I can already picture her little, eager hands grabbing a slice of this homemade banana bread from her lunchbox. Firstly, inspecting it briefly by slowly turning it over in her hands a couple of times – her typical modus operandi – then, when deciding it looks appetising, raising it to her face without delay.

The thought brings a smile to my face.

Banana bread is very popular. Not only in children’s lunchboxes, but as a staple in coffee shops and cafes around town. It will certainly make a regular appearance in baby Mélanger’s daycare lunch box – as well serve as breakfast-on-the-run for the busy working mum I know I will soon be!

Fortunately, as time will be a premium, it is great to know this banana bread will only take me 10 minutes to prepare.  And compared with the cost of a packet mix (even with bananas at their current uncharacteristically high prices), it is also surprisingly good value (see results below at end of recipe).

Being able to make lunchbox treats from scratch for my daughter is important to me, but I know not everyone has the time (or patience!). But here is how I will be trying to save on time and cost so I can continue to prepare homemade over opting for pre-packaged.

1. ‘HOMEMADE’ PACKET MIX :: When measuring out the dry ingredients for this banana bread, I will measure out a couple of extra batches and store in empty glass jars. (Like having your own packet mix already prepared in the pantry!)

2. FROZEN BANANAS :: I will keep a ready stock of frozen bananas on hand.  When I see some ‘seconds’ priced well (which are perfectly overripe for banana bread) I will stock up – particularly at current prices here in Queensland (is it like that all over Australia right now?). Simply let the frozen bananas defrost in a bowl, mash up a little and use exactly as fresh banana.

3. PRESLICED TO GO :: Like most quick breads, muffins and cakes, this little number freezes very well. Ahead of time I will be preparing half slices of this bread for baby Mélanger – and full slices for mum and dad – freezing individually for the weeks ahead to quickly grab at a moment’s notice.

This seemed like a very obvious inclusion to for my little ‘packaged’ versus ‘homemade’ experiment in the Mélanger kitchen this month.  If you know a packet mix junkie, give them a nudge to try banana bread at home!

Hint, hint, Mrs E.P! ;)

{ Buckwheat & nutmeg banana bread }

This is a versatile little bread, and I am looking forward to playing around with some flavours to keep it tasting fresh – e.g. using different flours, sugars and spices.  If you prefer, you can also substitute oil for melted butter – which is more traditional in a quick bread – but I prefer the flavour of butter.

* Ingredients *
225g / 1 ½ cups of plain flour
75g / ½ cup buckwheat flour
¾ teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
110g / ½ cup caster sugar
65g / ¼ cup melted butter
320g / 1 cup very ripe, mashed bananas (about 2-3)
80g / 1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten

* Directions *
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grease and line a 20 x 10 cm (8 x 4 inch) loaf tin. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg and sugar. In a separate bowl, add the melted butter, mashed bananas, sour cream and egg, and stir together.  Add the banana mix to the flour and mix only until combined. Do not overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, and bake for about 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out mostly clean.

A bit of a disclaimer — these are the results from my experiment only. Costs will obviously differ depending on your local grocery prices and the brands you select.  Time will depend on how quickly you work in the kitchen!