I hate lunchboxes. Thought I should just share that fact before I write this post. For someone who is normally pretty enthusiastic about food I have an irrational hatred of school packed lunches. HATE THEM.
My lad started off with packed lunches before I realised that the packed lunch brigade were all judging each others' goodies. My mango-fiend of a child wouldn't eat mango from a lunchbox, because other kids said it was 'disgusting'. Ugh, depressing.
And the unpacking bit at the end of the day - the crusts, lightly nibbled pieces of fruit and general festering detritus to be chucked at the end of the day. Oh, and I've you've been insane enough to pack a yoghurt you'll have to pick through the compost to find the spoon No, no, no.
And the pressure - the crushing, emotional PRESSURE of the healthy lunchbox. And the fact that what most people think of as healthy, just isn't really. Flapjacks? Sugar fest. Sandwiches? Default to Marmite. Yoghurts? Sugar fest. Lunchboxes just offer so many opportunities to reach for the junk. So many pre-packaged 'easy' solutions, even the most educated of no-junkers might find themselves packin' the Pom Bears from time to time. In a recent survey for their NoJunk campaign Organic found that 61% of parents find that it’s difficult to make their child’s lunchbox varied and interesting and that for 81% samdwiches were the staple lunchbox food. Honestly, I'm surprised both figures there aren't 100%...
Here we are, September again and many parents are reaching for the bloody lunchbox. Anyone wanting to de-junkify their kids' food should check out the No Junk campaign here - it's all about keeping it simple and real. And really, this is the solution, keep it simple. So here's my solutions - I put the first in brackets, because I know it's not for everyone...
(1. SCHOOL DINNERS. Come on, they're even free for infants in the UK now. Put aside worries about whether they'll eat it or not and comfort yourself with the fact that they probably will, because you're not watching, and even if they don't - you'll never know - bliss.)
2. FOOD FLASKS. AKA - your lunchbox saving grace.
Food flasks are literally the answer to the healthy lunchbox conundrum. They are also easier to fill than a sandwiches. Honestly, trust me here - they are easier than sandwiches. You just microwave leftovers - last night's pasta, pop it in the flask and pack it up with a fork, bottle of water and a piece of fruit and BOOM healthy lunchbox done.
No junk, no effort.
Here's some things you can put in them:
1. Pasta. Obviously. Leftovers from last night's dinner or cook some in the morning seeing a it only takes 11 minutes boiling while you do your morning stuff. Stir in decent pesto if you're pushed for time. Or throw a few frozen peas in the pasta water, stir in cream and cheddar cheese. Even olive oil and a finely chopped raw tomato or two will do the trick. If you're feeling very kind you could even pack a little foil twist of parmesan on the side.
2. Cous cous - just make in in the food flask by adding boiling water and a tiny bit of an organic stock cube. Then add your cous cous additions of choice, including most stew-based leftovers.
3. Soup - thick delicious soup and a roll. Lush.
4. Chopped up sausages, potatoes, veg and gravy - by which I mean, last night's tea microwaved of course.
My daughter had pasta based lunchboxes for pretty-much every one of her pre-school lunch days and somehow it's less guilt inducing than sandwich repetition. She has to have lunchboxes again for the first few weeks of term while they settle in and I'm telling you now it'll be pasta all the way until the blessed relief of the school dinner.
Those facing lunch packing - I wish you the very best of no junky luck! Keep it real folks!