IN our household, it's always a last-minute rush to get costumes sorted for Halloween – not to mention the countless chocolates we have to buy to satisfy all the local Trick or Treaters.
But for Ardita Jupolli's family, the spooky celebrations start from the first day of October – namely in the form of her incredible packed lunches.
The mum, from Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland, has amassed over 4,000 followers on Instagram thanks to the imaginative meals she creates for her three kids – Robert, 14, Simona, 10, and four-year-old Lorna.
This month, the children's bento boxes have featured everything from vampire strawberries, cucumber skulls to bat-shaped sandwiches.
What's more, the lovingly-prepared lunches always include a heartfelt note to the kids to read before tucking into their meal.
On average, Ardita spends two-and-a-half hours each week carefully carving fiendish features into fruit and vegetables – which are often served alongside black cat forks and plastic eyes.
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She explained: "It all started when my youngest would ask for different-shaped sandwiches so I would make heart and star-shaped ones for her.
"Now I'm inspired by things on the internet like Pinterest but I always put something from my own imagination into my creations."
And while it might sound like an awful lot of effort to go to, the mum says the look on her kids' faces make it all worth it.
She continued: "It's really satisfying to see how much my children love these lunches, especially the Halloween ones.
"The children say that all their friends are like 'woah' [when they open] and look forward to what's tomorrow.
"I'm quite lucky. I see some mums complaining about how their children are fussy eaters but they eat fruits and vegetables quite well.
"I pop anything in their lunchboxes and when they come back they're completely empty. I don't think they're perfect but my kids love them."
In lockdown last year, the mum – who has always been creative in the kitchen – thought she'd start sharing her creations on Instagram.
And while the overwhelming majority of comments have been positive, Ardita says she's had to deal with trolls too – who either find it "patronising" or accuse her of trying to be the "perfect parent".
She added: "I opened the Instagram account and share what I do so other mums could get inspired.
"It's amazing to get so many nice comments from mums online and messages asking me to share even more ideas.
"I've had mums message me to say that the first thing they do in a morning is open my Instagram page just to see what to make for their kid today.
"Other mums don't like it and say things like 'who has time for that?' but I usually focus on positive comments."
And as soon as Halloween has passed, Ardita plans on incorporating some festive goodies into her kids' lunches as soon as she can.
She added: "I'll keep making Halloween-themed lunch boxes through October.
"After Halloween I'll be moving onto Christmas-themed lunch boxes straight away, you can already see Christmas-themed items in the shops."
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