George Georgovski says the best thing about his job is when he hears feedback from other parents. “Someone just got in touch to tell me their child’s attention span has improved so much because they cut out sugar,” George tells Babyology.
It’s been 18 months since the Geelong, Victoria dad started School Lunchbox, a blog where he gives parents recipes and tips for making nutritious school lunches. Since he started, he’s done cooking segments on The Morning Show, he’ll soon be travelling to the UK and America to do cooking demonstrations, and he even got kudos from Jamie Oliver himself.
“That day was my wake-up call”
While the Georgovski’s morning routine runs at peak efficiency, it wasn’t always that way.
Three years ago, the full-time flooring business owner was at home sick from work. “I own my own business, and normally I’d be out of the house before anyone was awake,” he says.
“The day I was home, I heard the chaos, I saw my wife stressed out and I thought, ‘No parent should have to do this alone.’ That day was my wake-up call.
“I rolled up my sleeves and said to my wife, ‘It’s not fair you’re doing all this alone’.”
These days mornings look very different. George wakes at 6am, makes a coffee for his wife Marina, cooks breakfast for five-year-old Kiara and eight-year-old Anela. Then he puts together incredible school lunch boxes that would even have a grown-up looking forward to lunch, and goes off to work.
If that sounds pretty dreamy, it gets better. Making lunches is an extension of how he thinks a household should run.
“There’s no mum or dad roles, there are just parenting roles. If you walk past the kitchen and it’s dirty, you clean it,” he says.
And if your family’s day begins in chaos, you pitch in a hand to make it better.
Delicious school lunches in 10 minutes or less
Keeping school lunch interesting is a challenge for any parent, but George has made it into a fine art. “I believe in the philosophy of five. Kids should have three sources of veggies and two of fruit. I use the rainbow as inspiration. If a lunchbox is colourful, kids are getting their nutrients from a good variety of sources.”
Across Facebook and Instagram, nearly 50,000 followers tune in to see photos and recipes of George’s creations. “My page is popular because it’s not out of the ordinary. I’m not making pandas out of rare tropical fruit.”
Take the ravwich, which is made from cheese and roast chicken sandwiched between two flattened slices of bread and cut into ravioli-like squares.
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With School back in full swing here are my top 3 sandwich creations, cool alternatives to the typical sandwich however using the same ingredients. They're bite size which makes them fun to eat and they're also quick to make. First one, Rav-Wich – my take on the Italian Ravioli. Second one, Spring-Wich – my take on the Chinese Spring Roll. Last one, Sand-Ling – my take on the Dumpling. I made all these live on the Morning Show in September and with school back I thought I'd share them with you. Remember to add any ingredients you like. Enjoy! #schoollunchbox #schoollunch #inspiredbygeorge #bentoinspo #creativelunch #kidslunch #healthykids #creative #creativesandwich #stuckonyou
Something like the ravwich forms the protein serving in a lunchbox that also contains fruits, veggies, and a yoghurt. It almost seems like something us mere mortals can achieve, even within the 10-minute time frame George sets himself.
How to NOT blow the grocery budget
Although it seems like such an undertaking might be expensive, George sets a $50 budget for school lunches every week.
A shopping list might include things like one bag of carrots, blueberries (if cheap), avocado, eggs.
He usually tries to shop in season, but when he splurges on one item, he’ll pull back on another. “If I blow the budget on mangoes, then I buy a whole roast chicken for $7 at Coles and separate the meat. It’ll keep in the fridge for three or four days and then I don’t need to buy ham or turkey.
Working with picky eaters is a numbers game
George says there are three parts to transforming picky eaters into the sort of diverse palettes that seem to only belong to French children.
“The trick is to use their school lunch box as a tray for dinner and lunch at home,” he says. “It gets them used to eating from it.
“Over the school holidays, I made my kids their lunches every morning before work, put it all in their bento boxes. When they were hungry, they’d go to the fridge and take it out. It stopped them nagging my wife about food.”
But what if they won’t eat anything that’s in the lunchbox? The second part to transforming picky eaters is about numbers.
“There are six compartments in their lunch boxes. I fill five of them with things they love, and put an experimental item like broccoli, in the sixth.
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Friday! Hallelujah! Today we have a slight Italian feel with my Rav-Wich creation, I’ve got turkey and cheese ? inside, I’ve got little tomatoes ? on the vine with cucumbers ?, sliced carrot ?, mandarins, popcorn ? from my buddies at @whole_kids, nectarine with a sprinkle of blueberries… please don’t forget to put the white wine in the fridge to celebrate another week of parental survival. ? #schoollunchbox #schoollunch #stuckonyou #bento #inspiredbygeorge #kidsbento #healthybento #kidshealth #healthykids #dadlife #aliceinchainsrock
“My analogy is this. When I was younger and I went out with my good-looking mates, at the club I looked half OK standing next to them,” he laughs. “Put broccoli next to a rainbow of food kids love, it looks attractive, and they might try it.”
Shopping with his daughters is also an important part of getting kids to love food.
“Every Sunday I take my girls to the supermarket. If we need apples, one girl likes pink lady, the other likes green, so they go off and choose what they want,” he says. “It’s my way of teaching them to respect food.”
It also piques their natural curiosity. “The other day they decided we should try lychees. Kids are curious and getting them involved with shopping helps get them interested in food.”
In the short term, George’s methods might seem laborious, but the hard work pays off. His formerly picky children will now experiment with new foods, they eat nutritious lunches every day, and the old battles over food are gone.
“We’re on a mission dad”
In the 18 months since he started his blog, George has seen big changes in his family, and he’s spreading the message to the world.
George advocates for healthy eating in schools and is talking with Victoria’s shadow education minister about introducing regulations for canteen food.
“There are only guidelines right now, and unfortunately, canteens tend to cook things that are profitable,” he says.
“There are 80 schools in the Geelong region, and I want us to be a pilot for the state government to regulate canteen food. I want to get funding to go to schools to talk to parents about how to pack healthy school lunches.”
“It’s all for my daughters,” he says. “They’re the most important thing. We’ve had a lot of media coverage, and when my daughters see their pictures in the paper they say, ‘we’re on a mission to get kids eating healthy, Dad’.”