With the new term now underway I am sure you are already fed up with the tedium of packed lunches. They can become a real chore for us parents. There’s enough to think about with the uniform, the shows, the sports kit, let alone the new ridiculously busy schedule. However, with a little bit of planning and preparation you could find yourself in the smug situation of having everyone ready with their lunch in hand (and a nutritious lunch at that) before the critical ‘leave the house’ bell tolls. Here are my top tips for preparing healthy packed lunches in a hurry.

1. PREPARE FOOD IN ADVANCE

On a Sunday:

  1. make a batch of pasta sauce or two – a tomato based one and/or a pesto sauce tend to go down well with kids. This sauce can be used on sandwiches, in frittata’s but also, of course, in pasta.
  2. wash and chop some veggies and fruit for the next few days – wash some cherry tomatoes, chop up some mango into cubes, peel and slice some carrots into sticks, cube some melon

2. MAKE DOUBLE

Whenever you are making a meal for the family cook more than you are going to eat then serve up the left-overs in lunchboxes the next day, either hot or cold. I often provide home-made baked beans, chicken noodle soup or leftover pasta and sauce in the children’s Thermos flasks. In their lunchboxes they have left-over cooked chicken, avocado mayonnaise and often left-over salad vegetables.

3. PLAN AHEAD

I always recommend planning what you and your family are going to eat before going shopping. Even better if you are familiar with the Lunchbox Bingo worksheet that we use in our household. Take your plans to the shops so you have everything you need at home to make those dishes and lunches. You can plan for a whole week or less. I tend to plan four days at a time to ensure ingredients are fresh and also because I have quite a small fridge.

4. FREEZE FOR LATER

Batch cooking meals is a great way to get ahead. Where sauces are concerned you can easily freeze in an ice-cube tray to get individual portion sizes for each packed lunch (you know there will be a day when child 1 fancies pesto but child 2 wants tomato pasta sauce). For stews, roast meats and curries some small glass jars with lids work really well and also make it easy to defrost without creating a mess in the fridge.

5. SAVIOUR SOUP OR EGGS

When you get caught out and you have very little in there’s always soup – blend some vegetables and add some stock plus meat or pulses. Or if you have some left-over cooked vegetables and some eggs then frittata’s make great lunchbox food.

I hope you found these tips useful. They have become my sanity!