I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Feed A Crowd (Lunch)

When people hear I have triplets, and then hear I am a chef, they always say, "Wow! Your kids must have the BEST lunch boxes!" This of course makes me laugh, as the one job in the world I really, really, really hate (next to cleaning my house) is making school lunches. It's boring, it's annoying, and it happens most nights of the week. DH and I struck a deal (and by deal I mean he just made himself seem incompetent at lunch making, thus making it faster and easier for me to do it myself) whereby the first person home each night is responsible for dinner and lunches (and baths, and readers, and homework, and, and, and!)

No great surprise, the lunch job is mine 99.99% of the time, and if I do say so myself, my kids have KICK ASS lunches. Lunches which do not have junk food OF ANY KIND in them, with the possible exception of the dry crackers which may veer kinda close to not-so-healthy. Their lunches rock not because I am a chef, but because I apply what Jenn would call an "Amazing Trip Trick" - and that is, a parenthack which makes life with triplets bearable. So my ATT for lunches is simple: I apply a formula.

The formula looks something like this:

1 main + 2 herbavore items + dry crackers + bonus item = happy mother and fabulous lunch.

So the "main" part consists of the bulk of the meal, and includes stuff like:
- sandwich
- leftovers from the night before (slice of quiche, pasta, whatever)
- sushi hand rolls

And for variation in the main part:
- change of bread (pita, bagel, fruit loaf, bread roll, mountain bread...)
- change of filling (all the usual plus various dip options like smoked trout mousse, hummus blah blah and sometimes wierd stuff like a plain omlette)
- change/add veggies in sandwich: lettuce, tomato, cucumber, avocado

The herbavore items are as follows:
- 2 pieces of fruit
- 2 pieces of vegetable
- 1 fruit, 1 veg

And for variation in the herbavore part:
- mini Roma tomatoes
- kiwis with a kiwi spoon
- applesauce in those little box thingies
- anything in a stick - carrot, cucumber, etc etc
- whole, normal sized Romas which can be eaten as an apple might be

The dry crackers part is self explanatory, but even here I change it up:
- Corn thins
- Rice crackers
- Shapes
- Water crackers
- Rye Vitas
- Those wierd cardboard flat yellow sponge cracker things, no idea what they are called
- pretzels
...and pretty much whatever interesting dry cracker/crunchy item is on sale

The "bonus" item is something other than any of the above. If I haven't got a bonus item in the fridge or pantry, I'll just add in another sandwich. Here are some examples of bonus items:

- yoghurt, either tub or tube
- slice of bread/simple banana cake/basic muffin or something else I've baked
- Extra slice of fruit bread, buttered or jammed or honeyed
- a third herbavore option if we've just gotten a fruit/veg delivery and everything looks fabulous

I realise this sounds like a ridiculous amount of effort to go to for what is basically a sack lunch... but my kids come home almost every day having eaten everything I've given them, I know they are getting a balanced, nutritious meal to keep their minds happy during the day (because goddammit, I want value for my private school dollars) and it means that during the hysteria hours (4-6pm) I don't have to think very hard.

Further to the success of this ATT is to make lunches in bulk. So I line up the boxes and dole out the items as though I am doling out cards: fruit, fruit, fruit, veg, veg, veg and so on and so forth. Super organised Mums (of which I am not one) would probably pre-package all the dry stuff when they get it. So buy a big box of some sort of cracker and pre-portion it into lunchbag size. Take a big box and throw all the pre-portioned bits in ... so that during the week you really only need to grab the bags which are already done and stuff them in the box. You could probably do the same with fruit which needs prep, but since I'm lazy most of the fruit we buy needs NO prep - mandarins, grapes, bananas, apples and so on.

My last word of lunch making advice is to keep it simple. So don't go giving your kids apples which are peeled and quartered and carrots cut into flowers. Leave most things whole, au natural... and like animals, when they get hungry enough they'll eat just about anything.*

* Before all you parents of picky eaters flame me, YES, I am blessed with kids who will eat just about anything, and who actually love and adore fruit and veg. I attribute this to my good training more than anything else, but that's a blog post for another day.


the baker's wife said...

I WAS just about to flame you, lucky fresh food eating parent of three. But I'll wait for that post about the training while I watch my two year old eat buttered pasta and sausage for dinner, again.

emzeegee & the hungry three said...

LOL TBW! Believe me, my kids had their moments of buttered pasta and hot dogs, and they still do! (It's called Sunday nights, ha!!)

I wish I really had a good secret to getting kids to eat fresh food - ultimately I think it's just perseverance. We just offered it, all the time, with no alternatives. As in, "you can have a banana OR an apple" rather than "a banana.. or a cadbury family block." Dinner was the same, in so far as they ate what we ate as soon as they were old enough (eg 2 yo and up). We'd always put ONE item on the dinner table we knew they would eat....so if they weren't having our chicken laksa, at least they were eating the noodles.

((hugs)) Given your life at the moment, I think it's more than fair enough G is getting pasta and sausages. Gotta be a few food groups in there, right??


Robyn said...