I have to admit that I don't particularly like packed lunches because I find them repetitive, dull and too easy to be lazy with. Plus I find it really hard to decide in the morning (or even the night before) what I am going to want for lunch. I also find that they are not very healthy because you end to stick a lot of pre packaged things in them.
I like to change things around a bit so I will vary the sandwiches firstly - one day I'll have bread, another wraps and another bagels. My favourite is bagel with pastrami, pickled gherkin slices, mayonnaise and lettuce. But I do get fed up of sandwiches very quickly. I always make sure I have a cup a soup or a noodle sachet that you can make with boiling water so I can have something hot or a bit different if I fancy. Also, if I am making salad or pasta for dinner, I'll make extra and stick it in a airtight container for lunch the following day.
I am perpetually on a diet and like a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables so I tend to make sure I have a tub of either to go with my lunch. I often buy a tub of tzatziki and cut up slices of carrot, cucumber, pepper, radish and cherry tomatoes to dip in it for a change.
I steer clear of chocolates and crisps really, but I do like something sweet so I'll stick in a chocolate mousse or a fruity yoghurt.
It's not very exciting, but there are a few ways to spice up your packed lunch!
I've been making packed lunches for years and although I try to add new foods into the mix it's rare I follow an actual recipe, let's be honest time is of the essence in the morning when my family are heading off to work, college and school and I like to make their lunches up fresh before they go rather than before going to bed and risking their lunch being less than fresh by the time they get around to eating it.
The main part of their packed lunch is usually a sandwich of some variety, usually made on bread but sometimes I'll use cobs or even tortilla wraps if the filling is suitable for this type of bread. Yesterday I made up three packed lunches and everyone had ham salad sandwiches on white bread, the sauces I used rang the changes but it was definitely one of my easier packed lunch days so I made the most of everyone wanting the same thing! Occasionally the kids will take a tub of cold pasta salad or couscous into school, I've bought some special plastic forks for this as I was sick of my seven year old losing my metal forks and that takes some of the stress out of sending them with this meal option rather than sandwiches.
The school rules are a little restrictive as to what snacks I can give my youngest daughter in her packed lunch as they're not allowed to take sweets, chocolate or crisps - obviously fruit and vegetables are the best option so I make sure our fruit bowl is full of her favourite fruits so she can choose her own snack to take along with her sandwich, this works and giving her a choice also means she automatically varies the fruit in her diet without even realising it.
The others can take pretty much what they like so I tend to buy a variety of crisps and small packets of biscuits to ring the changes, my partner is a fan of taking cold chicken drumsticks with him and has also been known to request a flask of soup or stew (he has a physical job so needs plenty of calories to keep him going). Last week my fifteen year old was granted access to the 'good students' recreation room at school where there's a microwave installed and now she has completely free rein over what she takes in her packed lunch.
What I'm trying to say in this review is that there are no rules as to what goes into a packed lunch - make it special for the person you're preparing it for and it will be a success (after all, most kids and men are starving by lunchtime so will eat pretty much anything!).
Packed lunches can vary from person to person and there is no right or wrong foods to have in your packed lunch but they are mainly cold foods that can be eaten on the go, or of course you could have a flask of soup in your packed lunch and serve it from the flask cup, even dipping bread in. There is no wrong way.
My children sometimes have packed lunch for school and they tend to have the following items in their luches ~
A piece of fruit or even a box of grapes/cherries
I sometimes make them a pasta dish where I will cook up a pan of pasta and add chicken, sweetcorn and mayo, they take this in a little tupperwear type box then.
I think the main thing to remember when it comes to packed lunches is that it needs to be quite easy to eat, there's nothing worse than making yourself a big towering sandwich, popping it into your bag and then struggling when it comes to eating it.
You can get so many different boxes now to keep your packed lunches in that you do have a wider range of choice.
My hubby used to take curry and rice into work with him, he used a box with compartments so it didn't end up a sloppy mix by the time he got to eat it.
You can also get little fruit containers now, in the shape of whatever fruit, a banana for instance and these stop the fruit getting bruised in your bag.
