It’s that time again isn’t it? I can choose to spend either 15 minutes in the kitchen at night at it after all the jobs are done and the couch is calling me, or it can take me 30 minutes in the morning, while also dealing with Dom Jong-il & Ted Jong-un barking their very specific breakfast orders at me. Naturally this means I do it at night maybe once a week. Yes, that’s right. School lunches. My kids are in creche and full day summer camp since I went back to work so I’ve a head start on the back to school brigade. So, contain yourselves now; here is my Absolute Best Definitive Lunchbox Guide.
King of the Lunchbox: The Hang Sangwich & Its Salady Brethren. (I hang my head in shame)
I know my kids eat a good variety of foods, and will often have an egg, boiled or in a frittata, or a pasta based lunch at home. I remember a boy chasing us round the yard in Senior Infants with his smelly egg sandwiches, so for me, potentially stinky lunch must remain at home. We have fallen into the trap of the old reliable ham. Sometimes they have chicken instead but unfortunately touching chicken turns my stomach in a way ham doesn’t. Anyway, I swear this year we’ll cut down on their nitrate sandwiches. I don’t buy white sliced pans unless I’ve a craving for a toasted cheese sambo (otherwise known as a hangover), sticking to wholemeal bread and pittas, seeded wraps and the odd bagel for the kids. They don’t want anything else in there but alongside the main event they eat cherry tomatoes like sweets. Dominic is particularly fond of cucumber so he gets few slices of that or else little mini cucumbers from Lidl. I love them for introducing veggies like these into our lives.
Lads I give them cheestrings. No! Don’t go! I mean, you thought you were reading the blog of a properly healthy family but hear me out. Real talk time. They’re not that bad as these things go. I read this article a few years ago that stuck with me and changed my parenting entirely. Ok, not quite, but it made me think of their calcium-haired lout of a mascot a little more fondly, and as a not-the-worst snack option out and about for my kids. And now they’ve ended up in the lunch boxes. They both love parmesan, and halloumi (get us) but turn their noses up at a stick of cheddar or a slice of same in the sandwich. So real a-peelable cheese it is.
Every kid likes at least one kind of fruit right? The one that doesn’t like bananas probably likes berries and the one that will only eat apples? Just give them an apple every day. We can’t beat ourselves up trying to vary all the offerings day in day out. You’ll drive yourself mad, and the little
shits, darlings won’t appreciate it.
We have the standard stuff for the lunchbox. Small apples. Grapes are a constant. Mandarins, tested for their actual easy-peeling capabilities then tossed in peeled or unpeeled depending. Kiwis if we’re feeling fancy. Elder won’t touch a banana, younger has one with brekkie so they never make it to the lunchbox. And we’ll just have to save the passion fruit and pomegranate bento box creations for home (or not).
The smug mum bit: Carrots and hummus.
The younger will eat “a carrot like a bunny” with none of your fancy dip, the other wants it chopped into sticks and served with hummus thanks very much (in container like green one pictured below, right) . He was annoyed at me when he saw me prep some for my own lunchbox and none for his. I promised him some tomorrow ok?
Yogurt aka Jumper-Ruiner extraordinaire
Go-yos. I do love a bit of Glenisk. The problem is they’ll have one of these in school and want another one at home, so it adds up rather quickly. I like small pots of natural yogurt or I’ll decant from a big tub into a smaller pot. The Sistema 130ml ones are great for that and easy enough for little hands to open (pictured above, left). I sometimes throw in a little maple syrup or some fruit, but would rather keep them used to the delicious tart taste of the natural stuff. If you’re not going with the yogurty tube option, stock up on teaspoons; you’re gonna go through a good few of those bad boys.
On that note, I checked with my teacher friend, and she told me anything “resembling a Frube or Caprisun or in similar packaging, [is] akin to slow regular torture for teachers”. Uh-oh. Product designers, take note.
Water. Nothing else, for as long as you can possibly get away with it. If they offer milk in your school, fine, but avoid juices, diluted cordial and surely it goes without saying, fizzy drinks.
A note on nuts. A nut note.
My older boy might have gone to the last school in the country without a nut ban. Or at least there wasn’t, until this coming academic year. Boo to that. Not to the actual understandable ban but to taking away one protein and good fat packed energy boost from the lunchbox. It’s a very new school, but with 2 new sets of smallies starting off next week the student population has proportionally exploded and with that comes some added restrictions. If you can still get away with it, go for it. For us, it’s sadly RIP little bags of nuts and seeds, and buh-bye almond butter.
Lots of our kids go from school to formal after school care, rather than home or to a childminders house. So even more food is needed. I feel like I pack quite a lot seeing as they get a hot dinner as soon as they arrive at after school care. I tried paring back once and I was shot down. I throw in some crackers and another piece of fruit, and they might get given a biscuit by staff which is a-ok by me. The school has a strict healthy eating policy which they respect (more than at home where there are half-hourly whines for a treat).
Give out as I may, the lunch box is where we still have some control. So I’m taking it, and packing it with as much of the five a day as I can.
If this has not turned out in fact to be The Absolute Best Definitive Lunchbox Guide for your family, you may want to read what some other wonderful bloggers have to say about the matter, here’s just a couple I liked recently:
Bumbles of Rices is having a give out about mad people with their creative bento lunch boxes and also offering her words of wisdom.
FatDebSlim is covering the batch cooking and meal freezing options as she heads back to school herself. (I really want a breakfast burrito after reading her post)