The Lunch Box Monster

lunch box monster -- lunch box tips and ideas

It is there, waiting – every school day morning – waiting to be filled: The Lunch Box Monster.

NOOOOOO!

(Think Luke Skywalker’s response to Darth Vader’s “I am your father” declaration, and you’ll get the no just right).

To say I don’t like making school lunches is an understatement. You see, it’s a battle: me trying to find ways to fill the monster against the constant hunger. And I can’t just fill the box with anything; items need to be tasty, healthy, packed well, transportable and varied. It’s always a struggle for me, but I’m pleased to say I’m learning to manage the beast and I’ll tell you how.

Before I launch into how I conquered the monster, I have to do some math.  Stay with me.  To fill the lunch box in primary school alone, a parent will approximately make 1,400 lunches per child. Now, for me this means…

lunch box ideas

5,600 lunches!!

To overcome, I’ve drawn on the experience of many warriors who have gone before me and boiled it down to this: you need a little pre-planning, a lot of food, the training of recruits and a special relationship with the freezer.

Organisational Tips

1.      Dedicated lunchbox basket

Have a dedicated lunchbox, basket or draw. I use plastic baskets to keep container sizes and lids separate.

lunch box organisation

2.      Pre-preparation

To aid the morning rush, much of the lunch preparation can be done the night before and the weekend.

Night before:

  • Cut up fruit and vegetable pieces
  • Portion yoghurt and crackers

Weekend:

  • Make a batch of sandwiches and place them in the freezer (more details below)
  • Bake home goods and freeze in portion size

3.      Freezer

My freezer is my best friend when it comes to the lunch box.  Food items can be taken out of the freezer in the morning and put straight in the lunchbox.  They will be thawed and fresh by eating time. The following items will keep for 2 weeks in the freezer.

Sandwiches:

Make sandwiches with fillings like cheese and ham, vegemite, jam, tuna, avocado or egg.  It’s easy to include some fresh salad in the morning if that’s a preference.

Other Food:

Cakes and slices, canned fish, avocado, baked beans, zucchini slice, quiche and hard-boiled egg are some snack ideas that are able to be frozen.

Organising the freezer:

  • It’s helpful to have dedicated draw in the freezer for lunch box items.
  • Separating portion size is easy with zip-lock bags. For a more environmentally friendly option, use individual containers or freeze in batches and place directly in the lunch box of a morning.

4.      Train recruits

The best thing about this system is the ability to train recruits to feed The Lunch Box Monster.  Of a morning, my six year old is able to grab a lunch box, take a main item from the freezer, a baked item, a whole piece of fruit, cut vegetables and yoghurt.

Recipes

Below are some favourite lunch box recipes.

Coconut Bread

1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup desiccated Coconut
½ cup white sugar
¾ cup milk

  1. Preheat oven to 170°C.
  2. Mix all ingredients together.
  3. Pour mixture into greased loaf tin.
  4. Cook for 40 minutes or until knife comes out clean.
  5. Slice and serve with butter.

Zucchini Slice

3 large zucchini grated (400 grams)
1 onion grated
200 grams of diced bacon
5 eggs
¼ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup self-raising flour
1 cup grated cheese
100 grams of fetta cheese crumbled (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Grate zucchini and onion into a large bowl.
  3. Add bacon, flour, fetta cheese, oil and lightly beaten eggs in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour into a greased 20cm square dish.
  5. Bake for 35-40 mins until golden and set.

* A different oil free Zucchini Slice recipe here

Magic Strawberry Mousse

1 punnet strawberries
1 avocado
1 banana
2 tablespoons of lemon juice

  1. Blend all ingredients until smooth.
  2. Pour into individual containers and allow to set for 30 minutes.
  3. Will keep in the fridge for 3 days.

Variation: Mix equal portions of vanilla yoghurt and Magic Strawberry Mousse.

Muesli Slice

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup sultanas
½ cup desiccated coconut
½ cup self-raising flour
½ cup brown sugar
125 grams margarine, melted
2 tablespoons honey

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Combine dry ingredients.
  3. Add Margarine and honey.
  4. Press into greased 25cm slice pan.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.
  6. Cut into squares when cool.

Avocado Dip

2 ripe avocadoes
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 roughly diced tomato
2 tablespoons of chopped coriander
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 chilies chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Mash avocado with a fork.
  2. Mix in the chili, garlic, tomato, lemon juice and yoghurt.
  3. Whisk together until smooth.
  4. Add to lunch box with carrot slices, celery slice, crackers or beans.

Serving suggestions

lunch box ideas

 lunch box ideas

I may have conquered the monster but I’m not sure if I’ve won the battle.  Ask me after 5,600 lunches and I’ll tell you.

More

Lunch Box Tips

Leftovers into Lunches

After School Snacks

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the ideas Kelly, I’m a recent starter to school lunches. Here in Holland, kids can actually come home for lunch, or you pay for them to stay over at school which costs 3 euros per child (around 5 dollars) which at first I thought, yay, they feed them – but that only includes the supervision, not the lunch! We freeze bread and make sandwiches. You can get milk delivered to the kids at school (a school milk lunch programme) but it’s expensive and we found that some long life milk “poppers” are popular and keep cool enough in the European climate. Yesterday I got really creative and drew faces on Mandarins and the girls loved it! Two days a week the kids finish at 12 so I also have to do lunches at home….a favourite is “pasta pockets” (ravioli or tortellini) or sushi. Wishing you luck for the 5600 lunch marathon! Like everything else, i’m sure you’ll manage it with grace and style ;) x

  2. Jess64 says

    Thank for this, I too hate lunchbox packing. We have a pretty good system, but at the moment I only have to do 2 days a week. I dread next year when I have to do it every day of the school week.
    I might try that strawberry mousse.

  3. Sarah says

    Hi kelly,

    Great Post. Can i check that the coconut bread doesn’t have any eggs in it? I wanted to make it and just noticed no eggs.

    Thanks

    Sarah

  4. Caroline says

    Merciiiiii thank you very much for the recipe!!!!
    I’m gonna try for sure coconut bread and… Finaly all of them!!! :))
    I realy like the fact that is no eggs in muesli and the coconut bread too!
    Simple easy and FUN to do with our child !!
    Include them is important for me to show them how to be healty!
    So thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!
    And sorry for my english ;)
    From a Quebequer’s french frog lol
    Xx

  5. Jess says

    Hi Kelly,
    Loving your ideas, thanks so much! I feel organised mornings coming on ;)
    Just wondering, when making egg sandwiches, can you used curried egg (Mayo, eggs, curry powder) or will the mayo make it gross? My partner hates ‘dry’ sandwiches, whatever that means haha. If I could freeze his with the kids I would be cheering!
    xx

    • says

      I’ve neverd tried it with curried egg before but I have read that other people do and it works…I guess you can just try it and see how it goes. I think it would be fine. The frozen sanwiches are a huge time saver. I don’t always to it, sometimes I just take frozen bread from the freezer in the morning and make a simple sandwich with the frozen bread to put in the lunchboxes. Hopefully they are not ‘dry’ haha. But maybe you could freeze it and then add a condiment (reslish, mustard etc.) in the morning…Just a thought.

  6. Kerry says

    Hi Kelly,

    Does the avocado dip go brown by lunchtime?

    And thanks for the muesli slice, I’m going to give that one a go.

  7. Amy Mawdsley says

    Just made the muesli slice – my house smells delicious. Great lunch boxes too I love the rubbish free lunch box! Thanks heaps

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