Any other Bubble Guppy fans out there?!
School's back which is like some sort of magical "on-switch" - at least in my house anyway!
It also means school lunchboxes. Have you seen the meme - day 1 is a carefully packed bento box of pure joy and loveliness..... last day of term is a slightly more random assortment of pasta.
With one about to finish school (it goes so so fast) I wanted to share my systems that have helped turn this chore into something more manageable.
Tip #1: Work it Out Together
It's so much easier if they'll tell you what they will eat! Bananas will be their favourite one week and then I buy 10 bananas which slowly disintegrate before my eyes before I crack an make more banana bread.....
I use my Lunchbox Checklist (which you can download for free here) to do this. It takes about 5 minutes. I like it because it holds everyone accountable - if they told me they'd eat it, I buy it / prepare it and pack it and then they don't- well, that's not ideal. This also helps to reduce food waste.
For older kids who are packing their own lunches but maybe not doing their own shopping quite yet, it let's me know what to add to the grocery list so the supplies are ready to go.
It's also a good source of inspiration for some easy ideas!
Tip #2: Dedicated Spaces
We have a space just for lunchbox bags, containers and drink bottles. The fridge and pantry also have small dedicated spaces that are for foods that are JUST for lunchboxes - which helps stop anyone inadvertently eating what was needed for lunch!
Consider making these spaces accessible to everyone that needs to use them - so that the healthy snacks can be easily reached when they start packing their own.
Tip #3: Sunday Prep
Every Sunday I spend around an hour (or the time it takes to do a load of washing, which is like, the domestic unit for the measurement of time) doing some quick and simple things that make life easier during the week.
I wash and dry fruit and veg (because I don't have time to wash lettuce and dry it on a busy morning); grate cheese; decant big packets of snacks into our small containers for easy grab and go; pop some popcorn, pan-fry some chicken breast..... I also try to bake one quick & easy sweet and one savoury lunchbox filler. The goal is to get the kids more involved in this process each week too!
No matter what I do - Monday morning me is always grateful for what Sunday me did.
Tip #4: Make the Most of Dinner
Whatever I'm doing for dinner, I try to think how to make the most of it for lunchboxes. If I'm making a salad or certain veg, again I'll wash and dry extra for lunches. If it's a dinner that lends itself to an extra bit being made for lunches - I'll do that. I nearly ALWAYS make extra chicken because it's so versatile.
This year I created my Lunchbox Min Planner which you can download for free here... it has a list of 10 things to do on a Sunday to make your life easier, as well as a list of dinner foods and side dishes that can help make filling those lunchboxes easier, and without necessarily always just eating the same food again!
Tip #5: Be Kind to YOU!
We're all out here just doing our best! Not all pre-made food was created equal, so do your research about what pre-packaged food fits in your tolerance level and go for it. And don't forget to schedule in those sanity saving canteen days too!
I'd love to know what your best lunchbox tips & shortcuts are, or if the whole lunchbox world is new to you what questions you might have?
(PS: my recipes will include tips on how to turn dinner into lunch as much as possible; and check the snacks & nibbles section for some easy lunchbox ideas too!)