Back to school! January 25 2018 1 Comment
It’s that time of year again to gear up for the morning rush and be back making hundreds of school lunch boxes. I managed to really relax this summer and it will take a little getting used to being up, organised and out the door with four boys early (8.10am for us EEK!) The twins start Prep this year too, so that means remembering four different sets of responsibilities, as well as their favourite lunch box foods. There is nothing worse that food coming home wasted and the thought of your child being hungry while at school.
To stay organised and to save my time and sanity, I’m doing a weekly meal planner. The boys all have different tastes and just when you think you can remember exactly who likes ham with their cheese or which snack they prefer for recess, they change on you! So I have asked the boys to update me on their top five favourite lunch box foods. I do a dinner time one too but for school lunch boxes, this covers their sandwich, fruit and snacks. They get a treat too but that is my choice as their list would be a lot longer than five favourites! I walk around the house with my little list and corner them at a cooperative moment.
Here is a sample of our latest table of their favourites (of course there are many more but I try to keep it simple and include the food groups that most people in the family enjoy). After agonising discussions about whether they’d like their sandwich cut into squares or triangles this term, or their hilarious suggestions on how I could make the strawberries “less mushy” by lunch time, we have our list. On sleepy mornings I quickly refer to this, as well as when writing my shopping list.
I cross my fingers that there is an overlap between all of their different preferences and I try to come up with an efficient way to make a personalised lunch box that they will love (and that should come home empty!) As much as people suggest it, I am not a “make the lunch box the night before” kind of Mum as I like their food to be as fresh and crisp as possible (as well as choosing to collapse on the couch in the evening). However, I do try to line them all up along the bench and pop any non perishable items in the lunchbox, as well as refill their water bottles and put them back in their school bag the night before. This probably only saves me three minutes but it may be the three minutes that we arrive past the school bell! I also go to bed feeling a little more organised.
As the boys get older, they get hungrier and I can only imagine our shopping bill when I have four teenagers. So I try to make all of the food choices as healthy and filling as possible to get them through their busy day. They all love banana bread so on my more organised weeks I include this as their snack or bring some with me after school fresh from the oven (yum!) No matter how much they eat, they still seem ravenous after school and we are often driving straight to an after school activity. Of course, I love to surprise them with an icy pole on a hot day but I prefer to get something healthier into them, especially if he are heading straight to a sporting activity.
I recently discovered that Chris’ Dips do mini dip+cracker snack packs. We love dips, so I was happy to see they do three of our favourite flavours in the mini packs - Hommus, Corn Relish and French Onion. The snack packs have a generous portion of the dip, as well as five crackers, so they are filling. All of these dips are Australian made and contain no artificial colours or flavours, which is a bonus.
I pop a small ice pack under the dip packet to make sure it remains cool until eaten. These holidays they have also been great for an easy snack to ‘grab and go’ as we jump in the car or I pack another bag for a beach outing.
Another handy tip to save time on school mornings is to create a school bag station somewhere handy in your house. I use a large cupboard at the back door that holds all of their uniforms, has a shoe rack and enough room for four school bags. It does help to keep everything together and ideally, they get changed as soon as we arrive home after school. That way I can scan all of their uniforms to make sure they’re clean and ready to go the next day and avoid a last minute morning search for a dirty school shirt! I also print out a large weekly planner with everything we need to remember each day (sports uniform, library bags etc) which I do a quick scan over as we rush out the door. If all goes to plan, I just need to pop the fresh lunch boxes in the four bags at the last minute and head off.
I have calculated I will make about 700 lunch boxes over the next 40 weeks of school this year (we do have some lunch orders), so having some quick and easy tips up my sleeve will be handy. A little planning helps ease the stress for everyone and saving five minutes is like gold when you’re searching for a car park or have younger kids needing a bit more of your attention in the mornings.
Good luck to all of the Mums heading back to school next week, especially the first timers! Jack and Harry start Prep full of excitement and pride as they join Charlie and Ben in big school. I’m saddened by this a little but I do look forward to the serenity of my morning coffee after drop off!
If you'd like more information about Chris' Dips snack packs and other dip products, go to www.eatloveshare.com.au
Available at Woolworths.