Posted in Recipes

School Lunches – Easy as 1, 2, 3 ! or is it…..???


You are busy enough aren’t you? So here’s the short of it – grab a copy of this table and get your child to pick from 1, 2 & 3 and please (for your sake) make them make their own lunch

NOTE: Because of allergies most school policy is NOT to bring anything with peanuts in – so exclude peanut butter from above


You are busy enough aren’t you?

And now you are expected to make packed lunches because the kids are going back to school.

I am now a very wise woman on the last year of school lunch making as my 5th & 6th child enter their Leaving Cert year. So listen to me. Learn from my mistakes.

Make your kid make their own lunch. It is amazing what a child is capable of given the tools and the opportunity

Besides saving you time there is actually a better chance that they will eat it because child A knows that they don’t like apples and child B knows that they only like green grapes and by the time you’ve gotten to child Z you will have mixed up all the lunch boxes anyway.

I’m going to give you something – here’s a link to the school lunches 1,2,3 table I devised a few years back – print it out laminate it or just have it on your phone – get your child to make their choices themselves – perhaps even help out in shopping for what they want as well.

(Here’s another link if you would like to read the definitive guide to school lunches)

No.1 = RED rows – Choose from the top row in Red, pick a Protein, a Plus 1 & Dress it up
No.2 = GREEN – Pick 1
No.3 = PURPLE – Pick 1

Want to read even more?

I’ve been in your shoes – several times and I’ve written about it before too. So if you want even more ideas and to check out what I learned over the years follow the links below to check out these three posts.

2012, 2011, 2010

Good Luck!

xx Sheila

Posted in School Lunches, What's for Dinner Mom?

…and we’re back!

Just like that summer’s over & we’re back.  Back to school, work, sport and routine!  Today the ‘Evening Echo’ has published a couple of recipes from my second cookbook ‘Enjoy!’ along with some of my ‘tips’ for back to school.  I did some work on a school lunches table a few years ago which can be useful to print out and stick on the fridge when you’re running blank on lunchbox ideas.  It’s available here and if you’d like to read up on some of my ‘tips’ they’re here.

I’m trying to be more organised myself for the dinners and grocery shopping and implementing a routine in that department too – so far this week we’ve had
Lasagne (from ‘Gimme the Recipe’)
Chicken Casserole (from ‘Gimme the Recipe’)
& today it was Conchigile Pasta (from ‘Enjoy!’)

From my Cookbook Enjoy! Food photography Marta Miklinska
From my Cookbook Enjoy! Food photography Marta Miklinska

But what’s for dinner tomorrow? Who knows! I shopped on Sunday for the Sunday roast and for three days dinners and that’s about all my mind and fridge can cope with in advance.  I’ll be pulling out the recipe books again tonight to write my list for tomorrow.

Top, top, top tip – write a list before you hit the supermarket and try to stick to it!
‘Til next time, Sheila.


Posted in School Lunches

School Lunches

Year on year the same resolution – ‘the kids will make their own lunches’ – but it never happens.  Until now!  I got organised and put a system in place and it’s working.  The greatest balker is of course the eldest who has been getting away without making his school lunch for 12 years now so I’m getting the odd plea from his corner of ‘ah please mom will you just make mine cos I have to……’ but the answer is a simple but firm ‘no.’
Perhaps many of you have kids who already are making their own lunches and good on you, I’m glad to finally be joining the ranks.
School Lunches

School Lunches

School Lunches

School Lunches

School Lunches

School Lunches

The ‘system’ involves being well stocked in the foods that they like and providing plenty of choices.  I’ll get up in the morning, give the kids a shout and then head to the kitchen to plonk the lunch boxes, breads, crackers, salads, dressings etc. all out on the worktop.  It then takes them max 5 minutes to put together their lunch whereasI’ve been wasting 30 precious minutes every morning for the past number of years making the 6 of them. (Let me not count the hours, weeks, days that adds up to!)
A few tips:

