Sandwich free lunch box ideas with recipes

I thought I had better not ignore the back to school phenomenon completely…so here are some sand which free lunch ideas for the lunch box. Not that there is anything wrong with sandwiches! My girls have them regularly, it is just nice to have a few alternatives up your sleeve.

Some of these ideas are best heated which is not always an option I know. A small thermos container could help 🙂

SOUP
I make all sorts of chuck it all in soups, it is a great way to use up manky veggies in the bottom of the fridge and soup freezes really well! Freeze in small containers or reusable pouches for lunch boxes.

SPINACH PIES
Freezable, tasty hot or cold, they are perfect for lunchboxes.

250g cooked chopped spinach
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
250g Feta
250g Ricotta
1 c grated cheese
4 eggs
1/4 cup SR flour

Combine all ingredients and spoon into a prepared muffin tray, silicone works best for these. Bake at 180*c for 30-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when tested. Cool for 5-10 minutes in the muffin cases before cooling on a wire rack.

CRUSKITS OR RICE CAKES
Pack these in a separate sealed bag or container to keep them fresh and crunchy and pack toppings separately. Kids will love loading up their toppings and are more likely to eat something they have been involved in making or creating. Great toppings are ham, cheese, sliced avocado, sliced tomato, and for older kids cream cheese, a tin of tuna or a dip to spread.

TUNA PATTIES
This is my recipe and these are a favourite in this house! They freeze well and are delicious with Mayo and kids love the novelty of a dipping sauce.

3cups of cooked mashed potato, sweet potato and or pumpkin (any combination of)
1cup other cooked veggies finely chopped
2-4 small tins of tinned tuna, (depending on how strong you want them)
2eggs
1/2-1cup of bread crumbs (this really depends on how wet your mash is to start with)

Mix everything together and form into patties. You will need to go by feel a bit and add enough breadcrumbs so that the patties will hold together, not too wet or dry.
Bake on a tray lined with baking paper for about 30minutes at 180* or until golden brown.
Cool on a wire rack and freeze flat in a zip lock bag when cool.
I heat them straight for the freezer for about a minute each in the microwave. If you have more time, defrost in the fridge and then warm in the oven. Enjoy!

SCROLLS
Still bread I know but not technically a sandwich 😉
This basic scroll dough recipe works wonderfully every time and makes a big batch. Wraps these individually and place into a ziplock bag to freeze.

440ml water
1Tbs yeast
Pinch of salt
750g bakers flour
70g melted butter or oil

Mix dough, kneed well and then cover and leave in a warm place to double In size. Knock back the dough and roll into a large rectangle. Place your fillings evenly over the surface, fillings are limited only to your imagination! Roll into a log then cut into 3cm pieces and place into a round silicone cake form. Allow to prove again for 15 minutes before baking at 180*c for 45-50 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

CHEESE AND VEGGIE MUFFINS
These are a great veggie smuggling option!…and freezeable 🙂

2cups SR flour
2cups grated cheese
2cups grated veggies/ ham/ bacon/ chicken etc
1 egg
1/4cup to 3/4cup milk (As much as you need to wet the mixture enough to combine everything together, depending on how wet your veggies are)

Mix and spoon into muffin tins (these can stick incredibly if not lined or greased…be aware! )
Bake at 180*c for 30-40 minutes, cool on a wire rack.

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Starting solids

Well the plan was to put it off for as long as possible, it’s just another job to do after all, but it seems Josie, now 5months old, is busting for food. She has been watching every mouthful taken around her for some time now and has had the odd chew on an apple core, which she did not want to give up! She doesn’t sit very well and I was using that as the perfect excuse, but really, she’s busting!

So I thought I’d share with you how I make starting solids easy. There’s nothing special about what I do and it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before but it may be helpful for someone who hasn’t been there before :-).

Rice Cereal?

You could start with Rice Cereal, however this is not as nutritionally necessary as the companies who manufacture it would have you believe. It can be a handy to have in the cupboard to thicken up your fruit or veg purée if they end up being too runny, and it is quick and easy to prepare if you are desperate and baby is starving now! I have used it with my two older girls however this time I just ground some oats down very fine and use this instead. You could mix with breast milk or formula, I can’t be bothered expressing a few mls just for this so I just mix with boiling water, this cooks it almost instantly as the oats are so fine.

Make it easy, prepare the freezer

It really doesn’t take long to do a big cook up and purée a variety of fruits and veg. I always cook and freeze everything separately so that I can mix and match different meals easily. Most popular with the babies are, apple, pumpkin, sweet potato, prunes (in moderation 😉 ) and pear, also banana and avocado although these do not need to be cooked. Less popular, with my bubs anyway, are broccoli, carrot, beans, cauliflower and zuchinni. Mix these less popular veggies with some fruit, pumpkin or sweet potato and you should be right :-). So steam your fruit and veg, purée and then freeze in ice cube trays or small containers. You can also freeze blobs on a tray or large lid. Once frozen transfer to ziplock bags, label and date.  These will keep safely in the freezer for months.

Breakfast, lunch or tea?

