Lining up Lunchboxes

The school stationary lists are out, the uniforms are clean and labelled, and the lazy late evenings are reigned back in. It’s back to school time and that means it is lunchbox chaos again!

Children are at school for 6+ hours, and they’re constantly on the go! Their minds and their bodies need fuel to ensure they are making the most of the amazing opportunities that school offers.

The biggest problem I’ve seen for parents, is that they find lunchbox making hard work and uninspiring. They’re confused over what are good choices for their children, and worry that the kids will get bored with jam sandwiches. Add to that the time pressures of each busy rushed morning, and many lunchboxes don’t have the right foods to fuel our children.

Lunchboxes start from the time your child is about 6 months, and are usually a lifelong journey, so it helps to enjoy the process somewhat, and make it as easy as possible!

The biggest advantage to ensure successful lunchboxes is to be prepared – and with that comes a little forward thinking and energy. Spending an hour or two each weekend really makes the mornings easier – the time investment is worth it!

Lunchboxes are a passion for me. I find it upsetting that marketing has brainwashed us into thinking we are doing the right thing for our children (selling us convenient ‘healthy’ pre-packaged products), when in fact, we’re doing the opposite: salt and sugar laden food.

If you want to ensure the lunchbox in your child’s school bag is healthy, you need to make it all yourself. Now, that does seem labour intensive, but there are shortcuts to ensure you’re not spending hours baking, plus it can work out cheaper than buying packets of chemical-filled lunchbox snacks!

The internet is rife with recipes and you can soon find your favourites. I try to bake fortnightly, and spend a morning in the kitchen, making cookies, slices, a cake, mini quiches, pikelets, scones, little pies, yoghurt, smoothies and meatballs.

I’m no supermum – I don’t make all of that in one go! I usually pick 3 things to make (that’s long enough in the kitchen for me!) and then once everything is done, I freeze it. The following fortnight, I do 3 different things.

Sometimes the kids help me – they love to have input into their lunchboxes, they love to help, and they love to bake. Baking is an awesome opportunity to teach skills like measuring, counting, heat changes and science reactions.

But sometimes I prefer to do it myself and send the kids outside – there are simply days I don’t have the patience to supervise flour cup counting, and I don’t want to clean up egg spilled everywhere. And sometimes, I don’t want to do it all, though I regret it during the week when I’m frantically coming up with lunchbox fillers!

Another key to success is to keep it simple. If you’re going to be baking a raw 3 layer chocolate caramel slice, the novelty is going to wear of quickly.

This is one of the big reasons I prefer divided lunchboxes. It doesn’t require much brainpower for me to work out in the morning what needs to go into the lunchbox, when I fill the biggest compartment with fruit and vegetables, the second with ‘fuel’, and the other two smaller sections with a savoury snack and a sweet treat.

The fuel section ideally contains protein and carbs to ensure kids stay full. Pack in things like bread rolls, cruskits, creamed rice, mini quiche, pizza, sushi, fruit or vegetable muffins, boiled eggs, meatballs, sausages, tuna, wraps and rice or bean salads.

Make the biggest part of the lunchbox healthy with fresh fruit and vegetables. Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, grapes are all appealing to tuck between the usual apples and bananas!

Add some nuts and seeds and crackers to a small cup or compartment, and a treat food (cookies, cakes, slices, sweet muffins) to the other compartment. Add some cheese, custard or yoghurt to the lunchbox (ours doesn’t fit so I add it in additionally). Keep the lunchbox wrapped in a bag with an ice pack (even a plastic bag and a frozen drink bottle) and pop into the school bag with another bottle of water!

You can also do prep in the evenings. Make more meatballs than you need, or cook an extra large portion of macaroni cheese or creamed rice. Pop into smaller containers with a spoon, and add to lunchboxes. Try putting together lunchboxes in the evening and store in the fridge, so they are ready for the morning.

Don’t forget to join us at Ministry of Lunchboxes on Facebook for recipes and inspiration!

This article was originally published in the Bay Weekend.

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