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.


Tiger Shake (For busy and breastfeeding mamas)

Okay, mama, I know some days you feel a little like you’re running on low. No time to stop in at the refuelling station for nap, hot meal and a bath (dreamy!!!!)… so whizz one of these shakes instead for a pick-me-up.

I have often used a tiger shake to boost milk supply during stressful periods or when I have been recovering from illness.


In a blender:

1 banana

2 Tblsp brewers yeast

1/2 cup of live yoghurt (that is, cultured acidophyllis yoghurt)

2 cups of milk OR

1 cup of milk + 1 cup of ice cream

Additional extras: any superfruits such as berries, 1 scoop complan, 2 tabslps milk powder, 1 teasp chia seeds, ice, cacao powder


Enjoy cold!


I also have started to give this to my daughter after her sports training with considerable results (she is no longer tired and grumpy all afternoon!).

Starting our babes on food!

This weekend’s article in the paper (and I am yet to get a pic) is on starting solids.

I’ve found this is quite a grey area because there is so much wrong and dated information out there. When I had my first baby, it was recommended to start solids at 4 months. Just one year later, with baby two, it was moved to 6 months. There are grandmothers saying they started their babies on solids at 6 weeks, those who advise putting baby rice into baby bottles, and so many stories and so much information that a new parent would be spinning with confusion!!!

When sucking on the spoon no longer satisfies, perhaps it’s time to go through this checklist:

*Firstly, is your baby six months old?
*Has he lost the natural tongue reflex that pushes everything out that is put into his mouth?
*Can she sit up with less help?
*Can he pick up objects and bring them to his mouth?

Delaying all foods other than breastmilk, until 6 months old, is important for many reasons. It gives baby greater protection from illness, and decreases the risk of food allergies. It gives the digestive system time to mature, helps mum maintain her milk supply, and protects baby from iron deficiency. It also makes the start to solids much easier when baby is ready. Waiting protects baby’s gut. Absolutely do the best for your baby and wait until 6 months!!!

Once you are ready to start, get ready! This actually involves very little work and cost at all, depending on the food you choose. Consider that food is what keeps us going, a healthy diet keeps us well, so your baby will be healthier and will learn better if they are given good food.

Mashing ripe banana or avocado into a bowl with a fork is easy and cheap! Use breastmilk to thin if desired. Choose a time when your baby is happy and also after their normal milk feed. Your baby will only take one to two teaspoons for their first few feeds, but they will enjoy the new taste and sucking on the spoon once you’ve finished!

Avoid rice cereal and other starches, which are processed, hard to digest for a baby, and can upset the gut. Go on – Google why rice cereal is NOT a good first food for babies.

Instead, choose fruits and vegetables such as peeled, steamed and pureed carrots, pumpkin, apples, pears. Skip the fancy baby bowls and spoons, and instead invest in organic and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Start with one food at a time, giving your baby time to enjoy and process each one and time for you to identify any possible allergies. Reactions may include colic, ear infections, breathing difficulties, runny nose, skin rashes, diarrhea or nappy rash. Once you are satisfied with the fruit and vegetables, add steamed chicken, plain cooked mince, potatoes, kumara, broccoli. Always offer solids after baby’s normal milk feed.

After 9 months, you can start introducing wheat, dairy (yoghurt and cheese), egg, pork and fish, however wait until at least 1 year before adding cow’s milk. Avoid all added salt and sugar. If you buy baby food, choose brands that are not packed with fillers (like water and thickeners).

Make your own baby food and then freeze it in ice cubes. Once frozen, store in containers or freezer bags so you can easily defrost several cubes when you need them (one apple cube and one nectarine cube for lunch!) You can also buy freezable and washable baby food pouches now – great for being on the go!

For many following the traditional route of starting solids, the puree becomes mash, which becomes mash with lumps, and so on until the baby can pick up or be fed whole foods in their natural state. However, for those following Baby Led Weaning (BLW), baby starts with those whole foods. Steamed carrot sticks, chicken drums (with that terrible skinny bone removed!) , chopped banana – from the time of starting solids, baby eats what the family does. Check out for more! Using purees means baby learns to swallow before chewing, while baby led weaning teaches baby to chew and then swallow. Babies have a natural gag reflex to protect them from choking, and understanding this and knowing what to do in a real emergency situation can give you the confidence to pursue BLW. The two children I did BLW with have always eaten well and never went through the fussy stage like the two I didn’t do it with! It’s great to allow your baby to discover different foods and certainly easier to offer family meals than making heaps of baby food (or worse, spending a small fortune on jarred/pouch food!)

As for allergies and reactions – talk your health practitioner on this one. When I first started solids, it was recommended not to give nuts and other high allergen foods until after the age of 1 or 3! More recently, it was recommended to give baby peanut butter and other such foods from 6 months or so because delaying could CAUSE the allergy. It really is quite confusing!!! So if you have concerns in this area, it would be best to talk to your doctor. Personally I never started a new food on the weekend just in case there was a reaction!!!!! (There never has been!)

The worst reactions to food I’ve seen in my littlies is from pineapple and other acidic foods, which burnt baby’s bum dreadfully. Otherwise… they love their food! Sushi, mild curries and seafood are all favourites with my children now!!

Good luck!!! Be sure to ‘like’ Ministry of Lunchboxes for great snack and meal ideas 🙂

MOL: Weekly Round-Up

Ah, beautiful Sunday afternoon. Lazy Sunday afternoon…. oh hang on! Lunchboxes tomorrow! EEK!!

