Planning with Kids : Meals - School lunches

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One of the highlights of school holidays for me is not having to make school lunches. I find this task one of those repetitive and boring — although essential — ones of parenting: a perfect task for which to create a process!

Creating a school lunchbox process

School mornings can be stressful if there’s too much to do and too much to think about. Our school lunchbox process streamlines the workload and takes the mental energy out of thinking about what to give the kids.

Establish how much food you need. Through trial and error I’ve worked out how much food my children need to get them through the day. My seven-year-old daughter, for example, eats much less than her 12-year-old brother, so this is one thing I consider when packing the lunchboxes.

Create a school lunchbox guide. Once I know how much food is enough for each child, I build a guide to refer to when making the school lunches. Having a guide also makes it easier to delegate this task to someone else — such as my husband — as the need arises. I find that five to six items (my daughter only needs five) from a good mix of food groups such as those listed here is enough for my children:

⇒ a core lunch item

⇒ a whole piece of fruit

⇒ veggie sticks

⇒ cut fruit

⇒ a home-baked treat

⇒ a selection of crackers and/or dried fruit.

Prepare as much as you can the night before. Much of the preparation for school lunches can be completed the night before. Table 1 shows some examples.

Table 1: night-time lunchbox preparation

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Have a regular baking day/s. I’ve found that having a regular baking day helps ensure there’s a home-cooked treat in the children’s school lunches. Throughout most of the year I have one to two baking sessions per week: one on Sunday evening (which I do quickly by myself) and another on a week day, when I bake with our toddler and preschooler. I have a number of ‘go to’ recipes for making snacks for the kids’ lunchboxes. These recipes are super easy to make and produce a generous amount so they last a few days. Some of my kids’ favourites are:

⇒ banana cake

⇒ white chocolate-chip muffins

⇒ Anzac biscuits

⇒ 100s of biscuits.

Inspiring lunchbox ideas

With more than 200 school days in a year, it can be easy to run out of ideas for what to put into the kids’ lunchboxes. So, as you can see in table 2.5, I created a ‘cheat sheet’ for two weeks’ worth of ideas as a guide for inspiration.

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