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Back to School – The Lunchbox

I know I know – there are a million of these blogs all over the internet, yet I have a young boy starting school this year and I am STILL stuck for ideas for what to put into his lunchbox.

Somehow, even though I love to cook, the whole scenario feels very daunting. This is probably because mornings in our house are chaotic and it’s a miracle that any of us get out of the door on time, with clothing on our back and the things we need for the day. To add a lunchbox into this mix…(insert expletive!).

So, here’s my first piece of advice – there’s no need to make things complicated. Sure we may have good intentions of rolling sushi with our kids or making dolmades, but the thing is, they’ll probably be happy with a sandwich and some cut-up vegetables and fruit. But that sandwich? Instead of white bread, go for wholemeal – it’s more nutritious, and guess what? It will sustain them for longer. And instead of butter? Why not try some tahini or peanut butter (if your school allows nuts!). Or, speaking of which, how about half an avocado with a little dollop of peanut butter or tahini in the hole where the pip was – just give them a spoon and away they go.

I know it’s tempting to reach for the little fruity tubs of yoghurt in the supermarket but check the ingredients list first. The bulk of them have SO much sugar added. It’s little effort to make your own tub of yoghurt and berries. The trick? Keep a pack of frozen berries on hand, and in the morning throw some on top of plain yoghurt in a little tub. The kids will love it just as much but it will be a lot better for them.

And my secret weapon this year? Boiled eggs. That’s right. My son is going to have hard-boiled eggs slung his way until he comes home one day and IMPLORES me to stop putting them in his lunchbox. They’re just so damn handy. You can hard boil eggs at the beginning of the week and just keep them in the fridge to use as you please. Of course, boredom will kick in so there are ways to pimp these eggs – you can pop them in a sandwich rather than just having them whole. You can add a little tub of cumin salt for your child to sprinkle on at lunchtime – fancy you may think, but it’s just a little cumin and salt mixed together and the novelty will appeal. You can also serve the egg in a little tub wrapped in a piece of free-range ham.

Below is a list of ideas, both basic, and a little more involved. I hope this helps you enter the school year with confidence!

SIMPLE:

  • Boiled Eggs
  • Cut-up vegetables & fruit (in our house red capsicum is a favourite along with carrots and apple)
  • A little tub of hummus to dip their veggies
  • Sandwiches  – wholemeal bread, with avocado or tahini as a base, and then topped with sliced cheese, tinned tuna, or a bit of lettuce.
  • A little tub of cubed cheese (cut up your own and avoid more processed options such as cheese sticks)
  • Plain yoghurt topped with frozen berries
  • Half an avocado with tahini in the hole
  • Plain popcorn

A LITTLE MORE EFFORT:

  • Homemade dolmades (or of course you can buy your own)
  • Homemade sushi (see above!)
  • Risotto – this can be a great option if your child has a little thermos to keep food warm. Just remember that cooked rice needs to be treated carefully to avoid bacteria.
  • Roasted, crispy chickpeas – roast drained, tinned chickpeas in the oven for an hour at 180 degrees Celsius until crispy. Toss in a little paprika and salt and store in an airtight container.
  • Homemade muffins using dates or bananas as the sweetener. Or experiment with savoury flavours, using things like leftover roast veg, tomato, cheese, bacon, spinach etc.

By Victoria Thaine,
Recipe Contributor

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