wyma provides five simple tips for busy parents to kickstart 2022 on a healthy note:


  1. Consider your choice of protein

Protein is crucial for active children and teens on-the-go, given its importance to muscle health, bone strength and hormone production. Notably, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein for children between the ages of four and eight years is 19 grams per day, rising to 34 grams per day for pre-teens between nine and thirteen years, and between 46 and 52 grams for adolescents below 18 years

“But when times are tough, a simple and highly effective money-saver for parents is simply to swap expensive protein sources such as beef for an affordable meat such as pork.


 At around half the cost of beef and just a third of the price of lamb or mutton, this simple switch already means significant savings,” says Wyma. For example, where Statistics South Africa revealed that meat prices had risen 8.5% year-on-year in November 2021, pork prices actually decreased last year. This means that pork is currently offering households even better value for money, she explains.


According to Medical News Today, pork also contains all nine essential amino acids, which are vital for physical and mental performance, and support functions ranging from growth and energy to hormone regulation, immune strength and mood control.


  1. Prepare meals the night before


Another big money-saver is “smart” lunchbox preparation that can be done quickly the night before rather than reaching for expensive pre-packaged food when rushing out the door in the morning.

“Meal preparation does not need to be time-consuming, and it represents a great opportunity to get your children involved and show them some basic cooking skills. This will also gradually teach them to take responsibility for their own meals, which is an important life-skill for the future,” Wyma says.



“For example, for a healthy meal that will still tempt their tastebuds, there are many fun and interesting variations on sandwiches you can try using classic lunchbox heroes such as ham and polony – meats that particularly appeal to children.


“These sandwiches can easily be prepared the night before, and with some minor changes or adjustments to your recipe each day, each day, you can avoid monotony while providing a delicious, nutritious lunchbox that is still the envy of all your children’s friends.”


  1. Add easily packable foods

It is common for busy parents to fall back on expensive snacks such as chips and chocolates to top up lunchboxes during hectic school mornings. A good alternative, however, is to rather stock up on easily packable fruits and vegetables such as baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, grapes, berries or even sugar snap peas, as well as proteins such as rolled up slices of ham, viennas or sticks of cheese.  

“Not only are these snacks highly affordable but usually more filling for your children as well, offering more bang for your buck in addition to their nutritional benefits.”


  1. Create weekly meal plans


Research shows that between 40% and 80% of all shopping is the result of impulse buying – which is exactly why creating a weekly meal plan is so crucial to budgeting and saving on groceries, cautions Wyma.


“By creating a weekly meal plan and drawing up a careful grocery shopping list, you can avoid the temptation to buy lunchbox and food items that you don’t need, potentially saving thousands of rands in wasteful spending each month.”


  1. Make frozen grapes a staple

 Looking for a quick and inexpensive way to keep lunchboxes cool? Then add some frozen grapes to lunchboxes each morning.

“The grapes will thaw by lunchtime, offering your children an added healthy snack, and can double as ice packs in the meantime,” notes Wyma.


Quirky “skaftin” recipes

As lunchbox inspiration, Eskort has provided three quick, quirky and inexpensive “skaftin” recipes for parents and children to experiment with this January:


  1. Ham and Cheese Wrap Ups


Prep Time: 10 minutes

 Cooking Time: 8 minutes

Total Cooking Time: 18 minutes

 Serves: 4 


  • Eskort Picnic Ham thinly sliced
  • 4 wraps
  • ¼ cup sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped chives



  • Preheat the oven to 180°
  • Fill your wraps with the sweet chili, ham and cheese and roll them up.
  • Cut the wraps into four and place two by two of the cut wraps into muffin tins.
  • Bake them for 8 minutes and remove.

 Tip: These can be made in advance and baked in the morning or the night before.


  1. Donut-Shaped Sarmies


Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Serves: 4


  • Eskort Chopped Ham Roll sliced into ½ cm slices
  • 8 slices white bread
  • ¼ cup butter or margarine
  • 2 tablespoons marmite
  • 4 slices processed cheese



  • Combine the marmite and butter in a small bowl and spread on the slices of bread.
  • Add a slice of cheese and the chopped ham.
  • These sandwiches can be cut with a cookie cutter into all shapes and sizes for your little ones to enjoy.

Serve: Serve with their favourite fruit and drink.


  1. Cheesy Polony Waffles

Prep Time: 10 minutes

 Cook Time: 8 minutes

 Total Time: 18 minutes


Serves: 4 


  • 2 cups of Eskort French Polony grated
  • 2 cups of white cheddar grated
  • 2 cups of bread or crusts cut into pieces
  • 4 eggs



  • Heat your waffle iron or toasted sandwich maker.
  • Combine all the ingredients and mix well.
  • Fill the waffle iron or toaster and cook for 4-5 minutes per side

Let me know what you think of these quick and easy recipes.

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