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School hacks for families that help save time, money and the planet and foster collaboration and calm

Resources & Research

Two Margarets (a centenarian and a teen), an innovative Anglicare mum and a justice warrior dad share their top tips for families to make the school years easier

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Routine and collaboration | Margaret Abot – St Bart’s, Toowoomba parishioner and future Prime Minister of Australia

When my dad was serving in South Sudan for many years I needed to help my mum with getting everyone prepped and ready for school. I have six brothers and sisters and there were four of us at school then – David who was 16, Anna who was 13, Abot who was seven and me. I was about 10 at the time.

My mum had work early in the morning. She used to ring me via Snapchat on my iPad to check in because I didn’t have a phone yet to see if we were all ready for school. My jobs were to make sure that everyone woke up, make the school lunches and make sure that Abot’s uniform was clean and everything. My mum finished work at 8 o’clock and I helped make sure that everyone was waiting outside the house by 8.15 am, so she could pick us up and take us to our two separate schools.

This was my routine. Routine is important because it helps you remember to get everything ready for school and helps you to be on time.

Two children meal planning

Finn and Emilia prove that weekly meal planning is child’s play at home in Brisbane in 2023

Meal planning | Sarah Hayward, Manager – Brand and Campaigns, Anglicare Southern Queensland 

My husband and I both work full-time, so the afternoons and evenings are always a rush to get homework, showers and dinner all done before bedtime. In particular, we were finding the time to decide what to have for dinner, cooking and then convincing the kids to eat was straining, so we started meal planning.

Each weekend we sit with the kids to develop our menu for the week ahead. They’ll choose two meals each (we have two kids) that they enjoy eating at the moment – because, let’s face it, it changes weekly! I’ll then make up the rest of the week’s meals based on what groceries we already have that need to be consumed.

On certain afternoons when the kids have sport, we have a small window to get them fed, so we have a go-to list of quick meals (to cook and eat).

Some examples of our family favourites (including some tips) are:

The same idea can also be used for making school (and parent) lunches, helping to ensure that there’s variety and that it actually gets eaten!

Another important benefit to weekly meal planning is that our food bill has significantly reduced because we’re only buying what we need and not wasting as much. Win-win!

Margaret Thurgood as a child in the 1920s

Margaret Thurgood during her primary school years in the 1920s

Prayer | Margaret Thurgood – centenarian Southern Region parishioner

In the mid-1920s when I was about seven years old I started school in Brisbane. I was driven to school every morning with my friend Helen after walking to her home in West End. She lived across the road from me.

Before we all got into the car, her mother used to enfold us in her arms and pray that we would be in God’s keeping all day. This morning prayer made me feel safe and protected throughout each school day. Helen’s mother was just a lovely woman.

I didn’t realise what a lovely act that was until I got older. I think her prayer also helped me give my heart to Jesus at an Evangelical Union meeting at the age of 18.

It wouldn’t hurt if all parents prayed for their children before they went to school every day.

Peter Branjerdporn and Ezra with school lunchbox hardware

Peter Branjerdporn and Ezra with some serious school lunchbox hardware in January 2023

Lunchbox switch | Peter Branjerdporn – Justice Enabler, ACSQ Justice Unit

My wife, Rachel, and I used to rush at the beginning of each school term to the nearest supermarket to see what lunchboxes were on special. We hated spending money on those flimsy bits of plastic because they always break before the first term ends, particularly if you put them through the dishwasher (who has time to wash them by hand, right?).

However, since then a friend introduced us to Planetbox! This stainless steel lunchbox is tough, easily fits into school bags, has little compartments enabling the kids to pack their own lunch more easily, eliminates the waste and cost of plastic wrap, and even comes with two leak-proof dippers with silicone lids.

It’s a great way to teach our kids about sustainability because buying fossil fuel-free quality products that last longer is better for Creation. Our two kids (one is in primary and one is in high school) are on to their fourth year with the same lunchboxes, so the higher set-up cost is worth it.

Moreover, the simple construction means the parts can be replaced over the years. Add the fact that all the different bits are dishwasher-safe, and the kids can also customise theirs with optional decal sets and a colourful lunchbox zip-up bag, makes it our greatest parent hack ever!

Editor’s note: If you have a school parent/caregiver or family hack to share with readers, please email an initial 2-3 sentence summary to the Editor, Michelle McDonald, at

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