  • If cooking a roast for Sunday dinner throw on an extra joint for school lunches.
  • If dinner involves chicken breasts throw on an extra one or two to reserve for sandwiches.
  • Use left-over potatoes to make quick & easy potato salad – mash in chopped spring onion & plenty of mayo.
  • Keep left-over cooked pasta and stir through some pesto.
  • Make up a large bowl of salady bits e.g. lettuce, cucumber, tomato, red onion but do not mix them together so they can easily pick out their favourites.  Keep covered with cling-film in the fridge.
  • Offer a selection of breads e.g. pittas, panini, bagels, wraps to avoid lunch-boredom
  • Offer relishes, pestos etc to up the taste

For lots more tips see School Lunches – The Definitive Guide and for a table of ideas download School Lunches Table.

I would love to hear how you tackle school lunch making.
Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in School Lunches

School Lunches

Yes, it’s that time of year again and I’ve dispatched the eldest two children back to school today.  The other four will remain at home until Thursday so I’m easing myself back into the lunch-making. I’ve yet to meet a parent who doesn’t despair at this chore and last year I put together ‘School Lunches – The definitive guide’ to help with the task.  I’ve since updated it and made a few additions such as vol au vent cases and quesadillas.  A friend of my twin girls used to bring empty vol au vent cases to school last year and they were mad for them.  The last blog posting I did was for quesadillas so have a look at that for some more inspiration.  Again, I will be attempting to get my lot to make their own school lunch at least once a week – it was a struggle last year and I gave up in the end but NEW BEGINNINGS and all that….:)
For the latest version of ‘School Lunches – The Definitive Guide’ click on the link below the picture.  Til next time, Sheila.

School Lunches

School Lunches The Definitive Guide

Posted in School Lunches

Pitta Pizzas

Still on the topic of school lunches today I’m sharing a standby that goes down particularly well with my boys.  Pitta pizzas.  Great served hot at home for lunch or an anytime snack but equally good cold in the school lunch box.  The nice thing about pizzas is that you get to choose the toppings you like and for the boys that usually includes some chopped ham or salami.

You will need:
1 pitta bread
sundried tomato pesto or tomato puree (or in case of emergency Ketchup!)
grated cheddar (or torn mozzarella or crumbled feta etc..)
toppings – in this case cherry tomatoes & chorizo

heat the pitta in the toaster to puff it up a bit and cut it in half
coat each half with tomato pesto
sprinkle on the cheese
add the toppings
grill until cheese is melted

These can be as fancy or as plain as you like.  My favourite would be cooked chicken pieces, feta, red onion & torn basil.  A sprinkling of dried mixed herbs could really spruce up a Margherita version.
The next question to be answered is how do you get the pitta pizza to work in a school lunch box.

Firstly allow it to cool.  Next cut a piece of parchment paper to put between the two halves to prevent them from sticking together.  Finally pop it into a sandwich bag and it’s good to go.

I will be posting an easy dinner recipe on Thursday but in the meantime happy lunch making!
Til next time, Sheila.

Posted in School Lunches

School Lunches – The definitive guide

The one thing more annoying than making school lunches is to have said school lunch make its way home again uneaten.

Introduction / Reality Check

The best case scenario will be that the child makes their own lunch but in my experience (10th year X 6 school lunches) this seldom happens. When I started to put some thought into this whole lunch-making process I came up with the idea of doing a chart, like a menu plan for the week with the child’s name followed by day of the week and their choice for lunch for each day. Then I sat back and really thought about it and said to myself FORGET IT!
Having had several variations of rewards charts, job charts and pocket money charts fall by the wayside I just know that this is not going to work. Great in theory but not in practice. For starters too much planning is required and secondly kids will think that it’s great perhaps once but then the novelty will be gone and filling it out again will be a struggle and probably forgotten until Monday morning when it’s too late. You may as well accept that neither child nor parent will be disciplined enough to keep on filling in and sticking to the lunch chart. So what can you do?

