It’s not even the end of March yet and already I feel out of lunchbox ideas FOR THE YEAR.
It feels like I have done EVERYTHING that could possibly be done, and still I manage not to pack a lunch quite “as cool as the other kids” according to my precious little ones, who try desperately not to insult me – seriously failing.
Sometimes it’s a glorious hit, sometimes it’s a hideous miss, and somewhere in the middle of that equation, I have to keep it mildly healthy. And when I try to fish for ideas from fellow mommies, I see the same frustration, so we have created somewhat of an idea hub of our best (relatively easy) ideas to use.
Since none of us have weeks to prepare for lunches, these are some things that work for me.
Individualised, pre-packed portions! Keep them in the basket, ready for action.
Once a month, I go to our local packaging store and buy a variety of sizes of zip seal plastic baggies.
One size large enough to fit half a standard sandwich.
And then 3 slightly smaller sizes to about a size 4cm to 3cm being the smallest.
Then the packing starts.
I always have some reliable items on hand. Since my son (and many other children) are allergic to tree nuts, I have to be really careful with my snackies. I prefer:
Candy covered sunflower seeds.
Fruit rolls which I cut into smaller bits.
Biltong and drywors.
I also get some sweeties in bulk, as I find the smaller packets to be much more expensive.
I make sure I get this from a store I really trust and I divide them into smaller portions, and already pack them in smaller packets, putting them in my snackies basket. I make sure these portions are really small, so that I can rather pack a variety of different things, rather than a big portion of one.
I also make sure to always have small yogurt tubs in flavours that they like. It might not always be unsweetened, but if it is a flavour they like, and will eat it, I don’t mind the sweetened bit.
Fresh fruit. FUN fruit. I always try and have seasonal fruit, which you can find at very affordable prices at your local Fruits and Veggies store.
Hydration is extremely important, so I make sure I keep a couple of bottles with frozen water, 3 parts full. And come morning time, I just the last part of coldrink extract, to ensure that the drink will be icy cold by lunch time.
Last and probably most important, the main attraction!!! TAM TAM TAAAAM!!
“Not another boring samie, mom!!”
Here are some of the ideas that have worked for me in the past:
Fun samies in different shapes.
Just add a cookie cutter and you can turn any samie into a dinosaur or a flower. Sweet or savoury, it doesn’t make a difference. Make a samie with your kiddie’s favourite filling (not to close to the crust) and afterwards just simply cut it out with a fun shape avoiding the crust to keep an even shape.
Samie Sushi is a fun way of turning the ordinary hotdog into something fun.
Take a slice of preferred bread, cut of the crusts and roll flat with a rolling pin. Take a chicken or pork vienna and simply roll it into the bread, just like a sushi roll. Make sure to press harder on the edge to ensure the bread sticks.
Simply cut into sushi pieces and turn on their side and voila!
This is also possible with cucumber strips or even chicken mayonnaise.
Easy-as-Pie is a fast and fun way to jazz lunch up.
This is something I like to do on a Sunday evening and then freeze my teeny creations for the week ahead.
Buy any frozen pastry and defrost it. Choose your filling (this has to be pre cooked)
Fillings that are popular include chicken mayo, or excess leftover mince, ham and cheese, just plain cheese and never under estimate the famous vienna.
If you are using a vienna, then simply roll the pastry around the vienna. I prefer making them small, about half the size. If you are using other fillings, divide your pastry into 2 even sheets; one as a top and one as a bottom layer.
Using a teaspoon, scoop your fillings into mini heaps as if in a grid.
Use egg wash and brush squares between the filling scoops and put the top layer on and press it down where you brushed the egg wash. Use a knife to cut your mini squares and egg wash them.
Into the oven at 200 degrees until golden brown. And BHAM!
Simple Salad – if you have some time and leftovers.
I prefer a quick noodle salad, as I find a leafy salad will go soggy much quicker. Grab some cooked cold pasta, mix in a bit of leftover chicken, or tuna and chop a bit of cucumber, cheery tomatoes and some cheese in and the dressing of your choice and Bob’s your uncle.
Last but not least, the quiche… well a fake one.
Not only is this a life saver as a quick lunch, this has also saved my bum countless times with unexpected guests or when you forgot that it was some teacher’s birthday and you needed to make snacks…
I take anything I have in the fridge, bacon, chicken, just cheese, feta and spinach, doesn’t make a difference.
If it is leftovers, great, if not, quickly fry it up in the pan in let it cool to room temperature.
Whisk some eggs and mix with your choice of filling. Take out your mini cupcake pan and just scoop the filling in, juuuuuust below the line, so that it does not run out.
Pop in the oven at 200 degrees until your egg is stiff and nothing runs out J
If you do not have a mini cupcake pan, you can pour the mixture into a flat pan and wait for it to cool, before cutting it into small blocks.
Now. Once I’ve prepared all our kiddie’s favourites, I pack them in the baggies I have, making sure nothing will go soggy if they touch. Typically our lunchboxes has the following. Some sort of samie/pie/quiche, a yogurt or easy cheese, fresh fruit, small savoury snack like biltong and a small sweet, and naturally a juicy.