Well, we've visited both sets of grandparents in Sussex and Brittany and spent a fortnight splashing in the pool and roaming around the lunar lava landscapes of Lanzarote, but now, our thoughts are starting to turn towards going back to school. I sat down and came up with a menu plan for the first time since mid-July and sighed resignedly when I realised that I wouldn't have to worry about lunches for too much longer because it will be back to packed lunches at school and work.
That doesn't have to mean boring soggy sandwiches and bashed-up bananas though. Hartley’s Jelly Pots is championing the back to school period with a new campaign, Hartley’s Your Lunchbox. The campaign invites parents to turn their hand to brilliant lunch creations and collect an exclusive Hartley’s lunchbox through its collector scheme. Jelly Pots, in a wide range of flavours, are the perfect size for children’s lunchboxes and Hartley’s are offering consumers the chance to collect twelve special edition green lids from across the No Added Sugar Jelly Pots range to claim a free Hartley’s lunchbox on the Hartley’s website. Each one comes complete with a sticker sheet of Hartley’s much loved characters and a sticker alphabet for children to personalise their lunchbox.
Hartley's asked BritMums bloggers to share their tips and advice for quick, easy and nutritious things for lunchboxes and, while I'm sure some of the "Bento mums" will come up with fabulously artistic creations that would wow the whole school dining hall, I'm going for some much simpler but nevertheless much appreciated lunchbox fayre.
Deeply dippy bout the veg we had ... ! I'm sure Right Said Fred weren't singing about veggie sticks, but there's something deeply appealing about chopping brightly coloured vegetables (carrots, red and yellow peppers, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, purple cabbage, ...) into sticks and serving them with a healthy dip, such as guacamole or low fat Greek yogurt with herbs and spices or garlic mixed in.
If you say the word salad to many kids, they'll say yuck and turn up their noses but there's more to life than limp lettuce ! Try replacing lettuce with white cabbage for a crunchier texture and add in all sorts of unexpected bits and pieces like chunks of carrot and apple or nectarine, raisins and cranberries or nuts. Add a bit of low-fat mayonnaise or Greek yogurt and toss it all together for a fruity twist on coleslaw.
Fun-shaped sandwiches will always be gobbled up with more enthusiasm that the usual squares, rectangles or triangles. These ones were made using shop-bought shaped sandwich thins, but you can also use cookie cutters for intriguingly-shaped mini sandwiches. If your kids like simple ham, cheese or cheese spread sandwiches, another top tip is making a week's worth of sandwiches in one go and freezing them, then popping one in the lunchbox to defrost in the morning. As well as saving time, it keeps the sandwich nice and cool until lunchtime and acts as a cool bag for the rest of the food.
Pinwheel wraps always go down well too - just smear something sticky like cheese spread, cream cheese or guacamole on a wrap (or on top of a slice of ham or smoked salmon on a wrap) then tightly roll it up. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for an hour then cut into short sections with a sharp knife. Use a cocktail stick to hold them in place in necessary.
Other simple things to throw in your child's lunchbox that always get an enthusiastic response are fruit kebabs (chunks of melon, orange, pear, strawberry, ... whatever your child likes, stuck on a skewer or cocktail stick), frozen grapes and, of course, Hartley's individual sugar-free jelly pots.
What do you put in your child's lunchbox? Have you got any more time-saving tips for busy mums in the back-to-school rush?