Once your little person is off to day care or school, you're staring down the barrel of filling lunchboxes for the next 15 years. Unless culinary creativity is what gets you up in the morning, it's not exactly something that inspires. For those that find lunch-making a drag, there is hope!
It comes in the form of advice from mum-of-two Barbara Le Ganza. When Barb first started to send her little ones off the school, she was as daunted as the rest of us. But now, with her first-born now in high school, she's perfected the art of the no-fuss lunchbox. Plus, she keeps a photographic record of her ideas online under the guise of the Facebook page Lulu’s Lunchbox. Her approach to the dreaded lunchbox is definitely something everyone can try.
Listen to Barb on Feed Play Love:
Experiment with breads
Getting a child to eat anything other than fluffy white bread can be a serious undertaking. Instead of just trying wholemeal and feeling defeated when they don’t eat it, Barb recommends trying a whole variety of different bread types and finding one that works. Think a dark rye or a semi-sourdough, all of which you can just get at your local supermarket and the price difference isn’t too daunting.
Plus, whatever you’re putting on the bread itself, spread it all the way to the edges! That way the whole sandwich is more likely to get eaten and you’re not left with weird dry scraps of bread in the lunchbox at the end of the day.
Cut the crusts off sandwiches
If your little one refuses to eat the crusts on their sandwiches, Barb recommends just cutting them off. Rather than being defeated, Barb explains that when children don’t eat the crust they end up leaving about two centimetres worth of sandwich along with it. By de-crusting a sandwich you ensure that the full quantity can be eaten without too much waste.
Learn to love leftovers
They may have a pesky stigma attached to them, but using leftovers as the next day's lunch is as genius as it is easy. Plus it's a great way to train your kids to eat both cold and hot foods.
"I put anything, even leftover pastas for dinner, in the lunchbox. I find if I do mini pies and quiches, the thing people say to me is 'Oh my gosh, my kids won't eat that because it's cold'. My kids have always eaten them in a lunchbox so they haven't been trained to think that you have to have it hot. So it's how you condition your kids to eat. I've just conditioned them to eat in a way that really suits me,” Barb explains.
Definitely do dips
If getting your bundle of joy to eat a vegetable is a laughable suggestion, don't forget the power of a good old fashioned dip! Hummus is yummy and cheap, and if celery is too offensive a taste for your toddler, smothering it in a tasty dip can make snack time nutritious and delicious. There are loads of other options to dip with as well - think carrot sticks, cucumber slices, bread sticks or crackers.
"If you get a good lunchbox which won't spill, you can put the dip straight into a compartment [of the lunchbox]. Or you can put a dip in a little container," Barb suggests.
Latch onto a simple lunchbox style
In terms of what you put your child's lunch in, some lunchboxes look like you need to prepare a toddler-sized degustation! Why put yourself under so much pressure?
Barb's recommendation is something similar to a Yumbox. It’s small in size which is good for smaller hands, and they tend to only have about five compartments.
"Yumbox do a really great lunchbox with a compartment big enough for a sandwich and then three little compartments and they're all insulated from each other."
Plus, there's the added incentive of being able to eat any leftovers for afternoon tea, if you send them to school with too much food.
Barb's approach is admirably no-nonsense: "It saves you making afternoon tea when they come home from school because they know there's no dinner and nothing to eat until they finish what's in that lunchbox."
Keep it simple
Subscribe to the KISS principle. Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.
As soon as you start thinking of your lunch-making skills as the standard by which your parenting will be judged, you're setting yourself up to fail. You don't need to be making mini Picasso pizzas. Just set yourself a goal of getting your children fed, watered and home without complaining that they went hungry. And the added benefit of making it simple is that children will cotton on to the food prep process easily, so when they're older they can make their own lunches … it's a win-win!
"By keeping it simple, now that my kids are a bit older, if I'm out at work or if I'm not there, they can make their own lunchbox," Barb explains. "They know they need a sandwich, a vegetable, a fruit, and then they usually put some crackers or something in the next one. It's so simple that they know the formula subconsciously ... so quite often they do their lunchboxes now."
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