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provided by Diane Vaubell,  a work-from-home-mom to 2 small picky, vegetarians. She is an amateur blogger with obsessive addictions to food, photography and online social networking. 

If you have a school-going age child then you’re no doubt in the swing of Back-To-School preparation. I thought I’d share some school lunch ideas to help break the monotony of the usual suspects (ham and cheese sandwiches, peanut butter and jam and marmite and cheese).

Warm lunches:
Insulated bags and containers now mean that you can send supper leftovers to school with your child and the meal should stay relatively warm until first break.

Pick ’n Pay sell a Fuel-branded insulated container, which I use to send pasta’s, stews and left-over veggies to school. I don’t put it in the dishwasher and it generally lasts for about a year or two. Well worth it for the ± R40 price tag.
In Winter you could send soups in a thermos flask with a bread serve on the side.

Salads:
The idea of lettuce wilting makes the idea of taking salads to school unappealing. But what if you replaces the lettuce with pasta or couscous? The carbohydrates would make the meal more substantial and the starch wouldn’t wither under the weight of the dressing. If you’re making pasta for dinner just keep some aside and add cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, onions and some dressing.

Crudités:
Crudités are a great way to boost your child’s 5-a-day and as long you’re packing fresh, crisp veggies they enjoy with a dip they like then you’re sure to get empty lunch boxes at the end of the day.

Veggie ideas:
Cucumber sticks
Carrot sticks
Cherry tomatoes
Baby corn
Sugar snap peas
Mange tout
Raw cauliflower florets
Lightly steamed baby asparagus
Quartered mushrooms
Celery sticks
Green Beans

Dip ideas:
Hummus
Sour cream dip
Low-fat cream cheese
Tzatziki
Guacamole
Cottage cheese
You can also include Melba toast or Provita as an accompanying carb.

Freeze Ahead:
I’m a huge fan of freezing lunchbox snacks and pulling them out the freezer in the morning . As long as you’ve individually packed your portions then you shouldn’t have issues of sticking.

The following snacks freeze well in mini-plastic bags (most plastic shops sell re-sealable bags in batches of 100 at very reasonable prices).

  • Muffins (savory or sweet). Make your own or buy trays and freeze in plastic bags.
  • Onion and Cheese scones (see recipe)
  • Crumpets (sweet or savory)
  • Banana Bread

If it’s summer I don’t worry about defrosting as the snacks defrost within an hour or so. In Winter you may want to take your snack out the freezer the night before.

When packing lunches try remember that a little effort will go a long way to creating a meal your child will look forward to. Here are some tips:

  • A mini ice-brick in a insulated lunch bag will keep yoghurts, cheese, cold meats and fruits cooler for longer
  • If you’re adding sliced tomatoes to a sandwich then avoid the bread from going soggy by placing a layer of lettuce leaves on each side of the bread with the tomato in between. This acts as a “waterproof” barrier against the tomato juices.
  • Where possible, peel and cut the fruit.
  • Include plastic cutlery for yoghurts, salads etc.
  • Sandwiches don’t have to be boring. Alternate fillings and bread type (brown, whole-wheat, Omega 3, linseed, rye, bagels, English muffins, wraps, rolls, pita etc).

Here’s to a year of empty returned lunchboxes!

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