Kids’ Lunchbox and Snack Ideas.

The kids have been home for the better part of this school year due to Covid protocols where we live. Hopefully, face to face classes will resume in January and I for one cannot wait.

It has been great having the kids learn from home, but it is not easy. From longer screen time, not being able to physically interact with their teachers and schoolmates, a larger school work load…online learning is taking a toll on everyone involved.

The kids have always carried snacks and lunch from home. This has worked well for us so far- in terms of cost, being able to know what they are consuming and it doesn’t take as much time as one might expect.

Planning ahead is the greatest tip I have for this. As a Mum, my prime concern is for them to have healthy and tasty food, but I also need to take into consideration what is easier for them to consume in school; what is not time or labour intensive for me, we and will go well with the main family meal plan.

When my eldest child started carrying food from home, I worried she might not like what I have packed, so I decided to include her in the planning process. This has been working well for us so far.

Here are some tips in no order of importance:-

  • Focus on healthy, colourful, tasty food, that is easy to pack and keep. We do many cold meals, though the kids can warm from school, but cold lunches are great in this Kampala weather, they are quick to eat and clean up. No soup spills and the like.
  • Have a variety of meal options. I usually have 10-15 main meal ideas the kids like and approve, so I plan their meal choices around those options.
  • Include the children in planning for their meals. What would they like to carry? You can make a plan with them (keeping in mind the main family meal plan), so you are sure of less food wastage, they will eat what they chose and like, and you have less labour in shopping and prepping.
  • Make what you can ahead, if you can peel and chop or boil earlier it becomes easier to assemble in the morning.
  • Involve the children in packing the snacks and lunches too. My kids have become so good at this, I am really proud of them. Since they know what is on their menu, it is easy for them to pack what they are carrying for the day. For example, Fridays is a day for fries and a kachumbari salad for lunch. The kids are quite firm on this, but flexible enough on me to make plantain, green banana or even sweet potato fries, instead of the normal Irish potato ones.
  • Partitioned lunch boxes are a great option. One is able to separate the fruits and veggies, or main meal and salad. And I am also able to portion according to how much I know each kid is able to eat.
Portioned lunch boxes make work easier.
These lunch bags that come as part of the school backpacks are handy.

In terms of cost and nutrition. Fruits are a necessary snack. For this, I always put what they like and a fruit that is in season at the moment. For example, there are plenty of mangoes available at the moment, so their price is lower than other fruits not easily available at the moment.

Uganda’s great weather ensures we have plenty of sweet fruits available year round, so homemade juices are a great option too with the passion fruits and oranges that are easily available.

Basics for me in their bags are a bottle of drinking water, a small bottle of juice or flavoured milk, fruits and a healthy meal and snack. For example, a snack box for break will include a small sweet banana, popcorn, a muffin and some nuts. Popcorn is easy to make from home and doesn’t take too much time. Lunch can be rice balls, a simple salad and the fruit option can be grapes (sliced vertically), pineapple slices, or apple slices with some peanut butter on them.

Do not forget to pack some serviettes (paper towels) and cutlery for them. IKEA and many supermarkets have hardy plastic or melamine ones so you can keep your silverware safe. LOL.

This is a basic setup for the kids. Lunch boxes are at the bottom, then snack boxes and extra fruits. A water bottle and juice bottle are a must for them too.

Family main meal leftovers are also great for their lunchboxes. Leftover pasta makes a great pasta salad with some added veggies, tuna and mayo or yoghurt dressing.

Leftover steamed rice is great for rice balls, or fried rice which can be had warm or cold. Having canned tuna, chickpeas, sweetcorn and quinoa in the pantry is great to add to salads and sandwiches.

Simple sample meal : rice balls and an avocado salad.

Pancakes can be spread with jam, Nutella or peanut butter to make them more interesting and sweeter for the kids. Leftover veggies are great for savoury muffins, sweetcorn, zucchini and cheese make great options for this.

