I can't really complain too much about having to prepare lunch-boxes, as my son is just starting 4 year-old kinder this year. So I haven't yet experienced the daily task of lunch-box packing that I know many of you are used to. However, I have had to prepare lunches many times for both my children when we've been on outings to the park, zoo, play-dates etc. And it is definitely not my favourite task. Because I'll be making my son's lunch several times a week this year for kinder, I wanted to prepare a bit of a plan so I'm not scrambling in the mornings. Here's what I came up with that may be useful to you too...
Here are the areas I struggle with when preparing the lunch-box:
- my son is, and always has been, a very fussy eater. Het has never liked fruit or raw vegetables (ie carrot sticks), and I don't see this changing anytime soon, although I'm always hopeful! So trying to pack items that he'll actually eat has always been tricky. Can anyone relate to fussy eaters? The one fruit he will eat is peeled 'twirly' apple (I use this awesome device) so this usually finds its way into the lunchbox
- since going sugar-free, we haven't been baking as often, as we're still in the 'experimental' phase and have had several disasters (although I think I've finally found a few winners!). I used to always be prepared with sweet treats that I kept in batches in the freezer, so just have to get back into this routine with the non-sugar variety
- all food items have to be nut-free (I'm sure this would be the case with most of you) so offerings like the one pictured below will have to be re-thought, especially as nuts are both my kids' favourite snack
As this is my first year of lunchbox packing, I wanted to have a plan...because that's just me! My aim is to pack healthy, nutritious, varied items that my child will actually want to eat, which I'm sure would be similar to your own aims. Here are the 4-5 categories I plan to include in the lunchbox:
- Main lunch item - sandwich/roll/scroll/wrap/pizza etc
- Dairy - cheese cubes, small carton of milk, mini yoghurt pot etc
- Fruit/veg - I live in hope!
- Savoury - crackers, savoury biscuit, popcorn, rice-cake, protein etc
- Home-baked treat
If you saw my organised pantry video, you would have seen the list of lunchbox and snack ideas I had stuck on the inside of the pantry door (grab your FREE download of these on the link below). These are here not only to give me ideas of what to pack, but are also useful when I'm writing the shopping list and meal plan so I can plan for the things we'll be baking. I kept the list of ideas fairly easy and uncomplicated, and although I've included items like carrot, celery and capsicum sticks on the list, I know these things will go uneaten, so we'll be avoiding them for now. But my daughter will eat pretty much anything - which still surprises me after having a fussy eater! - so I'll often put these things in her lunchbox.
I plan on doing a big baking session once a week and involving the kids in the process. I'll then freeze batches of sweet and savoury items so I have them on hand to pop into the lunchbox. It'll be good for hubby and I to have some options for our snacks and lunch too :) Even if you're strapped for time or can't stand baking, there are plenty of recipes out there that are very easy, do not take long at all, and could be a fun activity to include into your routine on a Saturday or Sunday. Having a batch in your freezer to quickly choose from will save you so much time throughout the week. You can find heaps of great baking ideas in this post - I am still working on adjusting these recipes to be sugar-free.
So the basic plan of attack I'm going to try to stick to, that you might also want to follow, is:
1. Use my monthly meal planner to plan for batch cooking of sweet and savoury items that can be frozen and used throughout the week
2. When writing the shopping list ( grab your free blank shopping list template here), include any ingredients necessary for batch cooking sessions, as well as any other items needed for lunches, using the snack and lunch ideas list
3. Do a cooking session once a week with the kids to prepare for the week ahead
4. Pre-prepare some items in the lunchbox the night before using the categories from the lunchbox planner, so there is only the sandwich/roll to be made in the morning
Shouldn't be too hard, right?! Stay tuned on Thursday for an episode of The Organised You TV where I'll be showing you how I pack the lunchbox, some product ideas, and how I organise my kitchen to make this task as quick and painless as possible!
There are loads of great websites with ideas for healthy lunch-boxes. Here are some that I referred to when creating my lunch-box ideas list: