BREAKING NEWS: There are only a couple of weeks of lunch box packing left for the whole entire year.
Let me tell you what I have learned about packing lunchboxes:
- All the healthy you can put into a lunchbox is only useful if your child actually eats it.
- Uniform lunchboxes for the whole family is a crazy expectation, see point 1, the goal is that they eat at school. Pretty Girl gets half an avocado or half a bell pepper or raw carrots in her lunchbox. Handsome would cry if he opened his box and found those things in it.
- Similarly, you cannot pack a lunch box full of things you would like them to eat but know they actually don’t like. My kids would literally rather starve than eat celery sticks and cottage cheese.
- It is awful when different foods mooch all over each other. Lunchboxes with divisions are the way forward.
- Want to know what your kids don’t like in their lunchboxes? Ask them. So simple. This one took me ages to figure out, but chatting to the kids about their lunchboxes got us all on the same page.
- No-one likes soggy sandwiches – not even kids – ditch the soggy tomatoes!
- There are actually plenty of lunch options that don’t involve sandwiches. Seriously, wraps, pitas, crackers, smoothies, sliced meats, chicken drumsticks, pasta salads. Slightly more effort though, I do agree.
- Protein is key. It keeps them full. Yoghurt, cheese, avocado, charcuterie, salami sticks, whatever. I always pop in a great protein component.
- I am not a mom who cuts food into pretty shapes. If it doesn’t happen at home, it sure ain’t gonna happen for school. I set my expectations at “lunch looks good enough to eat.” Sometimes I add a note if there is something big happening at school or simply just because I know my Pretty Girl loves those.
- Play to your strengths. I try to precut their fruit like pineapple and the salad cuts at the start of the week and keep them in airtight containers in the fridge. Makes throwing lunch boxes together at 630 am a no brain required activity. Because for me, there is literally no brain activity at that hour.
My standard lunchboxes usually consist of:
At least one fruit, usually two
Salad cuts (or raw veg)
Sandwich, or wrap, or crackers or pita bread
Yogurt/ drinking yoghurt, or smoothie or milk
Biltong, or dried fruit roll, or mini cheddars or popcorn
Other (see below)
The “Other” category is really determined by the length of the day. If Pretty Girl is only getting home at 5pm, I like to add a slice of banana bread, or a muffin, or an oats bar etc. On Fridays the “Other” category is for their Friday treat, and for my kiddos this usually means a little chocolate.
Today’s recipe for these Berry Bars is something that I bake to use in the “Other” category, which if you have not figured it out yet is Handsome’s favourite part of his lunchbox.
These Berry Bars keep really well so they are lovely to have on hand to pop into lunchboxes or for that afternoon tea snack. I know they are not the healthiest thing in the world – lunchbox police – but they are made from scratch which means that I know exactly what is going into them.
Beautiful berries are currently in season so you could really use any berry that you fancy. Taste them first though as berries have a tendency for tartness and you may want to counteract that with a little extra sugar in the filling part.
I am as determined as ever to have my year-end lunchboxes end on a high and not succumb to my usual November lunchbox fatigue.
Please leave any of your own great lunchbox ideas for me in the comments, because this momma needs all the inspiration she can get.
- 250 ml (1 C) white sugar
- 5 ml (1 t) baking powder
- 750 ml (3 C) cake flour
- 2.5 ml ( ½ t) salt
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 250 g butter, softened
- 1 egg
- 5 ml (1 t) vanilla essence
- 500 ml (2 C) blueberries
- 250 ml (1 C) raspberries
- 125 ml ( ½ C) white sugar
- 15 ml (1 T) corn flour
- Mix together the sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer.
- Using the paddle attachment, add the butter and process to rub the butter into the flour.
- Whisk together the egg and the vanilla essence.
- Add the egg mixture to the flour mix and process until the mixture resembles a crumble.
- Take half of this mixture and press it into the bottom of a square or rectangular baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.
- Mix together the filling ingredients, taking care to coat the berries in the corn flour and the sugar.
- Spoon the berries onto the crumble base.
- Top the berries with the remaining crumble.
- Bake the Berry Bars in an oven that has been preheated to 180˚C for 45 minutes or until the bars and well risen and golden.
- Leave to cool and then cut into even sized bars.