The tale of the Mum who made 34 million lunches: my top 7 lunchbox tips

A sponsored post for Woolworths

I can’t quite figure it out, but by the time all 3 girls have finished school, I think I would have been making lunches for 22 years. 22 YEARS. Really rethink that age gap thing between kids you guys, THINK ABOUT IT.

This year we have the girls going into Preschool (MY BABY), High school (MY BABY) and Year 4 (MY BABY). So there’s going to be a LOT going on with my emotions. There’s hormones up and down (me and number 1), all new stuff for Number 3 and Number 2 who has to put her head down and get on with things by herself for the first time ever. There will also be a lot of shouting to “GET READY WE ARE LEAVING” with different drop offs to 4 different places throughout the week and in between somehow trying to race the clock for those magical 6 hours that seem to disappear in a time warp. Then there’s the after school stuff. Let the taxi service begin!

And it’s not just the girls that are starting in new places that are feeling nervous. I am TOTALLY nervous too. High school! All that grown up stuff and things to remember and fancy laptops and uniforms that can, and will, get lost and broken. How can I be a Mum that old when I dead set feel like I am still about 15. And Pre-school! While I have been there before, things have really changed in the 6 years since we were there. There are nude lunchbox policies. There are bento box lunchboxes that are meant to be filled with delicious, freshly made stuff. I am NERVOUS you guys. I don’t have time for homemade sushi. What if she doesn’t eat? How will she open the box? She was JUST BORN. See? Despite me doing this all for 12 years, I still have no idea what I am doing. One thing I DO know that I am doing is getting a little less bothered as the years go by. Daisy had printed labels, I am sure of it, and Mags? Well, permanent texta will do the trick ammiright?

So I have been slapping myself and trying to convince myself that when it comes to one part of it: the lunch box, I do know what I am doing.

For all you first time Mum’s out there starting this year, I thought I would share some of my top tips for getting lunchboxes done. I figure when I am 67 and still doing this, I might be somewhat of an expert. But for now, hopefully this might help. A big sister guide to school lunches if you will.

1. Start as you mean to go on

If you want to create a Pinterest board or Instagram account that shows a variety of amazing offerings from sushi to mini quiches, then go for it! But! Know that you don’t have to do that. I started off a bit dodge and then the girls knew what they were in for. Another cheese and vegemite roll? Yes mate! I had one every day for 12 years, you’re welcome! Anything fancier is always an added surprise for my kids.

2. Keep it simple and small (especially for little ones)

You know when you go to trouble for dinner and it gets left behind on the plate and you are ready to walk out the front door and never come back because no one cares? Sometimes opening a lunchbox at the end of the day can be a little like that. Try not to take it personally. For Maggie right now (a pre-schooler) her lunches at home usually look like a picnic plate: cheese, crackers, fruit and meat.

I am trying to recreate this in her lunchbox with a few simple bits and pieces she can pick at. Because her school has a no packaging policy, I am emptying crackers or chips into boxes and cut up fruit into containers. I love these Macro Lentil Bites and Quinoa Puffs for all 3 girls who enjoy them too. I give her mini apples so there is less waste. All 3 kids get the same kind of simple lunch despite the age gaps. I also try to make sure she can open everything.

Macro oven baked Quinoa Puffs $5.00 (8 pack)
Macro pumpkin lentil bites $4.00 (6 pack)
Cucumber Lebanese mini qukes $3.00
Mini apples, pear or banana packs $3.00 (5 pack)

3. Don’t overpack

You know when you open that lunchbox and it’s still filled with stuff? Chances are you packed way too much. Primary kids don’t want to sit and eat lunch during their break. They want to play and so they rush through lunch. Keep it small and simple. Maggie will have just half a sandwich because that’s all she will get through. That way I won’t crack it when I open it and see what’s left behind.

4. If it’s left behind, it’s arvo tea

So many times I have had leftover lunchboxes not discovered until the next day when I go to make them again. But I have since learned that if we strike as soon as we get home we can tackle that problem. All girls have to take their lunchboxes out when they get home, unpack them and if there is anything left behind, well it gets eaten for afternoon tea. TOUGH. Ice blocks can be put back into the freezer, boxes wiped out. It works.