Other food options we like are :-

  • Salads- potato salad, pasta or quinoa salads are great with added cold meats such as tuna or leftover chicken. Veggies to bulk them can include chickpeas, sweetcorn, carrots, cucumber, red cabbage, beetroot, or even roasted zucchini and eggplant.
  • Fries or potato wedges. These could be sweet potato fries, green banana cutlets, plantain or yam fries.
  • Beef kebabs with a yoghurt sauce.
  • Orzo pasta is a fave here and can be used to bulk up a lentil salad.
  • Amaranth cereal bars
  • Sausage rolls.
  • Pancakes both sweet and savoury. Sweet ones can be spread with their favourite spread and sweetened with fruit. Savoury crepes work well with a veggie and cheese filling.
  • Leftover pizza.
  • Leftover chapati can make wraps of quesadillas, even frittatas.
  • Rice can be a salad, or fried rice. the kids also love beetroot pilau and celery rice which they can warm at school if they want to.
  • Carrots, cucumbers, celery stalks are great as a side salad with a small yoghurt sauce.
  • Quickbreads and muffins; banana bread, chocolate muffins, cheese and herb rolls are great options too.

Using what you have on hand and that which is easily available makes your work so much easier as a Mom.

Other tips to help the school mornings and school runs easier are:-

  • Having a good sleep routine. It is important for both you and the children to have a good night’s rest. Especially the kids who are still growing and need to let their minds and bodies rest and replenish lost energy. Having set times for bed and waking up is great for this.
  • Be prepared. Be stocked up on essentials to make mornings move faster. If you have to stop at the store on your way to drop them, chances are your kids will be late for school.
  • Have a morning routine for the family. Not a strict military style one, but a basic one that you and your family members have discussed and agreed upon. Simple ones like making beds immediately they get up, breakfast then shower and brush their teeth, oil themselves and dressed up work. This is how we teach our children independence, decision making and basic life skills.
  • Pack ahead for co- curricular activities. Sports and swimming gear can be packed the night ahead. Imagine looking for a swimming costume in the morning when they need to be out the door? it leaves everyone frazzled and not a good way to start the day.
  • An evening routine is great too. Once they get home from school, what is the first thing they do? When I pick them I always ask them to check if they have all their stuff with them. Once home, it is shower, a bit of play and tea time, homework then they can play some more before dinner is ready. Do not let them get way with dumping their shoes and bags at the door. I am firm on this. As messes such as these will end up with someone tripping on them and getting hurt, and also not teaching them how to be responsible for their things.
  • Check their schoolwork and let them also pack the books and stationery supplies before they go to bed once they are done with their homework; less chance of forgetting their homework at home or diaries.
  • Always keep the kids involved. Listen to them, talk to them, discuss with them what is going on in their school life. It makes them feel heard and seen and improves their self esteem.

As a parent, I am the adult and should lead by example. The kids being late is not their fault, it is mine if I did not take the time to ensure they are well prepared for the day ahead.

Let me also add that there is no perfect parent. We are all trying to do the best we can.

I will not lie and say I have all this down pat. No! I am still learning and I do drop the ball from time to time. However I cannot emphasize enough how much being organised has saved me time, money, energy.

Sure it’s easy for me to say do this and you will all be a calm, happy family. But as any parent will tell you, there are no guarantees. We can make the effort nevertheless. Nobody likes yelling or being yelled at in the morning to “hurry up!” And being more organized will reduce those frazzled mornings, don’t you think?

What do you pack in your child’s lunchbox?

Soy Bean Coconut Curry.

This recipe is an awesome meatless meal that can be adapted to any other kind of beans too. It was my first time to make soy beans.

I had bought these beans thinking they were the usual kidney ones, but once I opened the pack, I had to google what type they were.

In terms of taste they are not bad; They have an earthier taste than kidney beans, and seem not to absorb the curry flavours as well as other beans. The kids loved them though; so I guess they are not that bad.

Ingredients are 1 blended onion, ginger garlic paste, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tsp each cumin seeds, curry powder and garam masala, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1 can of coconut milk, chopped coriander, 2 cups already boiled soy beans, salt and pepper to taste and cooking oil. I used 1 tbsp of coconut oil.
Heat you oil and add the cumin seeds, followed by the onion. And the ginger garlic paste. Mix well and cook till they stop smelling raw.
Add the ground spices and lower heat to let the spices cook through well without burning. The oils and flavours release are what make this curry taste so good.
Next goes in tomato paste, still on low heat to avoid burning. It will have lovely colour and aroma. Do not forget your seasoning.
You can add a splash of water to avoid burning. Next go in the beans, mix well and check seasoning.
Let the beans cook in the spice mixture a while to get the flavours…
…then add your coconut milk. You can add a pinch of sugar too.
Let the beans simmer in the sauce on low for 20-25 minutes. Garnish before serving.

