For men of certain age, the idea of packed lunches is, let’s face it, faintly depressing. Back at school, limp sandwiches were inescapable – namely cheese, Vegemite or peanut butter and jam. Irrespective of the filling the sandwich always emerged look crumpled and sweaty, unable to shake off that lingering Glad-wrap tang. They were hastily swapped in the school or simply dumped in the bin.
George Georgievski sees things differently. The Geelong dad is revolutionising kids’ lunchboxes after perfecting his creations for his two daughters aged seven and 10. George, who previously ran his own flooring business, began sharing his colourful recipes on his Instagram feed @schoollunchbox and it quickly took off. He’s now an ambassador for Jamie Oliver and the author of a recipe book, Lunchbox Express. Here, George explains, how you can pimp your kids’ lunches and make them less fussy in the process.
TFH: What do you reckon is the biggest mistake that parents make with their kids’ lunchboxes?
George Georgievski: The biggest mistake is the convenience of putting, dare I say it, shit in their lunchboxes. Supermarkets now have a section called “lunchbox treats” and it’s all packaged, processed, sugar-infested rubbish. It’s that fast-food mentality that suggests you can just grab a packet of this, grab a bar of that and that’s fine, because it says “lunchbox” on it.
TFH: Certainly, there seem to be more options than ever.
GG: Yes, but kids are becoming fussier as a result. That’s partly because as parents, we want the best for them. You make them something and they don’t eat it and so you go, “OK, then I’ll make you something else,” or “I’ll order you something else. What do you want?” Because we just want our kids to eat. So we’re turning them into fussy people because we’re giving them too many options.
When we were growing up it was a case of “Here’s your food – that’s it.” There was no second option. Regardless of whether you threw it away or not, that was all you were going to get. I guess we try and love our children too much these days and give them all these options. But we’re making them fussier in the process.
TFH: So what’s your magic formula when it comes to making your kid’s lunchboxes.
GG: It’s simple: try and utilise as many colours of the rainbow in the form of fresh produce, like apples, capsicum, tomatoes, cucumbers, whatever. Use the colours to inspire their lunchboxes.
Work towards the number five, which equals three veggies and two fruit. If you can organise their lunchbox around those five ingredients, they’re going to get enough nutrition and vitamins to get them through the school day.
TFH: But you also believe that taking your kids along with you on the grocery shop can actually be a good way to save both time and money.
GG: Absolutely, it helps because it teaches kids the most important thing when it comes to food, and that’s respect. Take them to a greengrocer or a supermarket and get them to pick their own fruit and veg. Get them to choose the variety of apples they want or the colour they want. That way they’re playing a role in putting their lunchbox together and they get a sense of ownership.
When I reach the checkout, I also give the card to my girls so they can tap. So they understand that there’s a transaction that needs to take place for the food to be purchased. They understand that it costs money and that there’s a value attached to the food.
At home it’s also great if you can have a simple little veggie patch or even a pot plant with some carrots in there just to show your kids how food needs water and nurturing so it can grow and you can enjoy it. Simple things like that teaches kids respect for food, which is very important.
TFH: What else do you think can help you to lift your lunchbox game?
GG: A bit of creativity. So what I do is instead of just sticking two pieces of bread together, like you had growing up, I’d use the same ingredients but present it differently. So I’d create a ravioli, dumpling or spring roll, all out of the same ingredients that we’d normally use. (In his book, George shows how you can flatten the bread with a rolling pin to make these different shapes.)
But you’ve got to keep it simple – my girls’ lunchboxes are no fuss, easy, and fun. That’s the most important thing.
GEORGE’S LUNCHBOX COMMANDMENTS
*Include five fresh items in every lunchbox.
*Stick to bite-sized portions – kids are too busy to mess around with large portionS,
*A squeeze of lemon juice will keep fruit slices from browning.
*Drizzle pasta with a little olive oil to stop it going sticky or soggy.
*For perfect hard-boiled eggs boil for eight minutes.
*No bread? No worries! Use lettuce cups instead and ramp up the greens.
*A melon baller works wonders with all kinds of fruit.
*Always cut the sharp end off any skewers.
Tips taken from Lunchbox Express by George Georgievski
All images from Instagram: @schoollunchbox