Lunchbox Renewal & All-Purpose Citrus Boost Dressing

You know you’re in trouble when your lunchbox board on Pinterest fails to spark any excitement.

All around us, a spring renewal of sorts is in progress. My Facebook friends are donating their entire closet of clothes in favour of something called a ‘capsule wardrobe’. My neighbour is filling half his driveway with junk every Wednesday for the garbage man to take. And in nature, florescent greens are overtaking the soft browns with each passing day.

One thing hasn’t changed: the doldrums of the bagged lunch. Danny and my boys take one every day, but the school year is long and we still have two months until summer vacation. Can we revive the lunchbox? I think so.

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29 New Lunchbox Ideas

If the current weather is trying to get us in the mood for heading back to school, it’s working.

Yesterday morning felt like a brisk autumn day; I sent the boys outdoors with hoodies and socks, in addition to their usual attire, and they returned a short while later to request hot cocoa. It feels as though summer has been even more fleeting than usual, leaving me wishing for one more weekend to barbecue and enough heat to turn my green tomatoes to red.

Maybe a few more hot days are to come, maybe not, but instead of grasping at summer like I usually do, I’ve decided to look ahead to fall – the return to books and the inevitable school lunch.

If I have a lunchbox plan down on paper – a handful of ideas, a shopping lists, new items to try and old items to reintroduce – I’m good. Then I can take it morning-by-morning, a week at a time. This post is just as much for me as it is for you; I tend to forget what is in the archives and how much we enjoyed certain recipes.

So let’s take a look at some new ideas for school lunches together and get ready to make a plan, because, ready or not, that first day of school is coming up soon.

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Feed a child, nourish a mind (Recipe: Tuna Cheddar Lunchbox Bites)

When my children first started school, I learned a vital lesson in nutrition, communication, and well, Mothering 101.

Here’s what happened: occasionally the boys would come home irritable; falling apart at the slightest grievance, snappy, and unable to focus. I’d power through those tough afternoons, admittedly breathing a sigh of relief when they were down for the night. As part of the evening kitchen clean-up, I’d tidy up their lunch boxes; often so tired or distracted that I hardly noticed what was left over.

Eventually, I connected the dots. On the difficult days, there was considerable leftover food in their lunch. Perhaps they had wasted time during their lunch hour or disliked what I had packed for them, but whatever the reason, their energy hadn’t been sustained for the whole day. It was a humbling moment for me as a mother. Of course. I had blood sugar crashes, so why wouldn’t they?

We started talking more about their preferences (how fortunate we are to have options). I encouraged them to help me prepare their lunch boxes in the morning and they had more of a say in fruits and vegetables. We baked together on weekends: chocolate chunk cookies, oatmeal muffins, and zucchini bread and froze the goodies for future lunches.

It broke my heart to think of them going hungry at school; I should have communicated better. Fortunately those crotchety after-school attitudes are now a thing of the past.

After that learning experience, I’ve had a heart for less privileged mothers who daily see the hunger signs in their own school children (oh, how they watch and ache) but are unable to provide even the most basic of lunch.

Today’s post is a little unusual, but it is one I am proud to share. In short,  I’ve partnered with a group of food bloggers to help provide school lunches for South African children. It’s really exciting! I’m also sharing a recipe for an absolute favourite (and totally simple) lunchbox staple, so please keep reading.

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Homemade Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter

Over the years, I’ve spent a goodly amount of time dabbling in homemade nut butters (several of my favorites are in my first cookbook, Food in Jars).

I really enjoy taking a product that’s most often brought home from the store and translating it into something I can make at home. It’s an added bonus that the homemade version is almost always fresher, made with better ingredients, and contains less sugar.

roasted sunflower seeds

My most recent batch was inspired by a comment a friend made online recently. Her daughter’s favorite sandwich was Nutella on whole wheat bread but her new school had a strict nut-free policy (understandable with all the allergies kids have these days). They were looking for a lunchbox replacement but were coming up empty.

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Zucchini Apple Mini Muffins

This year has been the first year that I have been able to grow a really successful garden. I’ve tried many summers before, but the disappointingly meager results didn’t ever seem to justify all the time and effort spent on the garden.

This summer, I finally met with some garden success. My monster of a zucchini plant alone makes all the weeding and watering feel like time well spent. We are pulling one or two good sized zucchinis off the plant almost every single day. It is incredible!

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