Every year I start with lots of great ideas and fantasies of giving my daughters delicious, nutritious, nut-free, ‘nude-food’, creative lunch boxes and every year that lasts for about a week. Then I go back to packaged muesli bars, uncut apples, and Vegemite sandwich after Vegemite sandwich.
Some say you should start with more realistic intentions, but I say, let’s keep the dream alive and pretend we can be the kind of parent who packs magical lunch boxes that our children will actually eat, and then remember fondly for years to come.
So here are my tips for being the Perfect Person when it comes to feeding your children between the hours of 9am and 3pm, Monday to Friday.
- The freezer is your friend. Bake some savoury and/or sweet muffins, muesli slices (my recipe below), even freeze sandwiches in advance. Another tip is to put tubs of yoghurt in the freezer because by the time they eat it at lunch it will be melted but cool (This is a tip for Australian kids going to school in our hot February). Here’s a link to my favourite banana bread recipe.
- Cling-wrap be-gone. Try to use small washable plastic containers but I know that they often get lost on the playground and sometimes they seem even less sustainable than the plastic wrap. Alternatively, the beeswax-coated fabric wraps are good, or even old-fashioned waxed or greaseproof paper will keep your sandwich together in the lunchbox, and at least it’s bio-degradable.
- Keep a supply of crisp-bread or rice-cakes in your pantry. This will ensure there’s something to put Vegemite on if you run out of fresh bread or have nothing in your freezer for some reason.
- Spread it out. Sick of Vegemite? Can’t use peanut-butter? Try hummous, cheese spread, jam, honey, tahini, tapenade, french-onion, pesto or guacamole.
- After dinner, before you go for your third serving of cheesy pasta, put a couple of serves in small containers for the darlings to take to school tomorrow.
And here’s a recipe for a lunch box filler that’s nut-free, tasty, not too unhealthy and qualifies as “nude food” as long as you pack it for the kids in a re-usable container. I adapted it from a couple of muesli slice recipes I’ve seen online – and it’s had so many iterations over the years that I think of it as mine.
Nut-free Muesli Slice
1 cup diced dried apricots
1/2 cup sultanas
1/2 cup pepitas
1/4 cup plain flour
60 g butter
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup milk
- Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
- Mix dry ingredients together.
- On a medium heat on the stove top, melt and mix honey, butter and sugar together, then allow to cool for a few minutes.
- In another bowl, mix together the butter, sugar and honey mixture with milk and egg.
- Now combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, then press it into a shallow baking tray.
- Bake in oven for 15 minutes
Cut into slices and, after it has cooled, freeze in individual portions or keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.