I have my family well trained. They know that they shouldn’t expect anything of me in the morning until I have had a cup of coffee. I prefer to drink with very muted noise around me. Silence is preferable. I like to read as I sip as a way of pretending that I am actually still asleep and don’t have to face the day just yet. I come to life slowly, like piece of steam-powered machinery chugging into action. Once I get going, I’m fine but until then I need to be treated with caution or else cranky-bitchface-mummy finds it hard not to snap (read, scream) at the kids. So these are the best lunchbox ideas for kids who have parents that are soooooooooo not morning people.
My Lunchbox Rules
Packing school lunch boxes each morning has to be easy and formulaic so that I can do it on auto-pilot before the caffeine permeates my system fully. To keep it simple, I have a rule of four. This rule seems to make it easier to get my head around what I need to fossick through the fridge for. These are the four things I put in:
1) A piece of in-season fruit (current favourite is apricots, berries always go down well);
2) A vegetable/vegetables (usually carrot sticks, capsicum sticks, cucumber sticks, cherry toms, with olives – depending on child – or hummous dip or plain yoghurt as a dip)
3) A treat. This is usually pop corn or something I baked. Sometimes it is a healthy item and sometimes it isn’t. Most often I bake something on weekends and store it in the freezer so I or the girls can just grab and go in the morning. Every so often I put in a muesli bar. Occasionally, they get a super-unhealthy packet of something that they just LOVE.
4) A main. Now ‘main’ might be overstating it – my fall-back is a cheese and vegemite sandwich. This item should include complex carbs and protein.
These are all the main meal items that have worked over my decade of lunch box packing:
- Hard-boiled eggs. I cook them the night before (usually when I realise that I have no bread for sandwiches), then put them in fridge over night. In the morning I remove their shells and put them in lunch boxes.
- Pasta salad. This is not as fancy as it sounds. Simply cook some pasta (or use left overs) and add some vegetables (cherry tomatoes and cucumber), some olives and some cheese cubes or fetta. Include a fork to eat this one with.
- Tinned tuna and crackers. Easy. Often I use plain tuna in spring water, but put it in another container that’s easier to open with some mayonnaise to help it stick to the cracker. Also put a fork in for this one.
- Sausage Rolls that I keep in the freezer for grab and go mornings (they are thawed by the time they need to be eaten and don’t need to be heated). I put in a little container of sauce.
- Leftovers. Sometimes I make them into sandwiches. A spaghetti bolognese sandwich works well.
- Flat bread of any kind in a winner, but ham and cheese ‘pinwheels’ are a favourite. Lay out ham and grated cheese on the flat bread then roll into a sausage and cut the sausage into smaller pieces.
- Grated sandwich/flatbread fillings work too (grated cheese carrot and hummous is a winner). More adventurous kids might like grated raw beetroot too. I wish my kids did…
- Cooked chippolata sausages and baby potatoes.
- Sometimes a brown rice salad works too. Make this the same way as the pasta salad above, but with brown rice works too
- If all else fails – and it frequently does – a cheese and vegemite sandwich does the trick. On good weeks, I freeze ready-made sandwiches ahead of time so we can just grab them. Otherwise my eldest is able to make them.
Having a formula like this is one of the best lunchbox ideas if you want to delegate the packing of lunches to your children. It helps them to have some sort of idea about how to pack balanced meal. I am completely in favour of this. On mornings when my kids pack their own lunches it feels lovely to know that they have some kind of independence and resilience to help them through life. But for me food = love and even un-caffeinated cranky-bitchface-mummy still takes a little bit of joy in packing a nourishing lunch like this.