Shopping Girl Back to School Lunchbox Special

Hi. Shopping Girl here. I know it’s been a while. I know you’ve read it all before after I’ve disappeared for a few months. Blah blah blah….been so busy…..blah blah….no time to write. Just remember, it’s never because I stopped shopping.

So after 7 lovely-but-rather-long weeks of glorious summer holidays, keeping 4 kids happy, entertained, fed, watered and sun-creamed all day long, the kids are back at school and the term-time chaos, that every parent of a school-age child is familiar with, has begun.

Every night around 10pm (though REALLY intend on changing this to 2pm this year) I begin the mission of making 4 recesses and lunches. (Actually 5….I could be a feminist and refuse to make Working Boy’s lunch because…FEMINISM but then I’d also be an arch bitch because I’m ALREADY making 4 lunches. Feminism is about choice. I CHOOSE to not be a bitch. See? Feminism).

There are SO many rules these days when it comes to school lunch preparation. No nuts. No meat (at our school). Rubbish free. Easy to open. No treats. Ice packs for freshness compulsory. Aim for a protein filled sandwich. Then there’s the child enforced rules… only eats jam or cucumber sandwiches. One likes grapes and rice crackers. One likes everything except grapes and rice crackers. One likes yoghurt but only strawberry chobani pouches. One liked yoghurt last week but can’t stand it this week but will have a boiled egg. One won’t eat a boiled egg but will eat an apple. One ONLY likes apples at home but not at school. It really defies belief.

As far as I remember, when I was at school I had a small packet of chips or an Uncle Toby’s muesli bar (chewy not crunchy) for recess and a sandwich (which I mostly didn’t eat) for lunch. I think “making the lunches” must have taken my mum about 5 minutes, between my sister and I. Possibly less. And certainly nothing close to the nightly ordeal it has become for me. There were no rules. There was no agonising. There were no blogs about lunch making.

It is no bloody wonder that year in year out, I am searching for the perfect lunchbox. The perfect lunchbox that will magically make lunch preparation less of a chore.

When the kids were little, I was convinced that if I could just find the perfect kids cookbook then my kids would eat everything. First I bought this:

Clearly my kids were still not convinced because then I bought:

When the pureeing of vegetables and sneaking them into food became too much I bought:

(Totally unrelated fact: when I first moved to Sydney and worked in a no longer existent bookshop in Double Bay, I once served a heavily pregnant Antonia Kidman. I can’t remember what she bought).

I finally realised that no cookbook or recipe was magically going to make my children eat every nutritious morsel I prepared for them. Until this past year when I relapsed and bought:

Every year I come up with what seems to be a Holy Grail lunchbox solution….until it’s not. Then the following year rocks around, and someone comes up with a new lunch box and I think “maybe THIS one will be easy to prepare, easy to clean, easy to open, leak free (following the great soy sauce spillage of 2015), rubbish free, easy to stay cold and somehow make my lunches look a little more Pinterest”.

I also need CHEAP. When Baby N started kindy, I got him a (ridiculously overpriced) Yumbox. In fact, the price was the only thing it didn’t have going for it.

Problem one: if you a buy a lunchbox with 6 sections then you have to prepare 6 different types of food. And whilst that may be nutritious and aesthetically pleasing…I don’t want to have to think of 6 things to put in when I can have a different lunchbox that has 3 sections. I’d end up cheating mostly because a sandwich cut into 6 rectangles only fits by spreading across TWO sections (4 to go still).

Enter Yumbox 2, when the hinges on Yumbox 1 broke (which for $40 they really shouldn’t!). The panino. Less sections. Space for a sandwich.

However I can’t afford to spend $160 on lunchboxes. Moreover I actually have a moral objection to it. I still needed a better solution.

Cheap is key. If I buy cheap then everyone can have two lunchboxes and THEN I can (hypothetically) make the next day’s lunches before they are even back from school #shoppinggirllifehack.

Over the summer, I came across these

It was my perfect lunchbox. For $26 I could have 8 lunchboxes. All the same. No worrying about whose is whose. No-one not knowing where their lunchbox is. It suits the 14 year old as much as the 4 year old. I could see it before my eyes – a lunch making utopia. I clicked “add to cart”, filled in my details and then fell OFF MY SOFA as the whopping $60 shipping from the USA charge was added.

Back to square one. Days turned into nights and still…no lunchbox solution. A heavy, relentless dread of never finding the right lunchbox befell me*. And then came a back to school email from K-mart. A quick peruse revealed these:

They only have blue and pink online now but I picked up a pile of clear ones at my local Kmart. $5 a piece.

Kmart to the rescue, once again.

The same searching occurs with water bottles. Water bottles seem to go through crazes. Last year it was all about the spray bottle. Specifically THIS one:

I’m sure you can all guess that rather than quenching Cooking Child’s thirst, this bottle was mostly used as a spraying weapon, by Baby N.

This year it is ALL about the metal insulated bottle. I got this one at Typo last year….

I was so impressed with it and its water cooling capabilities, that I decided to upgrade Cooking Child to a 1 litre, as he was downing the 500ml too fast. I bought one for Master T too…..his plastic one from last year leaked (Holy Grail water bottles do not leak) and smelled, like plastic ones all end up smelling (not good). Master T returned from school on day one and reported to me “Everyone has one of these water bottles!”. Yep, I am nothing if not on trend with the Year 4 set.

It’s truly amazing how long I can talk about lunchboxes and water bottles for….I guess I’ll have to save name labels and stationary for another time.

XOXO Shopping Girl

* this is not strictly true