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…..one 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

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Style for the people

I have a dirty, little secret. I almost too ashamed to share except that I am so excited about it that I have to. Some of you may be shocked. There’s a particular resident of Gilgandra Rd that may require medical assistance after reading this (someone may like to call a preparatory ambulance?) but, well there are always casualties when secrets are spilled.

Are you ready?

You sure?

Okay here goes…..

I’ve started shopping at K-Mart. And I LOVE it.

(Cue: fainting).

No seriously, have you been?? It’s really quite amazing. Once upon a time I practically showered after a visit to K-Mart if I ever had to go (kids’ camp clothes and the like). Call me a snob (Working Boy does all the time but between you & me, he’s a bigger snob than me. Ah, true love), but that is how it is. Or was, at least.

Now, you still won’t find me sporting the latest big K fashions (though I do have a friend @seemeswoon – check her out on Insta – who throws together inexpensive chain store buys all the time and looks constantly AMAZING) but what you will find me doing is raiding the store for their amazing homewares. 

I seem to be doing a lot of list based posts at the moment but to save you trawling around K-Mart (although it has emerged that there are Facebook groups full of people who LOVE doing just that), here is:

Shopping Girl’s Definitive List of the Ten Best Things to Buy at K-Mart.

1.

Metal Locker bedside table – $29.

$29. Twenty Nine dollars people. I cannot tell you what a bargain this is. I had been searching online for a bedside table for Cooking Child (my children discovered my blog last week, and the child formerly known as J has requested to henceforth be known as Cooking Child) and had my heart set on a locker style. The only problem was that the locker style bedside tables had their hearts set on being in excess of $200. I went to K-Mart to buy beanbag beans (see below) and lo and behold I could not believe my EYES when I saw this little beauty just sitting there, humbly, for $29. Into the trolley it went.

2.


Cement base lamp – $10

So cheap, you should buy two. In fact I’m going to have to because I bought this lamp so quickly I didn’t stop to consider where in the house it would actually go. I have since decided that it is perfect as a bedside table lamp in mine and Working Boy’s room, but now I need one for each side of our bed. We are symmetrical people.  

3.


Stainless Steel Shaped Jug – $15

I had been lusting after a very similar jug on the Peters of Kensignton website which cost around $189. Or given that in actuality my lusty thoughts on pitchers are extremely few and far between, some may say non-existent, let’s just say I really quite liked it. Considering how much entertaining we do, we have a disproportionality small number of jugs, and what’s more, the two we have are small. I bought two of these as well. Now I can have one at both ends of the table. As I said, we’re symmetrical people. 

4.

50cm Fire Pit with stand – $39

They say that art imitates life but can life imitate decor? I haven’t bought this yet. But if I did it would make me the sort of person who spontaneously has friends over, where we hang outside, drinking wine, someone’s playing guitar and we’re sitting around a fire pit (preferably on floor cushions)…..it all sounds so relaxed and so un-i-have-4-children. Plus we would become the marshmallow toasting capital of Bellevue Hill.

5. 


Paper Plates – Pastel Foil $3 (16 in pack)

I always feel a bit bad when I use disposable plates. There’s the environmental impact. There’s the cost. And then there’s the fact that I must already have a huge amount of washing up to do, or I wouldn’t be resorting to disaposables. That makes me feel really, REALLY bad. 

These, however, make me feel happy. Like I’m having a party. And I mind setting the table just a little bit less when I’m setting it with these plates. 

6. 


Canisters: small – $5, large $7

There are SO many places in the house that could benefit from some pretty canisters. If we could just fill a large one with lead pencils and a small one with erasers, the daily call of “do you know where a pencil / rubber is?” and subsequent 10 minute homework avoiding search, could be eradicated. Without compromising my house design aesthetic. 

7.


4 Piece Cityscape Activity Floor Mat $16.00

This playmat screams “YOUR CHILD WILL SIT AND PLAY ON ME IMAGINATIVELY FOR HOURS WITH HIS MATCHBOX CARS AND WON’T EVEN MENTION THE IPAD”. That sounds like a good deal for $16 to me.  When First Born was born, playmats did not look nearly so pretty, or so fun. It’s a designer mat with a non-designer price. 


8.


Teardrop bean bag – Grid extra large – $25

I actually already bought a beanbag. From Typo. I was at K-mart buying the beans when I spied this super-size bag. Sometimes being plus-sized can be a disadvantage in life…..not when you’re a beanbag. Who would NOT want to sink into a quite chic oversized beanbag? This would look fab in First Born’s room. But First Born, you have your own cash, so buy it yourself.
9.Felt Storage Box with Lid – $6

We all know I am a massive fan of storage options. Would you rather have random open boxes of Lego lying around or some smart grey felt boxes? With a leather strap? I know what I prefer. Conceal the chaos, shoppers. 
10.

Be gone IKEA Billy – there’s a new favourite shelving system in town. I’m partial to a little pegboard. This one has little shelves. I already bought a pegboard at Typo and when I saw this I was devastated that I could have had a pegboard/ shelving combo…..but now I see that Typo must have also gone to K-Mart (all the cool people are) and had the exact same reaction, for they have released little shelves that you can buy as an accessory to your peg board. 
11. 

Wall LED Decor – Lightning, White $9

I know I said 10 but I just couldn’t limit myself, so consider this your bonus buy. Plus number 10 was more about Typo than it was about K-Mart so it didn’t really seem fair. 

Not so long ago this sort of thing cost well over $100. I don’t know who has a couple of hundred bucks to drop on a fun light for their kid’s room but it’s not me (because I already spent it on a dress). That is why I love you K-Mart – you are democratising decor. 

XOXO Shopping Girl