If there’s a universal rule about packed lunches it’s this: after a while they become boring and uninspiring.
The Earl of Sandwich may have been on to something, but our reliance on the carb loaded midday meal is a peculiar feature of our Western diet. As the primary lunch maker in our house I can tell you that whilst sandwiches are easy to make, the kids, and their parents, get tired of eating pretty much the same thing every day.
So, in search of a few different options, that will suit school and work, these are some lunch hacks for busy mums I’ve found that work:
- Pizza Pinwheels – all you need are some sheets of puff pastry, tomato paste, some herbs and bacon (or ham) and cheese. Of course you could change it up and add salami and boconcini cheese for a more adult palate. All you need to do is spread the pastry with paste add your fillings, and then roll the puff pastry into a log and cut into smaller wheels about one inch wide. Then into the oven they go. Serve hot or cold.
- Vegemite pinwheels – a simple variation on the pizza pinwheel above. Just spread the puff pastry with vegemite (or marmite as it is in our house), top with cheese and then roll up and cut, and cook, as above. Serve hot or cold.
- Zucchini slice – a perennial favourite in our house this is simple to prepare. Once cooled it cut it into portions (8-12 depending on how generously I cut) and put them into individual ziplock sandwich bags and then into the freezer. That way you only need to pull one out of the freezer the night before you need it and a quick turn in the microwave to warm it up at lunchtime, otherwise it is nice cold.
- Scrappy quinoa salad – you know it’s nearing the end of the week when the fridge is emptying rapidly. You might not have enough vegetables for a salad but if you don’t use them soon they’ll go off. I cook up some quinoa, according to the packet directions but I add chicken stock instead of water (thanks to a tip from a sister in law) and leave to cool. Then I cut up and add anything to the quinoa that I have on hand like cherry tomatoes, cucumber and so on. On days except Friday’s I add cold meats and on Fridays I add tuna or salmon that’s been pre mixed with a bit of mayo.
- Antipasto lunch – for a yummy, and easy to prepare option pack a couple of slices of sourdough bread, and then things like sliced salami or prosciutto, olives, sun dried tomatoes and some cheese.
- Finger food salad – my kids, and one in particular, love salad veggies. For a simple school lunch I fill their sandwich container with cherry or grape tomatoes, baby cucumbers, carrot and celery sticks, some cheese and cold meat. Recently we have left over schnitzel for dinner so I cut it up in strips and added this in with the salad which proved to be a big hit. You could also send hummus in a small tub for a variation.
- Yogurt parfaits – ok, this one is just a fancy term for yoghurt and fresh fruit but we love these over summer when the stone fruits and berries are fresh. They’re also a good option on those hot days when you don’t feel like eating much.
- Individual quiche – instead of making one large quiche use a muffin tray (which you could line with patty cases or slices of bread if you didn’t have pastry on hand) to create individual quiches. In a similar way to the zucchini slice, you can freeze these in individual portions and just pull it out the night before you needed it.
- Homemade sushi – I love these as a Friday lunch but they do involve a little bit of work, which I usually do on Thursday afternoon in bits and pieces. I add tins of flavoured salmon or tuna (mixed with mayo) as well as cucumber and avocado. 2 sushi paper rolls, cut in half, will feed hubby and I for lunch.
- Rice paper rolls – these are great for leftovers! They are a little but fiddly but my kids love them. I add rice noodles, salad veggies and cold meats or tinned fish. You can make a dipping sauce to go with them but if you have a good mix of flavours inside you may not need it.
- Sausage rolls – homemade ones can be stuffed with extra goodies (think grated veggies) and once again after you cook these you can freeze them and use as needed.
- Soups – when I make soup I like to do it in bulk. I tend to freeze these into two quantities: enough for a family meal, and a few single portions. Makes life a bit easier when things are hectic.
- Leftovers – there’s something to be said for the simple leftovers which can be reheated so long as you’ve got the facilities.
Do you have any other suggestions? If so, comment below! And, if you have any recipes, email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share them online!
About the Author: I am a reformed perfectionist who is now a stay at home mum with five children under nine years of age. I am a qualified journalist and graphic designer with a decided creative streak, and run a hobby business called Emily Shaw Design + Write. I will attempt most craft activities and love to write about topical - and especially controversial - issues.