So what time of the day is best for babies first meal? Really I would say don’t over think it too much, just do it at a time that is easiest and suits you best. Josie has been having her food just before the rest of us have tea. Being breastfed, I have less and less milk for Josie as the day goes on, so later in the day seems the best time for her to have food and fill up (in hope for a peaceful evening).

Baby Led Weaning

I have not done a lot of research into this, but from what I understand it basically involves offering whole pieces of food rather than purée or mash. I do a combination of purée and whole foods. As I said Josie has enjoyed several chews on apple cores and I would not hesitate to let her suck on and gum most fruits and veggies. There is however, something very special about offering baby a spoonful of perfectly smooth goo, I love it.

What first?

Rice Cereal if you wish, or I have used oats this time, after that any fruit or veg.  Offer just one at a time and don’t offer anything else new for a few days and watch for any reaction. While allergic type reactions to fruit and vegetables are uncommon some may upset babies stomach or cause constipation.  Watermelon made my older two very cranky and uncomfortable when they were little and carrot always bunged them up :-/. You will soon work out if there is anything to avoid!  If baby does get constipated cooked, puréed prunes work wonders, in moderation though!  Also always offer cooled boiled water with food, slightly warm (yuck) seems to go down a bit better.

Most of all, enjoy!  And beware of the mess that is to come 🙂

The depths of my freezer…

If you read my freezer post

https://mummaplusthree.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/the-world-inside-my-freezer/

you might remember that I mentioned that the top drawer was a treasure trove of random food items which could justify a post all to itself.  After all the Christmas festivities it was looking rather worse for wear and in need of a quick clean out (quick because I hate this job, too cold!!).  This may as we’ll be a chance for me to share with you just exactly what lives in this drawer.

The before shot

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Have I mentioned that I love ziplock bags?? 😉

Veggies

Peas and Corn (normally also beans, I’ll put that on the shopping list now).  I always put these into ziplock bags, I find it makes them much easier to deal with, especially when you are holding a baby and only have one hand free.

Ginger, peeled and cut into 1cm chunks

Spinach, cooked, drained and chopped

Dried Tomatoes (my Mum dries these in their thousands). These are plain, I use them straight from the freezer in cooking or add some olive oil and herbs to store in the fridge.

Cooked beetroot cut into chunks.  Last year we had tones of beetroot from the garden.  So much I didn’t know what to do with it so this is what I resorted to.  I have used it to make dips although it did seem a little watery on defrosting, I should probably chuck the rest since it’s now 12months old…

Fruit

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Berry Sorbet frozen into cubes

Lemon Juice, (a glut of lemons from a friends tree)

A random banana that someone obviously decided they wanted to peal and not eat :-/

The juice from tinned peaches.  We don’t often have tinned fruit but when we do I couldn’t possibly throw this sweet stuff out.  It’s delicious wizzed up with some fresh fruit to make Sorbet.

Meat (cooked)

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This is as random as it gets!

One Chop

One Rissole

Cooked Mince (suffering from a little freezer burn)

Shredded Chicken, I always try and have this in the freezer, it’s great to put in rolls for Daddy’s lunch.

Other random bits

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Thermomix Veggie Stock Concentrate.  Due to the high salt content this doesn’t freeze hard but the low temperature still preserves it.  I keep half the batch in the freezer and the rest in the fridge to use first.  You could store it in the freezer and use it straight from the jar.

Blobs of Truffle Paste

Blobs of Tomato Paste

Blobs of Pesto

half a packet of Suet

Bread Crumbs

Crumble Topping, yum!

That’s it, just a quick clean out, perhaps I should do the whole freezer one drawer at a time, it wasn’t such a horrid task after all…and now it looks slightly more organised…I think 🙂

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Muuuuummmm! I’m hungry!

Children can be hungry little beggars! As in hungry now…right now! Not in half an hour when you have had time to prepare something. Now!

If you have read my freezer post here
https://mummaplusthree.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/the-world-inside-my-freezer/
you would know that having the freezer well stocked is how I try and combat this dilemma. So I have compiled a list of snacks and meals that can be frozen in child sized portions, just especially for these starving moments 🙂

Snacks first.
Freeze all these things flat in ziplock bags so they don’t stick together.
Pikelets
Banana Bread
Mini muffins
Cheese and veg muffins
Cakes and slices

Fruit or Milo icy poles (use a small container and poke in a wooden stick when partially frozen if you don’t have moulds)

Stewed puréed fruit frozen in small containers or reusable pouches.

Balls. We love balls! These Apricot Balls are the most popular thing ever in this house and I love making them because these ones are healthy, not full of condensed milk.

https://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/better-homes-gardens/tv-and-video/video/watch/17973050/fast-ed-apricot-coconut-balls-ep-24-12-07-2013/

Any dried fruit could be used in this recipe and google will find you days worth of different recipes.