  1. Find out what your child likes (ask them, make suggestions and ask what their friends have that they would like to try)
  2. Keep varying the lunches
  3. Use your freezer to stock up on standby items like bagels, wraps, pitas etc. and stock your store cupboard with long life sandwich items such as tuna, sweetcorn etc..
  4. Try to home-bake once in a while and freeze cupcakes, scones etc in useable sized batches
  5. Try to get the child to make their own lunch maybe once a week

All schools will have their own lunch policies and most primary schools do not allow junk food. Some I feel go a little too far in not allowing any sweet things to feature in the lunchbox. Personally I see no harm in including a home-baked plain cupcake or a fruity muffin though the dentist may disagree with me. I would however advocate that the drink should just be plain water though I don’t agree with buying disposable plastic bottles of water and at home I have a filtered jug of tap water in the fridge that I use for filling reusable drink bottles.

The Contents:

What features in the lunchbox is entirely up to you and I have broken down suggested inclusions into tables below in the following areas:

  1. The main event:                      A filled pitta, wrap, sandwich, roll, ciabatta, bagel etc. or pasta, rice etc. as below.
  2. Fruit and / or vegetable:    Whole, in pieces or as a salad
  3. Filler:                                           Extra dairy or carb portion

Make up your own main event by choosing a protein filling, at least one ‘Plus 1’ and then dressing it up from the table below. Alternatively select a tried and tested filling combo.

Depending on how long the school day is you may want to include an extra main or filler. (For recommendations on what is recommended for a healthy lunch see )

Wrapping Things Up

Using a number of really small reusable containers that will just fit a sandwich or the fruit works better than using one large lunch box where there is a strong likelihood that the crackers will end up mushed into the side of the apple and the contents of the sandwich will decorate the entire box. Small plastic sandwich bags can be handy and are reusable if you give them a wipe out or a more environmentally friendly option ‘The Paper Lunch Bag’ (by Walsh Packaging, Roscrea) made with greaseproof paper can be reused and recycled. As with all food the first impact will be visual so try to make the food look as attractive as possible.

The main event: A filled pitta, wrap, sandwich, roll, ciabatta, bagel etc. or pasta, rice etc. as below
(try to steer towards wholegrain varieties if possible)

Pitta Wrap Sandwich
Roll Ciabatta
Bagel Pasta Rice Other Grain Quiche or Savoury Pie Other (3rd table)


Filling for the pitta/wrap/sandwich/roll/ciabatta/panini/bagel etc.
(Make up your own filling by choosing from the following or go with a tried and tested combo from the table below this one)

Protein cooked ham, chicken, chicken tikka, cajun chicken, beef, corned beef, turkey, sausage, rashers of bacon, salami, chorizo, tuna, sliced cheese, grated cheese, (vary type of cheese e.g. cheddar, mozzarella, goats, feta etc), soft cheese, egg sliced or mashed, salmon, hummus
Plus 1 Lettuce, avocado, tomato, sundried tomatoes, onion, pickle, cucumber, beetroot, sweetcorn, watercress, bean sprouts, spring onion, sliced olives, ratatouille (roasted aubergine, courgette, red onion , tomato, peppers), coleslaw, potato salad
Dress it Up butter, olive oil spread, mustard, mayonnaise, salad cream, relish, chutney, natural yoghurt, soured cream, fresh or dried herbs, chilli flakes, basil or coriander pesto, sundried tomato pesto, salsa, tapenade, hummus, guacamole, bread stuffing (breadcrumbs, butter, parsley, thyme, onion)
 Lazy Day!  Peanut butter, jam, nutella


Tried & Tested combos for pitta/wrap/sandwich/roll/ciabatta/panini/bagel etc.

