What I’ve learnt about packing a lunchbox
By Jillian Lewis
In the grand scheme of things, I haven’t been packing a lunchbox for very long. My oldest child is in year 3, so I’m only into my fourth year of this daily task with many more years ahead. Packing a lunchbox isn’t easy – you have meet the school rules, meet your child’s expectations and hopefully provide food that is nourishing and delicious. No small feat for a busy parent who’s rushing out the door.
Along the way I’ve learned some tricks and tips that only a regular lunchbox packer could know, so I thought I’d share them. Some are funny, some wise, some so obvious I can’t believe I didn’t know!
Get back to basics in kindy
When my son was in Kindy, he found it all so complicated! What did he eat and when? Did he have to carry his lunchbox to the school yard? What if he lost it? (Which he often did.) “Keep it simple,” his wise teacher told me. Her tip? Use two paper bags and mark them with a number 1 and 2. In bag one, put recess. In bag two, put lunch. Then, put them both inside a soft esky-type lunch bag with an ice pack. At recess, he grabbed bag one (no need to remove the lunch box) and at lunch he grabbed bag 2. Everything was recyclable and disposable.
Use a potato peeler, not a grater
When it comes to adding veggies to your child’s sandwich or wrap, carrot is a good choice. First, most kids love it. And second, it’s not soggy. There’s just one problem: those tiny bits of grated carrot fall out all over the place when you’re eating a sandwich in the playground. To avoid this, try using a potato peeler and grate long, thin bits of carrots that you can layer on the sandwich. They slice easily, add a bit of crunch and stay put.
A rubber band goes a long way
Many kids – especially the ones with loose teeth or braces – won’t eat fruit unless it’s cut up. But nobody likes a brown apple. A good trick is to cut the apple, then hold it in place with a rubber band to prevent it from going brown. Ask your child to slip the band around their wrist or put it in their pocket so you can use it again the next day and not add it to the rubbish.
Make it portable!
As much as we all love the idea of providing our children with gorgeously nutritious bento-box type lunchboxes , most kids aren’t into sitting around and enjoying a picnic tea. They just want to eat and get back to playing. Boys are especially keen to eat quickly so they have enough time to play. Even carrying a lunchbox quickly becomes uncool in high school, I’m told. If this is the case for your child, opt for nutrient-dense, portable snacks. For instance – a wrap, a banana, a healthy muffin, a peeled hard-boiled egg (wrap it in plastic wrap, not foil to prevent it from going silver), chicken drumsticks, etc.
A note may backfire!
I thought I was being a lovely mum when I put a note in my son’s lunchbox when he was in Year 1. Apparently my note, (which said “Have a great day! I love you!”), made him miss me and he proceeded to cry and was an emotional wreck for the rest of the day. I remember him coming home that day and saying “Mum, never put a note in my lunchbox again!” I sure was told. Now, at the mature age of 8 he probably wouldn’t even notice the note and life would go on…but at age 6 Mum still ruled.
Consider yourself warned: protect the soft fruit
Unless you want it coming back home mushed and bruised, it’s a good idea to put all soft fruit (such as plums, nectarines and peaches), inside a hard lunchbox container that prevents them from rolling around too much. I speak from experience – it’s only the bravest of mothers who can reach into the bottom of soft lunch box and pull out a bruised and mushy stone fruit without losing her cool.
Avoid the soggy sandwich at all costs
Nobody likes a soggy sandwich. There’s just nothing edible about it. There are the basic tips to avoid this, such as put the tomato in the middle of the sandwich and the cheese near the bread, wash the lettuce the night before and let it dry thoroughly, drain the tuna as much as possible, etc. And then there’s the more complicated, yet worthwhile tips. For instance, cover your icepacks or water bottles in a wet-suit style material, or wrap them in a paper towel or two. Another option: buy a few cheap wash cloths and sew them into a pocket shape and place the water bottle inside. But no matter what you do, the soggy sandwich is bound to crop up at some point – what’s your best tip to avoid it?
To all the parents who make lunch daily, good luck! It’s a jungle out there! Do you have some funny stories or useful tips to share? Share them on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/healthykids.au