The Lunchbox Slump

Sarah Schaap

Posted on January 24 2019

The Lunchbox Slump
Written by Stacey Bates

The back to school countdown is on! Who is excited?

There is always that one job that comes with returning to school which puts a bit of a downer on it. We know it as the Lunchbox Slump. With 3 kids and living in a very rural environment, preparation is the key to success. I found out quickly packet food, although very appealing for the kids, wasn’t the answer. Lunchtime meltdowns and the morning tea sugar high is not setting them up to last the day. Packet foods also proved to be an issue for Miss 5 who is a very busy and active child, and it meant she had to stop to open and then dispose of the rubbish, all wasting valuable play time. She would rather starve, than waste any time having to return to a rubbish bin or slow down when she was accessing food. Within our first term of school life, I knew something had to change. We went for a bento style lunchbox which meant absolutely no packaging. We still had food returning uneaten. It was all food she would happily eat at home. What was I doing wrong?

It was then that I realised the food in her lunchbox just didn’t seem as appetising as it did on a plate. How can I change this? It was all food she loved! Fruit and vegetables come home untouched? Peeling an orange is too hard, biting into an apple hurts those wiggly teeth, my friends don’t like capsicum. I’ve heard all the excuses. By cutting up the apple and orange into a mini fruit salad - it was soon gobbled up! Capsicum, cucumber, cherry tomatoes make a perfect, bright, colourful salad that had disappeared. I found the answer to my problem - my kids will happily eat anything in bite sized pieces. Yes, it does take slightly longer to prepare than just throwing an apple in but I had found a way to ensure my kids were eating at school. Living in Central Otago, the summers are hot and the winters are cold. It became apparent that I needed to provide food suitable to the season / weather. No one likes a hot ham and sweaty cheese sandwich for lunch in the middle of summer and that ice cold yoghurt in winter really didn’t appeal either. I decided it was time to put the ownership of the food in the lunchbox back on to the kids. I provide the options and they decide the contents for each day.

Today, we have prepared Term 1’s lunchbox plan.
  • MONDAY: Homemade Sushi 
  • TUESDAY: Toastie Tuesday 
  • WEDNESDAY: Homemade Quiche/Fritters 
  • THURSDAY: Cold Meat and Salad 
  • FRIDAY: Hot Lunch (From the local country cafe) 
How many snack options do you offer? I offer just one. Whether it be a homemade muesli bar, bliss ball, nuts, salami and cheese. They can choose what they wish to take but they only get to choose one. There are so many different recipes available by doing a simple google search, the options are endless. So now I have found the key to having all food eaten up by my children, by giving each child the ownership of picking what is their main portion, offering a selection of fruit and vegetables and finishing it off with a snack item. Cutting fruit and vegetables into bite sized pieces for those that need their food to be visually appealing or struggle with peeling etc. All it takes is a discussion with your child - Do they get lunchbox envy? What is it they want that others have? A great way to get some new and fresh ideas! Put the ownership on them!

And as a final bonus, we have not had any food returned from school as not being appropriate for containing too much sugar!

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