BLT: bacon, lettuce, tomato
Ploughmans: cheddar cheese & pickle
egg, salad cream, water cress & diced onion
tuna, sweetcorn & mayo
feta, rocket, chopped sundried tomato, red onion & ballymaloe relish
chicken, rocket, mustard mayo, sundried tomato & parmesan
smoked salmon, cream cheese & squeeze lemon
cream cheese, cucumber, sundried tomato, pesto
crispy bacon, tomato, cream cheese, guacamole
grilled chicken, sweet peppers, rocket parmesan & caeser dressing
chicken & stuffing


Pasta, Rice & other alternatives
(Instead of throwing away leftovers, re-use them for lunches the next day)

Pasta Either plain with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent sticking together or with a light coating of a tomato puree sauce.
Increase nutritional value by adding any protein or plus 1 from the list above.
Pasta with peas, parsley, chives, zest & juice lemon, olive oil.
Rice curried rice with raisins, rice with a mix of ratatouille (roasted aubergine, courgette, red onion , tomato, peppers) etc.
Grains e.g. Couscous / Quinoa / Bulghar Wheat / Made up with with juice of half a lemon or lime or vegetable or chicken stock
Add in chopped and roasted veg e.g. courgettes, peppers, halved cherry tomatoes
Increase nutritional value by crumbling in some cheese e.g. feta or adding some spicy chopped chicken or chickpeas
Quiche Classic quiche Lorraine of ham & cheese or filled with mushrooms, bacon, leeks, onions, peppers, sundried tomatoes, regular tomatoes etc.
Savoury Pie With similar filing to quiche perhaps on a puff pastry base e.g. left over stilton tart or sundried tomato and goats cheese or caramelized onions and feta
Other Sausage roll, samosas, cornish pastie, soup



Whole Apple, orange, mandarin, satsuma, banana, peach, pear, plum, grapes etc.
Half Kiwi & provide teaspoon
Slice Melon, Watermelon, Pineapple, any of the above
Berries Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries
Chunks Create a fruit salad with any of the above cut into chunks & provide a fork. To preserve cut fruits such as apple and banana from browning, squeeze over the juice of a lemon and an orange.
Puree Stewed apple, pears, plums, berries, rhubarb & provide a spoon.
Smoothies Combine fruit, natural yoghurt and orange juice (unsweetened)
Dried Raisins, Sultanas, Dates


Vegetable / Pulse

Sticks Carrot , Cucumber, Peppers, Celery & perhaps provide a dip
Mixed Salad bowl containing any of: lettuce, avocado, tomato, sundried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, onion, pickle, cucumber, beetroot, sweetcorn, watercress, bean sprouts, spring onion, sliced olives, ratatouille (roasted aubergine, courgette, red onion , tomato, peppers), coleslaw, potato salad, chickpea salad, three bean salad (kidney beans…..),
Pieces Broccoli Floret
Dip Raita (sp); natural yoghurt, mint & cucumber, soured cream, tomato ketchup & mayo mixed, sweet chilli dip, hummus, pesto, guacamole
Soup Hot soup in a thermos flask



Yoghurt etc. & other Plain (who eats plain?) with your own fruit pieces or puree added
Fruit corners
Petit filous
Rice pudding
Custard – plain or with fruit puree added e.g. stewed apple / rhubarb
Petit Filous (difference)
Scone Wholemeal, plain, fruit or cheesy. Add butter & jam, lemon curd, cheese spread, pesto, tapenade
Cheese Sliced cheddar, triangle of soft cheese
Crackers / dried bread Cream crackers plain or with butter, jam, soft cheese, cheese slice, pesto, tapenade
Krisp bread
Soft bread / cakes Banana bread, brioche, mini pancakes, sundried tomato bread, cheese bread, olive bread, waffles. Add butter & jam, lemon curd, cheese spread, pesto, tapenade
Muffins / Cupcakes Plain or fruit
Cake Dried fruit cake, apple cake, rice cake
Crisps Pitta crisps & dip, pack of croutons
Popcorn Plain popcorn
Biscuits/Bars Flapjacks, Lunchbox oatmeal cookies (as per picture above), Shortbread, Plain cookie
Other Sesame sticks, bread sticks
Lazy Day! shop bought cereal bar / energy bar (if they are not allowed, take off the wrapper and wrap it in parchment paper)


This is an evolving guide so please leave comments with suggestions and they will be included in the next update of ‘School Lunches : The definitive guide’.  (Please note:  Please read Terms & Conditions section of the About page before you download this file)

Click Here to Download School Lunches The Definitive Guide

Til next time, Sheila

©Sheila Kiely, 2010