The first day of school round these parts is filled with enthusiasm and gusto from ALL of us. I’m sure you can hear the squeals of joy as mums around the country drop their beloveds off and hit the cafe or gym, or maybe even just to go home and sit… in silence. It’s been a long 6 weeks (longer for some) and everyone is keen for some routine, order and normality. The excitement of week 1 will get you only so far however – then week 2 begins and you think “OH MY GOD, THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING. WHAT AM I GOING TO PUT IN LUNCHBOXES FOR THE NEXT NINE WEEKS???”
But let’s look at the positives here: it’s a one-stop effort, no requests for food during the day, and no endless cutting of fruit onto platters (maybe that’s just my girls?). On the other hand, the school lunch is as relentless as it is inevitable. And while you may start out the school year with Pinterest-worthy lunchboxes, by week 6, term 3, my girls are pretty much getting a plain bread roll in theirs every day.
Here are some of my tips on how to get your head back around the school year, lunch boxes and afternoon tea, and how I manage to get my three girls (10, 7 and almost 2) fed.
Plan every meal…
Much like those smug people in activewear who say that exercise really DOES make you feel good (I so hate they are right), it’s also true about preparing for the week ahead. Don’t just think about the kid’s lunches, but breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner and plan accordingly.
…and write it down
Write a meal plan on the wall in the kitchen so everyone can see it (and no one asks you the inevitable “What’s for dinner?”. This way you can just point.) You can get requests from members for their favourites and it will help you avoid aimlessly walking around a supermarket with no clue. 9am to 3pm is PRECIOUS, don’t waste a moment of that (also, check out Woolworths online shopping – it’s a lifesaver and you can do it right from a Foodiful recipe, just hit the “add to Woolworths trolley” button to get started!).
Make Sunday your deadline
I make sure that I have all my fresh fruit and veggies, food in the pantry and baking done before the week begins. If I have a full fridge, I am less likely to get depressed when I open the empty lunchbox on a Monday morning and think what now?
The freezer is your friend
I try to bake some cakes, biscuits or loaves (like a banana bread or date loaf) and have them ready to go for lunchboxes or afternoon tea. If you are on a roll, just keep baking and freeze for later. You can also make a week’s worth of sandwiches or rolls and whack them wrapped up in the freezer. Each morning all you have to do is grab one and throw it in the lunchbox.
Prep fruit and smoothies
Cut your fruit up and have it ready to go in storage containers in the fridge, ready to go straight into the boxes. Also works a treat with my 20-month-old who can snack on them in the car as we drive around getting jobs done. Prep your morning smoothies or juices with all the effort done in one lot and stored away ready to go. If it’s cut and good to go, who says a 7-year-old can’t make it? No time for a smoothie? Try a drinkable yoghurt in an easy-squeezy pack instead.
Serve dinnertime veggies as afternoon snacks
When the inevitable after school “OH MY GOD I AM SO HUNGRY GIVE ME ALL THE FOOD NOW” begins, offer some of the veggies that you may serve with dinner (Woolies even has some pre-cut which can be a real timesaver when I’m in a rush). I always throw them at the kids around 4pm when hunger levels are HIGH and they actually get eaten rather than pushed around a plate at 6pm when they are filled with other afternoon tea.
Try not to get lunchbox overwhelm. There’s no need for special sandwich cutters or gourmet quiches, just stick with what you know your kids will eat and hope for the best. One rule we have is if it’s still in the lunchbox when it comes home, it has to be eaten for afternoon tea.
Here are five of my current favourite lunchbox recipes that will definitely be getting a workout as the school year gets underway:
This pea hummus is great because a batch will keep for a couple of days. You can load the lunchbox up with vegie sticks and it’s super easy to eat.
These mini quiches are another time saver as a batch will last a few lunches (and afternoon teas as well).
Just like muffins – but better! These frittatas keep well in the fridge and I can trot them out at a moment’s notice after a Sunday baking session.
I don’t think sushi was even invented back when I was at school (he, he) but it’s a super popular lunchbox addition these days. This version takes away that tricky rolling up bit, too easy!
Good luck friends, may the lunchboxes stay cool, as does your temper as we tackle the 2017 school year.
Beth of Baby Mac has been blogging since 2006 and made the move from the city to the country in 2010. On Baby Mac she writes about her family, life in the country, entertaining and recipes, interiors – with a good dose of humour on the side.