There are so many reasons to make a packed lunch but there are also lots of reasons why we don’t quite manage to do it. Does the plan to make lunch end with the kitchen work top looking a bit like the photo – everything dragged out the fridge and cupboard but with no real inspiration?
First the positives of making lunches, as if you need reminding:
- Save lots of money – even a cheap meal deal amounts to €/£ 5-7 per day. Multiply that up by the number of days you buy lunch the cost can really mount up. Think of the money saved as a top up of the holiday fund. Or treat yourself to lunch out somewhere you couldn’t eat every day with what you saved by not buying lunch the rest of the week!
- Variety and tailored to your tastes which can really make for enjoyable lunches, better than a bland sandwich from the closest shop, especially if you are in a lunch option desert or are strapped for time.
- You can, with a bit of thought, achieve a better balance and nutrition across the week by ensuring fibre, fruit, veg, not relying totally on salty or sugary foods. Variety in your lunchbox can help achieve this.
- You have food available when you are hungry and don’t have to make do with the quickest closest option when you are totally starving. You can also pack a mixture of snacks. Not solely tied to the contents of a vending machine or the biscuits by the tea point.
- Spend the time that you would have spent stood in queues buying lunch sitting somewhere other than your desk with colleagues, without screens, to enjoy your lunch.
- You can use up leftovers and reduce food waste. Eco warrier tip one.
- Using lunch boxes and other reusable containers we can reduce packaging waste too. Eco warrier tip two.
A big reason we don’t pack lunches is lack of inspiration. I know people who are happy to have the same cheese sandwich lunch with salad bits day in day out but that’s a rare breed who can cope with that level of sameness!
Also, the joy of making packed lunches for those fussy little people! How do you pack a lunch that they will eat but is a good mix of different foods that is going to fuel them all afternoon if school meals are not a good option for your family?
And it’s just one more thing to do of an evening or morning in our full days. The positives might be compelling but you still need momentum to actually put the food in a box ready to take it in the morning.
So top tips:
- Having a bit of a meal plan can help with lunches. Spotting where an ingredient or some leftovers can be turned into a lunch is easier if you have a bit of a loose plan for the week. For example, cooking pasta then cook extra to have as a salad the next day or cooking some chicken then extra could be used for a sandwich or with a salad etc
- Have a stash of reusable boxes, some with anti-leak lids, and drink containers. Reusing tubs like takeaway containers or ice cream tubs etc is just fine.
- If you have a microwave available then microwave safe pots are great for leftover lunches otherwise invest in a good quality thermos container. Shoving leftovers in a box is probably the quickest of lunch prep.
- To avoid soggy crackers and bread, bring the components and assemble at lunch – quicker to prep too. If that won’t work then a scraping of butter/spread can help, as can a layer of lettuce or baby spinach leaves between the bread and the moist filling.
- Invest in thermal lunch bags, there are quite a range available including ones for grown ups.
- Got time to bake or cook then try making savoury muffins or frittatas that can go in the freezer to come out in the week.
- Try to add some veg and fruit every day, try using breads that are multi grain or higher in fibre and snacks like nuts are great especially unsalted ones.
- If you never make lunch then setting a goal of making lunch every day may be too big a step, so aim for a couple of times a week to start with.
And those pesky kids!! School lunchboxes can be a nightmare for some families. How can we get that to work? Every family will have its challenges but here are a few things to consider:
- Get kids involved in the packing of their lunch. Even if it is just getting a few things from the fridge or making the sandwich or getting the bits and pieces in their lunch bag in the morning. Build up to them making their own lunch. Life skills!
- Don’t ask them an open question like ‘what would you like in your lunchbox?’ Instead give them restricted choices depending on what you have and what they have already had that week. Do you want bread or wraps? Do you want ham or cheese? Crisps or crackers? Tomatoes and carrots or cucumber and peppers? Raisins or grapes or chopped apple?
- Encourage them to have a good mixture of things. Aim for having different things in their lunchbox and different things on different days. Even just getting a different sandwich filling or a new vegetable in the box once a week is great.
- If they try something that is lunchbox friendly at home or when you are out, then see if you can get that on the list of lunchbox options. Falafel. Hummus and crudites. Boiled egg. Crackers with pate or cheese spread. Different breads – wraps, pitta, high fibre white bread, seeded rolls etc.
- If your child’s school allows sweet things in the lunchbox then let them have a small biscuit or piece of chocolate or a yoghurt. Not enough to stop them eating the rest of their lunch. A small thing is enough. It is important that we don’t teach that foods are good and bad or make some foods better morally than others. It is about variety and balance.
- I love the bento box style lunch boxes that have different compartments, then wet things don’t make crispy things soggy and kids like that. Or lots of little pots in the lunch bag- some grapes in one, some crisps or mini crackers in another, baby tomatoes or bits of cucumber in another…..lots of little surprises.
- Always give some water. Fine to give them a small carton of juice but encourage them to quench their thirst with water.
Next newsletter will be some lunch ideas, so if you haven’t signed up for newsletters then hit the image below. You will get some meal inspiration – some of them make great leftover lunches.