Dust Off the Lunchbox – the Holiday is Over!

Be a legend in your own lunchbox
Be a legend in your own lunchbox

6 weeks of no school has finally come to an end and as much as I love the short-Smiths, there’s only so much juggling a girl can take.

As I write my rubbish post for Wednesday morning, there’s a blessed veil of peace enveloping the house. It’s so silent you can hear the wind rustling past the razor-sharp creases of their new school trousers.

In response to Katy Wolk-Stanley’s comment on ‘A Busy Mums Top Tips for a Slim Bin‘, I thought I’d post a bite-sized selection of my favourite lunchbox contenders to tempt ‘you’ into ditching the expensive pre-packed snacks, in favour of a bit of homemade nosh.

  • Soft, floury-rolls – use the flatbread or a regular bread recipe and after the first prove, grab a ball of dough about the size of a big egg, shape into a ball, then place in an oiled roasting dish. Repeat with the rest of the dough until you have 12 or 16 well spaced out in the tin. Leave them somewhere warm for another 20 minutes until they’re almost touching each other and plonk in a hotish oven for about 12 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven, dust with a little flour and put on a wire rack or a grill-tray to cool. If you keep them in an airtight container, they’ll be good for a couple of days. Alternatively, bake a large batch, freeze them and defrost exactly what you need overnight; they’ll freshen up nicely when popped in the oven for a couple of minutes before you fill them.
  • Don’t fill your sandwiches, flatbreads or rolls with expensive slices of meat or questionable reformed cuts of meat bulked out with water and additives, that come on un-recyclable trays, or wrapped in plastic boxes! It’s healthier and far more cost effective to buy a joint of something like a gammon ham and to cook it yourself, then slice it up nice and thin and put in the freezer in reusable bags or containers.
  • Top tip for your own honey baked ham, boil or pressure cook your joint according to the weight, then take it out of the water and let it dry off a bit, cover it with a smear of honey and perhaps a squeeze of orange, then put it in a medium/hot oven for about 15-20 minutes; sticky heaven…
  • Flapjacks are so easy to make and are great fun to do with the kids on a Sunday afternoon. For a large flat tray full of the yummies, you’ll need to sling 5oz of brown sugar (ideally soft-brown), 8oz butter and 2 desert spoonfuls of golden syrup in a saucepan. Heat and stir until the butter has melted and the sugar isn’t crunchy anymore, then remove from the heat, cool for a moment then throw in a handful of desiccated coconut and about 7oz of porridge oats. Stir well until the oats are completely coated and thoroughly sticky! If you don’t like coconut, you could put in some sesame seeds, or raisins, or cranberries or whatever takes your fancy. Then press the sticky mixture into a buttered or greaseproof-papered large, flat tray and put into the oven 160°C for about 15 minutes, or until you see them just turning golden brown. Don’t leave them in too long or they’ll dry out and crack yer teeth! Leave to cool for about 5 minutes then using a pizza cutter or a long, straight knife, blade out the lines of the flapjacks in the size you want them (less is more, they are a sweet filler) and leave them to cool completely before you remove them from the tin and cut them out fully. These little chaps will stay fresh for the week in an airtight box and your kids will love them. For a special treat, you could drizzle the tray with two cubes of melted chocolate. Melt them in an eggcup in a cup of boiling water until thoroughly runny, dip in the handle of a fork and drizzle in a random pattern over the flapjacks – dead creative…well impressive…
  • Invest in some re-sealable circular containers and make up your own funky yoghurts. Using yoghurt you’ve made yourself (see my recipe in the book) or by buying a large litre tub of inexpensive plain yoghurt, simply stir in a spoonful of jam or honey and add a little fruit too – this is a fabulous pudding to wrap up their lunch and I can guarantee it will be larger than those piddly, little 2-spoon pots you can buy from the supermarket.
  • Fresh fruit is always a great addition to any lunchbox. Go for what’s in season and local to you for the best bargains and if at all possible, go organic! This is the perfect time of year to go out scrumping – snaffle a few from a nearby walk in the park, or if you have a neighbour who’s got a tree full of more than they can eat, offer to clear up the fresh windfalls! If you do manage to find yourself with a glut of apples, peel, core and cook them and pop them in the freezer in ice cube trays. This is another lovely addition to a tub of yoghurt, you can pop a cube in from frozen and it’ll help keep the pot cool until lunchtime.
  • Beansprouts – not the Chinese version you Womble, I mean sprouting beans! Have you ever grown alfalfa, mungbean or chickpea sprouts? They are amazingly tasty, so simple to grow, so cheap to do and super-nutritious. The kids can be in charge of this creative cultivation and will be more likely to eat them if it’s their own work! A. Vogel are a great supplier of all different types of bean and available from many a health food shop. You don’t need any special equipment; just ask your local newsagent for an old plastic or glass sweetie jar and you are off!

I hope I’ve given you a few ideas to be getting on with.

Revamping the lunchboxes does take a bit of planning and forethought, but it’s like any new habit, once you get into it, you’ll really enjoy packing a sustainable lunch, creating less rubbish not to mention saving cash too…and anything you haven’t had to go out driving to buy, is even more money in your purse.

If you have any great recipes for delicious eats, post your recipes here – let’s build up a stack of good reasons for giving this habit a go!

Rubbishly yours,


Incidentally, Katy Wolk-Stanley is the “Non-Consumer Advocate” and writes her stuff across the pond. Katy says, ‘I am here to help people learn to live on less, and to do so in a way that lessens their environmental impact. I define myself not by my purchases, but by my goals and actions. I am a wife, a mother, a citizen, not simply a consumer.

I don’t buy anything new. I have decided to challenge myself with being part of “The Compact,” which is a movement of people all over the world who are choosing to think outside of the “big box” and buy nothing new. This does not mean that I am filling my house with lots of used stuff, it has mostly meant that I am buying very little at all. I do have a few personal exceptions to the compact though.’

…sounds like my kinda gal…