Another favorite is these Banana Oat Balls. Any food processor will work for these 🙂

http://www.recipecommunity.com.au/desserts-sweets-recipes/healthy-raw-cookie-dough-bites-back-school/137912

Lunch and Dinners
The easiest way to build up supply of frozen kiddy dinners is to freeze a portion or two each time you have extra when dishing up a meal. Freeze it straight away though, don’t wait until you have finished eating because those leftovers have a miraculous way of disappearing!

Pasta
Most pasta dishes freeze quite well, some may go a tad mushy when defrosted but my kids don’t seem to mind if this happens. You can also freeze plain cooked pasta and defrost and heat by covering with boiling water for a few minutes. I know it only takes 10 minutes to boil pasta but this is handy when you only want a few pieces. Small portions of Lasagne can be wrapped in glad wrap once cool and frozen, these do take a bit longer to defrost though.

Rice
Fired rice freezes well and defrosts nice and quickly without mushing too much. Risotto and other rice dishes seem to go fairly sticky but it is worth experimenting to see what works for you.

Mini Cheese and Spinach Pies (don’t ask me for a recipe, I can not ever get them right but my Mother dear always makes a batch for my freezer when she visits and the girls love them!)

Soup in small containers or reusable pouches.

Tuna Patties of course! If you haven’t seen the recipe for these on my Facebook page you really need to find it and try them 🙂

Cooked sausages in ziplock bags.

Poached shredded chicken. This is great to put in rolls and sandwiches, mix through a salad, pasta or for a kids tasting plate. The Organised Housewife has a great recipe here

http://theorganisedhousewife.com.au/lunchbox-ideas/homemade-shredded-chicken-breast-for-school-lunchboxes/

Sandwiches. Yes sandwiches!
I only recently discovered this, but sandwiches freeze very well! Use fresh bread and fillings that will not go soggy on defrosting. So far I have tried
Cheese and Vegimite
Cheese and chicken
Cheese and ham
And they have all worked very well. Just be sure to wrap well with Glad Wrap so they are air tight. They only take a few hours to defrost, perfect for lunch boxes.

Mostly it’s down to trial and error, if you are not sure if something will freeze well, just freeze one piece overnight and then see how it defrosts.

Also a food safety note on freezing food. Wherever possible food should be defrosted in the fridge or quickly in the microwave, not left out at room temperature. Once something is defrosted it should be consumed straight away and not reheated again or refrozen. However, if something is frozen raw, defrosted and then cooked it can be frozen again.

So there you go, I hope you now have some new ideas, or some inspiration to add to or create a stash of kiddy quick fixes in your freezer.

The world inside my freezer

Anyone who knows me well knows that I LOVE my freezer. I would honestly be very lost without it. I have most definitely inherited this love from my Mum and Grandma, although not quite to the extend of my dear Grandma who freezes every last scrap of vegetable steaming water in old margarine tubs to be used later in soup. She does make delicious soup!

You know the way that small children can be completely happy and content one minute and then absolutely starving the next, well this is why I love my freezer. It is also handy for the times when I manage to get totally carried away with something and then realize that I am the one who is absolutely starving or that it’s only 15 minutes until tea time.  Also for when guests pop in at meal times and I was planning to have Weetbix or toast 😉 Also for lunch boxes…and the list goes on.

For all this to work you really do need some kind of system for organising your freezer. Searching through the back of your freezer for something that you were sure was there last month, is really not fun, it’s just far too darn cold in there. You need to have a general idea of where to look. Mine works like this.

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My husband just saw me taking a photo of the freezer and he thinks I need to get a life, lol 😉

anyway…
Top shelf – leftovers frozen in small portions for the girls

Middle shelf – bread, rolls, sorbet, ice cream, anything else that is bulky

Bottom shelf – meals in portions enough for 1-2 adults
Casseroles, curries, pasta sauces (with or without pasta), fried rice, cooked meat and veggie pie fillings, lasagne, roast meat in gravy (this freezes very well which surprised me and I think now it’s a favorite) and the list goes on!

Top Drawer – all sorts of random stuff generally in zip lock bags (I think this drawer could warrant a whole post for itself!)

2nd drawer – raw meat, bacon frozen in bags of 4/6 rashers.

3rd drawer – dairy and fruit, odd combination yes. I like to have grated cheddar and Parmesan, whipped cream and cream cheese, these all freeze very well and can save precious time and effort, or a trip to the shops, while cooking. I make butter and freeze it in 250g blocks and freeze the buttermilk in either ice cubes or 100/200ml lots.

4th drawer – sweets and savouries for lunch boxes. These live in zip lock bags, I love those things! Muffins, cakes cut into pieces, sliced Banana Bread, pickets, scones will all defrost in a couple of hours in a lunch box and make for easy packing in the morning. And not only for kids lunches, making your lunch is one of the easiest ways to save LOTS of money. I make my husbands lunch almost everyday purely and simply because I’m a tight ass and can’t bear the thought of him buying lunch everyday lol!

I think I sense a few upcoming posts about freezer cooking, if you don’t cook for the freezer already I can highly recommend it! It has saved us many dinners of Weetbix in the last few months since number three has come along 🙂

Have I inspired you to clean out your freezer?  Or cook double tonight to add to your frozen collection?