What’s for lunch Mum?

We’ve all heard it before; get organised and menu plan! Save time and money and get rid of the daily headache of thinking about what we are going to prepare for dinner half an hour before we should be serving it.

I have menu planning systems (weekly, monthly, shopping) and I do use them (most of the time!) but I was finding lunch particularly difficult to wrap my head around. I wanted it to be quick and easy but not just bread, bread and more bread. There were also occasions when I needed to pack lunch boxes and I didn’t want them to be nothing but sandwiches either.

My favourite lunch is what we call a ploughman’s plate. Sounds fancy, but all it means is that I pull out all the fruit, salad, veggies, cheese, left overs, cold meats or anything else I can spot laying about the fridge, cut it into pieces and arrange it on a plate. That works great when the fridge is stocked, the fruit bowls are brimming over and there is plenty of choice, but by the end of the week this is not a good option.

I decided to sit down and make a list of as many lunch ideas as I could come up with, barring leftovers and hot meals. Much of my list came from the excellent resources at Meerilinga plus a few ideas of my own.

I have printed it out, laminated it and taped it to the pantry door for inspiration at the last minute and to use when making up my shopping list for the week. You will find a printable version here.


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Recipes and food: Kids in the kitchen

Running the food processor is a job I often give to the youngest. They love to feed ingredients in the shoot and be in charge of turning it on and off.

One of my goals as a parent is to teach all of my children every aspect of running a household, with the aim that by the age of around 14 they would be able to independently manage their own household if necessary. I will not expect them to actually be doing all of it at once by that age, but they will have been fully trained in all areas to a point of competence; something I’m sure  their future husbands and wives will appreciate.

What does that look like now? Each child has their own personal responsibilities (chores) that contribute to our family. Personal care and general cleanliness, emptying dishwashers, hanging wet clothes, cleaning toilets and the like. Young children start on the easiest jobs and move on to the next level of responsibility as they are able.

Each child (bar the toddlers) also spends time in the kitchen with me; sometimes one-on-one and sometimes all three at once. They learn how to read a recipe, measure ingredients, make a range of meals and baked goods and assist with general meal preparation. I try to give them experience in preparing everyday food as well as special occasion food.

Another great job for the younger children is washing fruit and veggies. They usually get wet, but it allows even the youngest to feel that they have contributed to the meal.

By 5, my eldest could make a batch of muffins completely independently (bar putting them in the oven). He had learnt step-by-step how to read a recipe, take out the ingredients and equipment, measure and mix, spoon into pattypans and tidy up after himself. The girls were not quite at that point by the same age, partly due to reading skills not being at the same level and also due to me not having as much time to spend with them teaching the skills. They do however love to cook and are learning the same valuable skills, albeit a little slower!

Ideas for the youngest:

  • wash the fruit and veggies
  • feed pieces into the food processor or juicer
  • collect ingredients
  • stir mixtures (you measure, they tip in)
  • peel easy veggies like carrots
  • cut with a butter-knife (thin sticks of fruit, cheese or veggies into cubes or smaller pieces)
  • pull tops off cherry tomatoes and strawberries
  • tear lettuce for the salad
  • share ingredients onto dinner plates for a meal (great for counting practice)
  • roll mixture into balls (biscuits, meatballs etc.)
  • thread fruit, veggie or meat cubes onto skewers
  • dip chunks into flour, egg or breadcrumbs
  • taste test recipes (my children’s personal favourite!)
Recently we have spent more time with all three children together working production line style to stock the freezer for upcoming Christmas events. (We will be organised this year!!) They are rolling meatballs, threading chicken onto skewers, crumbing fish and baking biscuits, slices and cakes to freeze already sliced. When we need to provide afternoon tea, suppers, meals and the like, we can simply pull out the required amount of each item and defrost or heat then serve.

With several little ones underfoot I dislike any recipe for visitors that has to be made just before serving. I would much rather do the work ahead of time and enjoy spending time relaxing rather than in the kitchen.

Cooking is a skill that every adult should have and it is a saying in our house that “anyone who can read can cook.” We may not all love to cook, but we can all learn to do so to the point where we can put a nutritious meal on the table to bless our family and others. Pull out those cooking books and get cooking!

Recipes and food: Snacks – juice pops

Showing off their banana milkshake juice pop moustaches. (We call them juice pops regardless of the ingredients!)

Now that the warm weather is here again, it’s time to dust of the frozen popsicle molds and make some juice pops. These are so quick and easy to make (I can even ask the older children to do them for me) and keep almost indefinitely, so there is always a snack sitting in the freezer ready to go. I like the fact that they are not too filling as some of my smaller eaters don’t need much of a snack before their appetite for the following meal is affected. Also, if I make the ones without sugar syrup in them, they are a healthy snack that even the toddlers love.

I should have put a bib on!

What do you need:

  • A mold (shop bought popsicle molds, plastic cups and popsticks, plastic cups and teaspoons, or scooped out orange halves and popsticks.)

Ingredients:

  • juice of any kind with fresh fruit chunks
  • pureed banana and coconut milk
  • milkshake mixture
  • pureed rockmelon, sugar syrup and a twist of lime
  • left-over softdrink
  • pureed berries or fruit and sugar syrup

Simply puree your ingredients, fill the mold (adding fruit chunks to the bottom first if desired) and freeze. Adding sugar syrup to the juice pops helps prevent ice crystals forming, however I usually don’t include it to keep the children’s sugar intake down and they love them anyway!

Sugar syrup:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 strips of lemon zest

Heat the ingredients together until the sugar has dissolved. Remove zest and add to puree of choice before pouring into molds.