You can serve immediately, but I like making my curries and stews a bit ahead, then let them sit a while for the flavours to absorb well in the pot.

The result is a creamy coconut curry that’s tasty, colourful, aromatic and not hard to make.

I had mine with rice, the kids with chapati. It goes well with both.

Definitely worth a try.

Curried Black Beans in Coconut Cream.

The title is a mouthful I know, but the title had to convey what the meal is about. Curried, rich, colourful and each spoonful is flavour filled and creamy and decadent and oh so tasty.

Black beans are a wonderful source of fibre, antioxidants and are said to be great in lowering blood sugar, among other numerous benefits.

To add to the meal’s colour, taste and flavor, I added bell peppers, grated carrots and celery.

Let’s get started. You shall need:-

  • I large onion, diced.
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped.
  • 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste, crushed with some grated turmeric and a few coriander seeds.
  • 1 large grated carrot.
  • Chopped assorted bell pepper (green, red and yellow)
  • I bunch of fresh coriander, separate the stalks, leaves and chop all finely.
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped.
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil.
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds.
  • 2 tsp ground garam masala.
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste.
  • 1-1/2 cups of coconut cream
  • 2 cups already boiled black beans
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp kasuri methi.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Method.

Heat your pan and add the coconut oil, then the cumin seeds and let them sputter.

Add the onion, chopped coriander stalks and celery.

Let cook till onion is translucent, then add the ginger, garlic, turmeric mix.

Next go in your tomato paste and let cook for a while before adding the tomatoes, some salt as well as the spices.

Cover and let cook till the tomatoes are soft, spices well incorporated, then add the carrots and bell peppers. Mix well.

Once the vegetables are cooked for a short while, add the black beans and mix well till they are well coated with the spicy vegetable mix. If too dry you can add just a splash or two of water. Check your seasoning too.

Lower heat then add the coconut cream. Cover and let it simmer through for about 10-15 minutes, then add the crushed dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi).

Let it cook on low for a few more minutes. Switch off heat and add the chopped coriander leaves for garnish.

This meal is hearty enough on it’s own, but if you want to you can have it with some avocado on the side, or with some tasty pumpkin and coconut chapati whose recipe I shared recently.

Dig in and enjoy.

PS: As with all curries, it will taste much better the next day. That is, if you are lucky enough to have leftovers.

Colourful, tasty, healthy and easy to make. What’s not to like about this dish?

Sweet and Savoury Plantain Pancakes.

This is a tasty way to switch up your pancake game. Instead of the usual sweet fluffy breakfast fare, why not try a savoury pancake, served with baked beans, eggs and smashed avocado for a yummy brunch at home option?

Our ingredients for the pancakes are :-

  • 3 medium really ripe plantains.
  • Some coriander, a bit of onion, green pepper and garlic, all finely chopped.
  • 1 tsp mixed spices blend.
  • 2tbsp chia seeds soaked in 6 tbsp water ( as an egg substitute for 2 eggs).
  • 2 cups self raising flour.
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  • 2 cups of natural yoghurt.
  • 1 full tablespoon Coconut oil.
  • A splash of Apple cider vinegar.

Method.

Peel and mash your plantain into a puree. You can use your blender.

Then add the chia “eggs”, yoghurt and oil into the plantain puree, as well as the chopped vegetables mix.

Add the flour, mix well then add the mixed spices and a pinch of salt then the ACV till it is a thickish mixture.

Let the batter rest a while, before making them just like regular pancakes, but a bit smaller, using a tablespoon to add the batter to the pan.

They are fluffy, delicious, smell and look so good.

They are fluffy, soft, smell so good and very delicious. The ripe plantains offer their natural sweetness, the vegetables are hard to see but coupled with the spice offer a wonderful savoury flavour, the chia seeds act as the binder but still offer a bit of crunch and the acv boosts the pancakes’ fluffiness.

The pancakes will go well with baked beans, avocado and eggs for a complete colourful, tasty and nutritious brunch dish.

We had them with smashed avocado.

Roughly mash a ripe but firm avocado add a squeeze of lemon to avoid it turning black as well as add a fresh tangy flavour, a pinch of salt, freshly ground black pepper and a sprinkle of paprika.

You can choose to have them with scrambled eggs…

… or a poached egg.

It is all up to you.

Yummy, colourful, healthy and filling. Try this for a delicious weekend breakfast option.