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Share Back To School Struggling With The Dreaded Lunchbox


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Back to School - struggling with the dreaded lunchbox?

So, I’m going to preface this post by saying I’m not the most imaginative cook and I’m constantly struggling to keep the home menu varied…nowhere more so than when it comes to lunch boxes!

The joke in our house is that I only work in Ardkeen to feed the family...literally. I’m unashamed to say my kids are very fond of our made instore meals, the fact that they are made from the highest quality and freshest ingredients mean I have no guilt in dishing up a prepared meal, but with two strapping teenagers who seem to have an endless capacity for eating, I find lunch boxes really daunting!

Whilst nutrition is the top of my list for the boys, the contents of their lunch box need to compete with 30/40 mins of fun in the yard/pitch with mates, so it better be tasty and it better be interesting…..’not a ham sandwich again Mum!’

And with the pressure to keep it interesting sometimes it’s tempting to go for convenience which doesn’t always result in the best food choices. So, I thought I’d share some of the lunch ideas that work in our house …

Shines Wild Irish Tuna is perfect with some Grantstown tomatoes and Tom Cleary lettuce in a brown seeded wrap or try a wholemeal pitta with The Happy Pear Pea Shoots and Sweet Beet Hummus or Mezze Hummus Masabkha.

When the weather gets a little cooler my lads love soup in a flask, Kinsale Bay do a good traditional flavour range but if they are a bit adventurous mix it up with Happy Pear Sweet Potato, Coconut & Ginger or Laragh Stuart Beetroot, Dill & Crème Fraiche and pack in a couple of Walsh's Blaas and a snack pack of Grantsown Tomatoes.

If I’m not serving an Ardkeen meal for dinner (Thanks Chef Brendan and team!), I’m very fond of a good free range or organic roast chicken and we have lots to choose from instore from Bertram Salter in Carlow or Sean Ring in Kilkenny to Regan Organic in Wexford. All produce fantastic juicy birds that are a perfect dinner and generally have enough meat left over for lunch sandwiches or pasta salad the next day. I like to mix in some Pure Food pesto with the pasta & chicken strips – its fast and really tasty.

But if the aul ham sandwich is really the winner in your house then make it a good one – bake a dry cure ham from O’Neill’s or Rosscarberry or Crowes Farm (they do an easy carve one) and slice it nice & thick on a soft buttered Blaa. Not only will you be saving – you’ll get loads out of it (depending on size & how thickly sliced!) but you’re also avoiding that unappetising reformed, processed stuff.

Water is the preference for drinks in our house but eldest has a sweet tooth so although we avoid the fizzy stuff I do add a little flavour with Mr. Jeffares Blackcurrant or Naturally Cordial so at least I know they are not full of artificial colours and flavours.

And so, to treats…I used to get homemade buns & cake in my lunch box but like I said I’m really not that imaginative of a cook and I don’t think apple tart every day would cut it! Flahavans Flapjacks are a winner and a wonder, packed full of good stuff and a great bundle of satiety when the hunger pangs hit. For that sweet tooth, I find some Soul of Crete chocolate tahini or Nutterly Nutritious almond butter on crackers or breadsticks are a great alternative to biscuits. Almonds really are a superfood - Dr. Coys do a chocolate covered nut and Nutmost Himalayan salt/Tamari flavoured are really moreish.

Yoghurts are another good option, full of calcium and probiotics if you choose well. Knockeen, Killowen, Glenisk, Glenilen and Velvet Cloud are a few you should check out.

Not forgetting the fruit, lots of local berries still in season but we’re counting down the days for the first harvest of Irish apples from Ballycross, Richard Galvin and Lucy Walsh – honestly was there ever a more perfect lunchbox food?!

So that’s my go to list for the lunches in this house, hardly comprehensive but I hope it’s given you some ideas on how to mix it up add some interest to the school bag. Now I’m off to hunt in cupboards for the top of those boxes last seen some time circa June!

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