Since I’ve been slammed with a delightful early Autumn ‘flu (note the sarcasm!)… I didn’t do my Saturday baking and thus, the freezer is empty. Slightly panicking here!

But alas, The Ministry of Lunchboxes list may just come to the rescue, because at a glance I can see lots of other options I can use without resorting to processed packaged items (of which I have none anyway!!) – popcorn, cheese cubes, dehydrated mango, little cups of tinned tuna or baked beans… yup, I think I’ll be ok 🙂

So, over on The Ministry of Lunchboxes Facebook page, we showed off a few lunchboxes this week:


Our recipe this week is ummm…. SCONES!
For being a super-easy and quick recipe – perfect if you’ve run out of bread!!!

3 cups  flour
6 tsp baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
75g butter
1 – 1½ cups milk, approximately

Mix first three dry ingredients. Rub butter into dry ingredients to resemble breadcrumbs. Add milk, mix. Knead, adding more milk or flour if needed.
Either roll out onto bench, cut shapes and then place on baking tin, or roll out on baking tray and cut into slices without seperating 🙂
You should easily get 12 decent scones or even more smaller ones!
Bake until golden brown (about 10 minutes at 220d). Allow to cool before slicing open.
For sandwiches, add mayo, butter, lettuce, cheese, ham, chutney etc. For afternoon tea, add jam and whipped cream!

Too easy!!!!!

Good luck with your lunchboxes this week!!!

MOL: Pumpkin, Feta & Spinach Muffins

Absolutely love when the house is filled with the smell of baking 🙂 So homely and its always such a treat to eat homebaked goodies!!

50s bake

Now I have a disclaimer to make here! I am not a baker! I am not one of those gifted people who can effortlessly bake up a storm, resulting in scrumptious goodies, and enjoy it!

This could be because I hate being told what to do and yep, to me, a recipe is something I simply cannot, on principle, follow 😛
(Did someone say, STUBBORN?)
Or it could be because I’d rather be chucking together yummy main meals, where I can experiment and play.

Anyway – I bake every weekend simply because I need to feed my family good healthy food, and baking is economic, I control the ingredients, and it goes further.
Now while we can come up with an argument that with today’s prices of flour, butter, price of power to run oven and so on, baking may not be cheaper straight out, but I do believe that my money goes further because I get a better yield than if I bought the same products. On top of that, I am controlling the ingredients. I can choose to use organic stoneground flour, natural sweeteners, home-dehydrated fruit etc.

So I’m not this amazing supermum that has a clean apron while she effortlessly mixes endless cupcakes! Instead, I’m wiping batter from the walls where I accidentally turned the mixer on too high, I have butter smeared on the kitchen floor, the kids are licking the spatulas, and occasionally my creations fail/burn/melt/are thrown to the chickens.

When they do work, I divide my efforts into Tupperware (have I ever told you how much I love Tupperware????) and freeze. This makes it a breeze during the week to get out what I need for lunchboxes (it defrosts by lunchtime) and it means noone can scoff it all from the pantry!

Anyway, here is a recipe I came up with this morning for pumpkin, feta and spinach muffins! I havent tested them on the kids, but I know they’ll make a fantastic addition to my own lunches this week!!!

100gm softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar or sweetener
2 eggs
2 cups mashed cooked pumpkin
1 and 1/2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 cup of finely chopped spinach or silverbeet
1/2 pack of feta, chopped into cubes
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 cup milk

Cream the butter and sugar, add eggs and pumpkin and mix well. Add flour, baking powder, spinach, feta, and mix again. Dissolve baking soda into warm milk and add to mixture, gently fold in, then divide between greased muffin tins or patty cases. Bake approx 15-20 minutes at 180 degree or until cooked through/spring back.

Ministry of Lunchboxes

Have you liked our page, Ministry of Lunchboxes, on Facebook yet?










There are many reasons why we started this page, but I wanted to offer parents lots of different ideas for lunchboxes! So many mums I know struggle to offer healthy and exciting lunchboxes without resorting to all the packet foods from the supermarket. I was also saddened when I looked at the lunchboxes other children had at school. Packet food offers no nutrition – its packed with additives, colours, flavours, sugars, salt etc – plus its expensive!!!! Likewise, even parents who thought they were trying were still missing the mark on healthy lunchboxes.

So last year we launched the page – several other mums are also admins – and we post up REAL lunchboxes of what we are feeding ourselves and our children!!!

Plus, we post up recipes, and other images we find on the internet for inspiration! Its so much fun seeing what other parents are making!

So when you make the lunchboxes up tomorrow, quickly snap a pic and upload it to our facebook page! We’d love to see it!!!!!!


To get you started, here is my recipe for rice tubs!



You can buy pottles of creamed rice in the supermarket, or you can easily make your own!

Simply make up a quantity of Golden Custard – I use the box (cheat!!!) and add custard powder to cold milk, heat gently while whisking, and then add a small amount of brown sugar. I never measure this, but I cook at least cups of milk. You can also use carton store-bought custard.
But here are two easy recipes I’ll be trying next week that are additive free!

In the meantime, cook rice. Obviously brown rice is more nutritious but we usually cook white rice for this dish. I cook 3 cups  to 4.5 cups water. (I usually make extra rice when we are having a rice dish for dinner, and then leave it to cool while we eat).


Combine the custard with the rice until well mixed. Divide between lidded pots (I use Tupperware snack cups) and freeze! This makes enough for me for a week or two at best, so I’ve never left them in the freezer any longer 🙂