By Michelle Shearer
The school lunchbox – almost as relentless as dinner only two days less than the dinner thing – is screaming out for some HACK action! The greatest trauma being those days when those little lunch boxes packed full of joy and health earlier that day return at 4pm as half eaten, sweaty boxes of seventh level hell.
“Who lifted the lid on the lunchbox?”. Pooh.
If you have kids at school and your school mornings are as nutty and chaotic as ours, you need our school lunch box hacks guide in your life. Read it well.
Oh wait, before we hit the hack action, here are some general ideas that work if there are one too many lunches coming home uneaten:
- Ask your kids what they would like in their lunch boxes. Then, using the skills of a thousand United Nations representatives, negotiate until you agree on some lunch box ideas.
- Get them more involved in the shopping for, and preparation of, the agreed food.
- Make sure their containers aren’t too fiddly for them.
- Make a little extra at dinnertime and use said leftovers for the lunch box. from dinner. If needed, invest in a small Thermos for hot food leftovers. Extra tip: Got something like mince left over from a spaghetti bolognese? Wrap little mounds of the sauce in puff pastry for little hand pies.
- Use leftover breakfasts for lunches : *Turn pancakes into little sandwiches with cheese and cucumber * Mix leftover porridge with plain yoghurt and honey with some frozen berries chucked in * Cut leftover toast into little squares and use as crackers with cheese.
- Poach an extra chicken (here’s how you do that) on a Sunday for the week ahead. Use the shredded chicken for wraps, salads, or simply a little container of chicken with accompanying chopped vegetable sticks.
- Think ahead and meal plan (and save money as well!).
- Base all your week -ahead preparation on a lunchbox formula that works for you and your kids and together, create a colourful lunch box chart e.g. +1 main meal +1 savoury snack +1 chopped vegetable/s, +1 fruit plotted against each day of the week.
Put your chart on the fridge for the kids to pack their own lunches everyday. When you get asked “Mum, what’s for lunch today?” you can direct them straight to the lunch chart so that they can pack their own lunch based on what you made on the Sunday.
- Based on your chart and meal plan, big batch bake each of those categories e.g. for the main meal or savoury snack you might choose one of the following –> a large savoury slice/hand pies/meatballs etc .
- The best hack known to womankind – MamaBake! Get together with some mama friends on a Sunday morning, cook up one big batch lunchbox snack/meal each (maybe chop vegetable sticks all together while you’re at it. Have a sherry!), then swap. Voila! Lunches done for the week.
- On a Sunday chop up lots of different types of veg and have them stored in separate boxes in the fridge ready for the week ahead.
- Freeze what you can e.g. pies/meatballs/muffins/slices and pull the item out the night before to defrost in the fridge ready for the lunch next day.
- Got kids at home as well as kids at school? Pack a little lunch for the kids at home at the same time as the packed lunches. This way, you can go out at a moment’s notice and no dirty chopping boards etc to deal with throughout the day. All done!
- Use bamboo skewer sticks for chunks of cheese and different chopped fruit and veg for a way to make something out of a few odds and ends you might have.
- Half eaten fruit hanging around in the fridge? Chop them up into cleaner looking slices (if they don’t like the gribbly brown bits) and squeeze lemon juice over them to keep them looking super fresh.
- Make a stack of make-ahead frozen pizzas. Cook for dinner and an extra one or two for the lunchbox the next day.
- Sandwich crusts coming home? Save them in a container and grind them up to use as breadcrumbs for something like home made fish fingers for another day.
- Are your kids simply sick of sandwiches? Try these sandwich-less lunchbox ideas here and here.
- If all you can find is one lunchbox container and a dozen lids, use the lids to create little compartments in the one container you can find: bento style on the cheap (and hopefully you can find the lid to that one container).
How do YOU do it?
Are you organised for school lunches?
Have we missed anything on this list?
Please share in the comments below, we love hacks.
#mamabake: tag all your kitchen efforts on Insta for us to see!