Sometime back I shared on Instagram on how on an average we make 40 lunch boxes a month. Discount three months of summer, winter and other breaks and we are talking about 360 lunchboxes a year for one child! Now, add to this all those days when our kids return only in the evening and need to take a third box! Those are SOME numbers 🙈 so sooner or later we do tend to run out of both ideas and the energy/motivation to do it. I remember asking all of you lovely readers if you would like me to share what I pack in her lunch box and ofcourse hear from you on what you pack in your kids’ lunch boxes. You said YES! And that’s how every alternate day I began sharing pictures of her lunchbox (taking a break when the school closed down for spring vacation and of course over the weekends). Imagine my surprise when I realized that on Sunday I posted the 30th lunch box in this series (a series that I have immensely enjoyed!). This calls for a blog post, doesn’t it? 🙂
So here they are, 30 different lunchboxes that I really hope will help you in planning healthier and happier lunchboxes (imagine the permutations and combinations that are possible with these). Thank you everyone…for all the love, the comments and the numerous direct messages.
I am torn between stopping it here (30 seems like a good number, doesn’t it!) and continuing it till…well may be a 50! I don’t know! What do you think?
These pictures were and are more of a starting point to help us think “out of the box”. School lunches can be more than just sandwiches and so I didn’t really share any recipes (unless asked for in comments/messages). Would you like me to share some of the recipes, let me know? I’d be happy to!
Also, sharing some tips and ideas today, that have helped me in packing better and healthier lunchboxes that come back empty (and has also helped me maintain my sanity). Finally whether you are a lunchbox newbie or a lunchbox pro, I’d love to hear on what you pack in your kids’ boxes because we still have 2 more months before summer vacations begin 🙂
Ten habits that have helped me pack better and healthier lunchboxes.
- Pack when it works for you the best: If getting up early isn’t something that you enjoy, then pack as much as you can before you go to bed or while you are preparing your dinner (the kids can help with it, too! win! win!). Fruits and vegetables can be washed, dips can be made ahead, masalas for paranthas can be prepared in advance and vegetables for sandwiches can be grilled the previous day! That does reduce the work in the morning, doesn’t it?
- Staples are important: Making several boxes week after week isn’t easy, so don’t be over ambitious. Always keep it a mix of simple staples that you can cook with your eyes closed and that the kids love and others that require a little more work. In short, it may not be possible to have an entirely different lunch box every day of the week and that is okay!
- Batch cooking: Boiled eggs, dips, rice, salad dressings, sauces for pasta, boiled lentils for salads, etc. can all be prepared in larger quantities and can be then used by the entire family throughout the week. And if batch cooking isn’t you thing, see number 4.
- The oven is my best friend: When using the oven for making dinner I usually pop in an extra potato (hello potato salad), grill a carrot (wraps!) or a handful of tomatoes (so good with cheese and bread) on the side for her lunch box.
- Weekend baking: Whenever possible, I like to bake wholewheat muffins (both sweet and savoury), fruit and vegetable breads (zucchini and banana are her favourites), crackers, energy bars, vegetable chips and more over the weekend. We cook together and that’s makes her very happy and a slice of it in the lunch box every other day reduces my work.
- Leftovers are bestovers: Put them in the lunchbox right after dinner!
- Reinvent dinner for lunch: When making dinner think of how you can use some of the food that you are already preparing to reinvent food for the lunch box. Grilled chicken with mashed potatoes for dinner can become a grilled chicken sandwich or go into a fried rice. When making chole for dinner, reserve a handful of boiled chana to convert it into a chana chaat!
- Freeze: I like to prepare loads of fruit purees (that I can simply mix with yoghurt or add to a pancake batter), sauces (used to make a pizza toast or smeared on a tortilla or added to a handul of vegetables and simply baked during the week), etc so I can use them during the week both for her lunchbox and our meals at home. The ice cube tray is your good friend too.
- Plan ahead: Nothing like a bit of planning and jotting down whenever you step out to do your groceries or when preparing your dinner menu for the week, right? Interesting, creative and healthy lunchboxes deserve that kind of attention and time. So plan as much as you can but don’t fret if planning isn’t your thing. The eight pointers above, will be just enough!
- Involve the kids: Cooking with children and involving them to fix their lunchboxes (or at least a part of it); I can’t stress on this enough. This will not any help you save some of your time but they will also realize how much work goes into preparing their lunchboxes and you will be giving them a chance to learn a life skill. There is an old post I wrote about it some years back, revisit here to read how children of different age groups can help parents’ fix their lunchboxes.
Hope these tips help!
Did you like any ideas from the series? Did you try any? I’d love to hear. Follow #oklunchbox if you’d like some more and/or see all of her lunchboxes HERE.
Images: If you like any of the pictures on the blog and would like to use those please write to me. I put in hours of work behind each post and would love to share it with you but it would hurt me if use those without my permission. Just ask!