Andrea Mara: 'Why I won't miss the tedium of the school lunchbox menu' 7 years ago

Andrea Mara: 'Why I won't miss the tedium of the school lunchbox menu'

I can’t wait for the school year to come to an end.

Not because I’m desperately looking forward to spending my summer days in (cold, windy) playgrounds, and not because I’ll ever get a lie-in. The reason I’m excited about summer, is because I’ll have two whole months’ break from making school lunches.

Eight long weeks away from washing lunch-boxes, and drying lunch-boxes, and that sigh-inducing nightly question - what will we give them tomorrow?

When we started out in the school system, I had great plans. I’d put together interesting, healthy lunches – some carbs, some protein, some fruit, some dairy – lots of variety and lots of colour. I even considered a wall-chart, which I would use to mix and match delicious lunch ideas, and plan the days out in advance.

Within two weeks, we’d established that my eldest daughter didn’t want tuna, didn’t want chicken, didn’t want turkey and didn’t want ham in her sandwiches. Only cheese. And she didn’t want wraps or pitta or bagels or crackers. Only bread. And she didn’t like this yogurt or that yogurt. And the fruit came home untouched every day because she “didn’t have time to eat it.”

At this point we’re sending in a small piece fruit every day just to look good in front of the teachers, then routinely giving it to the three-year-old when the girls get home from school.

Even the bottle of water is untouched most days – but woe betide the parent who forgets to pack it. On those days, the child (who is every other day absolutely content with school-supplied milk) is suddenly desperately thirsty for water, and extremely cross with the negligent parent in question.

My second child is slightly less picky, but that just adds to the confusion. Now we have to remember who likes “dark cheese” and who will only eat “light cheese” as well as a random list of fruits that are in or out of favour at any given time

“Mum, you know I never eat kiwis!”


“But what about last week, when you ate one?”

“That was different, I was just in a kind of kiwi mood that day. But now I hate them.”


Things reached a new low when my eldest started picking the cheese off her sandwiches and only eating the bread. I suggested I stop putting cheese on at all, rather than wasting it.

“No mum, keep putting cheese on. I like how the bread tastes when it’s had cheese on it and then it’s taken off.”

In case you have school-children who are less picky than mine, here’s a my wish-list – all the things I’d give them for lunch if only they’d eat them:

  • Green pepper and bacon omelette, cooked then chilled, and cut into thick slices
  • Pasta salad with cherry tomatoes and pesto
  • Pitta pockets with tuna, sweetcorn and mayonnaise
  • Bagels with smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber
  • Egg muffins with cheese and chopped red pepper filling
  • Ham, cheese and tomato filled quesadillas
  • Bacon, leek and cheddar quiche
  • Wholegrain crackers with hummus and carrot sticks
  • Chicken, lettuce and tomato wrap
  • Egg mayonnaise, spring onion and ham on soda bread
  • Wholemeal roll with turkey, cheese and cherry tomato
  • Cous cous salad
  • Ciabatta with bacon and avocado

…or if your kids are anything like mine; cheese sandwiches with nothing on the side– possibly not even cheese.