5. Make arvo tea dinner for little ones

I found that first term for the little ones FULL ON. Both my big girls were exhausted when they got home and also starving. One trick I used to do, and will likely do with Maggie this year, is to strike while the tummy is hungry and they are not too tired and give them dinner instead of arvo tea. A plate filled with veggies and hummus will get smashed and then when it comes to dinner and they are losing their minds with tiredness, you won’t have to force them to eat their veggies. This works a treat! I try and get something filling and healthy into them then and if they are still hungry later on, a piece of fruit or toast before bed.

6. Get the big kids to make their own

Daisy is very particular about what she wants in her lunchbox and now that Harper is getting older she is the same. As a consequence I get them to make their own (or direct what goes in within reason) and this usually means that it gets eaten. All 3 girls love olives and antipasto type stuff, so I make sure I have that available to choose from and add into containers.

Woolworths Green Olives Filled with Feta $3.50
Woolworths sweet & salty popcorn $2.20
Woolworths Superleaf Salad Mix $4.00

7. Get Organised

While this has never been my forte, when I do do it, boy does it make a difference! If you know that one kid that only likes ham and cheese sambos, one that only likes plain bread rolls and one that only likes wraps, make a whole batch of them and freeze them. Bake biscuits or cakes or quiches at the start of the week for lunchboxes and afternoon tea and you will save so much time. I try and cut up fruit and carrot sticks, celery etc and place into Tupperware containers in the fridge ready to go. Bag up the fruit and greens for your daily smoothie and have them in the freezer ready to go. A little effort on a Sunday can go a loooong way in the week when you are busy.

There are so many great back to school options available at Woolworths. Next time you are doing your weekly shop from convenient snacks to healthier snacks, to stationery and supplies, there’s something for everyone to try and help you get through another year of lunch making.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have year 9 of 22 to get through.

What are your lunchbox tips for new Mum’s starting out at this?
Or old ones like me?

Comments

  1. Teach your kids to pack their own as soon as possible! Start by you making the sandwich/roll/wrap/main event and let the kids do snacks. Provide a box on the pantry with a selection of things, boxes to pack in and let them choose. My kids knew that they had to have 1 savoury and 1 sweet and a piece of fruit. But they got to choose and pack it. For very young ones, you might chop fruit and put them in the fridge, but let the kids pack it in a box each day. Slowly back off mum, let the kids take on more as the area able.

  2. Linda Jenkins says:

    Tips number 4,6 and 7 worked for me too Beth. By year 7 my 3 kids were putting their own lunches together as long as I had the “fixings” By that stage we also had a vegetarian in the house. Good luck with all the changes for your family this year.

  3. By the time my daughter graduates I will have been a school Mum for 25 years! WTAF!!!!! 14 years between oldest & youngest…..

    I have really embraced simplicity with lunches. I bake a batch of something each week- biscuits, cake, muffins, pizza/scrolls- make sure I always have fruit, cold meat & something crunchy like pretzels or crackers & that’s it! I accepted a long time ago that my kids are not fancy eaters nor are they bothered by eating the same kind of thing most days. It makes it SO much easier. As does the occasional canteen order 😉

  4. Ten years down, 7 to go. Number 5 has been a staple in our house basically since the eldest started solid food and was able to rock a veggie stick. We still do the veggie sticks in the arvo – including for any friends that are visiting. My eldest is now 14 😁.
    Our kids do a range of lunch options and are responsible for making it work. But sometimes their dad eats the lunch supplies in which case it’s lucky both girls go to schools with great canteens. I especially love the one that does online ordering – no scrabbling around for lunch money!

  5. Great tips. We keep things pretty simple here too with cut up fruit or veggies, apples, crackers/chips, a sweet something and a sanga/wrap. I try to bake and freeze whenever the temperature drops too to get ahead. If the sweet treats are packed away and frozen it means I don’t eat them too!

  6. Oh I feel you chick, my first born is going into his second year of highschool at a new school… eek! Number 2 is into year 5 (he’s got his stuff sorted) and I’m still yet to start it over again with a 2yo, 1yo and one due this year…. I feel tired and anxious just thinking about it all

  7. I taught a family a few years ago – 7 boys. 7! Imagine the amount of food that was going into those lunchboxes. Thanks for the tips. As a hungry, time-poor teacher, I think some of these ideas will work for me too.

  8. I wish Woolworths didn’t package their vegetables so much – like the baby cucumbers. Perhaps the supermarket can go ‘nude’ like the pre-school.

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