Is it safe? Can I come out now? So we survived the six weeks, yes? And here we are. September.
Uniforms bought? Then there are the gazillions of *shudder* name labels to sew, iron or scribble on to every conceivable surface.
Surely you’ve bought the shiny new lunchboxes though? Look at them, all clean and new and … erm … empty.
Ah. Yes. Packed lunches. Most schools now have healthy eating policies in place. And quite right too. A warm jam sandwich, a carton of Kia-Ora and a KitKat just isn’t going to cut it these days. And we all want to avoid that depressing domestic purgatory of making the lunch and binning the lunch every flipping day coz your ungrateful offspring didn’t find the offered fare up to their culinary standards.
Here are some ideas that the kids will love* and you can give yourself a high five when the lunchbox comes back empty.
Please don’t waste your money on those hideous, over-priced, processed lunch kits. You know the ones I mean. They contain that toxic neon pink “ham”, bland rubbery cheese and some sort of cracker or breadstick that is full of refined carbs, artificial flavourings and not a lot of goodness.
Buy a packet of wholewheat or seeded wraps. There are usually six or eight in a pack so they’ll last more than a week for one child. Fold it up and put it in a reusable sandwich bag or clingfilm.
If you’re anything like me you’ll have a cupboard that spits Tupperware at you every time you open it. Now you get to use it! Hopefully you’ll have lots of little pots leftover from when your child was a tiny weaning baby *weeps*. Fill one with chunks of chicken, grated mature cheddar or decent no-added-water wafer thin ham and another with shredded lettuce and cucumber slices.
Write the instructions on a paper napkin or sheet of kitchen roll et voila! Your little darling can build their own wrap. It’s more nutritious and costs less than the pre-packed brands.
Kids love interactive lunches. Mainly coz they like playing with their food and making a mess, which is fine at school because we don’t have to clean it up! This is a cheap and healthy way to satisfy their itchy fingers and hungry bellies.
A big dollop of houmous in a little pot is a great base for a lunchbox. It’s very healthy, full of flavour and counts as a portion of protein. If yours doesn’t like houmous, try guacamole, taramasalata, herby soft cheese, peanut butter or a tiny bit of jarred mint and blob of sweet chilli mixed into plain yoghurt. What you add to it is entirely up to you. I have done:
mini pittas (wholemeal, of course)
a big wholemeal pitta cut into strips
carrot, celery or cucumber sticks
red and yellow peppers sliced into batons
This is basically cheese and crackers but it’s another one that the kids can put together themselves. Stack it up. Build a tower. Edible Lego. You get the gist. Your kit is as follows:
high fibre wheat or rye crackers
a few cherry tomatoes
slices of cucumber
slice or cube their favourite cheese (cheddar, red Leicester, edam or emmental)
a little pot of small chunk pickle (this is the mortar) and a spoon.
Draw a little diagram on a paper napkin or sheet of kitchen roll so the cherubs know what to do.
Fruit, fruit and fruit. It’s the healthiest and most filling snack they can have. But do you end up putting the same sorry apple back into the lunchbox every day, seeing it gradually get more battered and bruised as it limps unloved towards Friday?
Buy an apple corer. Use it. Then slice the apple into rings. Put them into a sandwich bag with a few drops of lemon juice to prevent browning. Healthy hoola hoop snack! Even better, add some green and red grapes and they can stick them into the holes and pretend they’re planets. Or summink.
Buy a big supermarket value bag of dried fruit. Raisins or sultanas, dried apricots, mango or pineapple. The big bags are usually found in the baking or health-food aisles. Much cheaper than buying those tiny individual packs. Then make your own little dried fruit mix. Again, Tupperware is your friend here.
Innocent does a range of fruit smoothies in a squashy tube that are colourful and fun. They aren’t cheap but buy them while they’re on offer and freeze them. The same goes for those tubes of yoghurt and these count as a portion of dairy but check the sugar content isn’t too high! Mini Babybels or own brand cheese portions are also a good dairy snack, provided you haven’t already got cheese in the lunchbox elsewhere.
I refuse to buy expensive sugary drinks marketed to children. You know the ones. The pouches and sports cap fruit drinks that have never seen a real blackcurrant in their lives. They are SO expensive and contain nothing of any real value.
I tend to buy supermarket own brand 100% fruit juice – usually a six-pack containing a selection of apple, orange and pineapple juice so they get a different flavour each day.
Some supermarkets do a range of cartons containing 25% real fruit juice and 75% water. These slightly-diluted juices are less acidic so better for the little ones’ teeth.
The cheapest and healthiest option by far is to buy a reusable water bottle. Make sure you get a decent one that won’t leak, even when the small person inexplicably decides to play football with their school bag at morning break.
So there you have it. Hope that’s inspired you. At least for the first week or so until the novelty wears off and we all revert to Marmite sandwiches and a bag of crisps. And if you really have a lot of time on your hands, check out Grace at Eats Amazing and her incredible lunchbox creations!