Seven Fun Ideas For Your Child's School Lunches
So you've kitted out your children with new school clothes, shoes and sports gear. You've covered their books, re-filled their pencil cases and invested in four dozen hair elastics. You're good to go, right?
Not quite. Time to face the lunchbox.
We've come up with a few fresh recipes for school lunches. With any luck, that most disheartening task of emptying your child's lunchbox into the bin can be crossed off your back-to-school list. After all, what child doesn't want nice things to take to school for lunch.
1. Small Bites
Match your lunchbox-fillers to the appetite, and size, of your child. Little children often have very short break times and need small snacks, rather than a big meal. The value younger children place on snacks seems to be inversely proportional to the snack's size.
Bites Box 1 (pictured): Mini-bread bun with ham and cucumber, cherry tomatoes with mini-mozzarella, and yogurt-covered raisins.
Bites Box 2: Mini-pitta breads, small sausage rolls, piccolo pizzas and diminutive pancakes.
Bites Box 3: Cherry tomatoes, baby bananas, mini-mozzarella and quail's eggs.
2. Brunch In A Tub
Do you despair of getting a healthy breakfast into your kids? Send it with them and they can eat it at break time. Fill a tub with muesli, granola or whichever cereal they prefer. Let them pour their school milk on top, bring milk in a flask, or add a tub of yogurt.
Brunch 1 (pictured): Wheat biscuit with berries; just add milk.
Brunch 2: Oatmeal flapjacks with a banana. For a real treat, pancakes with yogurt and blueberries are certain to make them smile.
3. Dips and Nibbles
It is worth making the investment in some suitable containers, because once you get started on this style of lunch, the possibilities are endless.
Idea 1 (pictured): Pitta dippers with guacamole and cherry tomatoes.
Idea 2: Delicious dips include guacamole, hummus, beetroot puree and butter bean paste. Cream cheese whizzed with a banana and strawberries makes a sweet but nutritious option.
Idea 3 (pictured): Cinnamon raisin bagel dippers with strawberry cream cheese and dried apricots.
Idea 4: Pitta soldiers, carrot sticks, sugar snaps, bread sticks and toasted bagels all make terrific dippers. Don't forget that dried fruit and nuts (if your school allows them) make great nutrient-packed nibbles.
4. Wrap It Up
Who can say why sandwiches are boooring, but wraps are cool? Ours is not to reason why, but to give them what they will eat.
Wrap 1 (pictured): Flour tortilla with cream cheese, turkey, lettuce and sweet yellow peppers. Fruit salad and mangetout.
Wrap 2: Take a corn or flour tortilla, smear it with a tasty spread, sprinkle on some nutritious morsels and wrap it up.
Wrap 3: Hummus, baby spinach leaves, turkey and red grapes.
Wrap 4: Cream cheese, butter-head lettuce, ham and grated carrot.
Wrap 5: Mayonnaise, grated cheddar, cucumber and tomato relish.
5. Super Salads
Cold cooked pasta, rice, couscous and bulgur wheat all make a terrific basis for lunch-box salads. Pasta is natural partner to tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil and basil. Rice adds substance to a zingy mango salad with cucumber, sweetcorn, coriander and lime juice. Bacon bits, sultanas, parsley and lemon juice enliven a box of couscous. Add fresh chilli or chilli flakes to any salad for those who like some spice.
Alternatively, omit the carbs and serve cold meat, hard-boiled egg or cheese on the side for extra protein.
6. Hot Pots
For those teenagers who are irredeemably fed-up of sandwiches, you might push the boat out with this healthy take on the pot noodle.
Fill a Kilner jar or insulated flask, from the bottom up, with thin dried noodles, finely shredded carrot, sweet peppers and mangetout, beansprouts, sweetcorn, and fresh chilli. Add a pinch of salt or half a crumbled stock cube for flavour.
When your child is ready to eat they can simply fill the jar with hot water, wait three minutes, and then tuck in to a delicious hot lunch.
7. The Cheese Plate
The humble cheese and cracker can be adjusted to suit almost any age and palate. String cheese and salty crackers are a hit with younger kids. Supermarkets stock an ever-increasing array of delicious mini-cheeses to tempt the older sophisticate.
If you choose to cut a chunk of good cheese from a block, make sure to use grease-proof paper rather than cling-film unless your child is a fan of sweaty cheese. A really good cheddar with slices of Granny Smith apple is hard to beat.
This would serve as a perfect little lunch for smaller children, but would also be ideal as an extra snack before racing off to after school classes.
Anzac Biscuit Recipe
During the two world wars, Anzac biscuits were packed in the rations of Australia and New Zealand's armed forces. They are nutritious and delicious. If you make a batch on Sunday they will keep, wrapped individually, until lunch-time on Friday. Realistically, they are unlikely to last that long unless you camouflage them as a sack of lentils.
150g (5oz) flour
75g (2oz) porridge oats
75g (2oz) desicated coconut
150g (5oz) caster sugar
150g (5oz) butter
2 TbSp golden syrup
1/2 tsp baking powder
Melt the butter and golden syrup together.
Mix all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
Combine all the ingredients and roll the mixture into walnut-sized balls. Place the balls on a baking sheet and flatten them slightly with a fork. There is no need to line the tray, but leave room for the biscuits to spread a little as they cook.
Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes and allow to cool on the trays for five minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Treat yourself to one of these with a cup of tea before wrapping the rest into individual portions. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
Now, you're all set. Good luck with the year ahead!