I think packed lunches are still a popular choice with so many people as you can have whatever you like.
WHAT IS IT?
A packed lunch is food that you would prepare at home and then take to work or school with you in a lunchbox or a bag. There are many different things you can put in a packed lunch and you can make the lunch perfect suited to the person who is going to be eating it.
WHAT DO YOU PUT IN A PACKED LUNCH?
I think most people put sandwiches into a packed lunch but you can change that by using different bread like baguettes or pitta bread. I think they are better for some fillings but you should always choose the bread that you think the person who you are making the lunch for will enjoy the most because you are making it for them and not yourself.
For children I think popular fillings for their sandwiches is ham or cheese and you should add salad so that they are having some vegetables with their meal. My children like to eat egg mixed with mayonnaise and I use mini pitta bread when they have that because that type of bread keeps all of the filling inside and is easy to eat. One of my daughters likes to have leftover chicken with barbecue sauce and she has that on small pieces of baguette that I slice into slices that are about 1 inch tall.
A sandwich is not enough for a packed lunch and I like to put other things in also. The school attended by my daughters do not allow sweets or crisps in lunch boxes so for them I put in tubs of strawberries and raspberries, I sometimes hide a red sweet in with the fruit and my daughters think that is very funny when I do that. I put an apple or a banana in because if that is not eaten it can be eaten at home.
The last thing for a packed lunch is a drink and I use sports bottles but I sometimes give my children a carton of Ribena or other juice instead. I do not put fizzy drinks in their packed lunches.
WHAT I THINK
I make many packed lunches for my children and my husband also but I do not have one for myself because I work mobile so I can eat at any time but they have got set lunch hours. What I have talked about is for a normal day at school or work but if they are going on a trip or are going to be out of the house for longer I add more things into their lunch box so they are not hungry later in the day.
I like to put alot of variety into the packed lunches I make and I make pasta salad or couscous a lot instead of sandwiches because I think I would be very bored eating a sandwich every day.
5 Dooyoo Stars.
Now I am a stay at home mum with our little man I make the Mr his lunch every day to take to work. Being a fussy eater its a pain at the best of times, now he's decided to reduce the amount of bread he eats, well that's even worse!
Here is a snap shot of what I am feeding him this week if anyone would like to be inspired:
I make this myself and the recipe is as follows
1 pack ready roll short crust pastry
7fl oz single cream
3oz cheese (grated)
6 slices back bacon cubed
1 egg yolk
Salt and pepper
1. Grease a quiche dish. Mine has the loose base which makes it easy to pop out. Line with pastry and then prick with fork
2. Blind bake for 10-15 mins at 180 degrees. Blind baking is when you line the case with grease proof paper and weigh it down, I use rice personally, to stop it rising
3. In the meantime fry the bacon and out to one side
4. Whisk the eggs and egg yolk into the cream and season
5. Once the pastry case is baked, arrange bacon on top, sprinkle with the cheese then pour over the egg and cream mixture
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes
Now he is on a no bread diet so I am doing tortilla wraps currently filled with a variety of combinations
- coronation chicken (2 tbsp salad cream, 2 tbsp may, 1 tsp curry mixed with chicken and raisins)
- ham and cheese
- tuna mayo
- Cajun chicken
Normal salads, pasta salads, potato salads all mixed up. Current favourite is "tuna pasta pesto"
1 tin tuna
2 tbsp pesto
Feta cheese to taste
1. Cook the pasta
2. Mix all ingredients together
Voila! Of course if you are less fussy you can add more veg in there! To stop the pasta getting dry I often drizzle a bit of olive oil over it!
*AND THE REST*
Soups, baked potatoes and the old classic, last nights leftovers, the wonder of having a microwave in work!
Both I and my husband take packed lunches to work almost everyday as this tends to be a healthier option and cuts down on costs. The only problem that packed lunches pose is keeping them interesting to ensure that they do not get boring. My school packed lunches used to be quite dull and consisted of the same items almost every day so to prevent that I try and look for new items and ideas all the time.
Here are a few of my ideas for an interesting packed lunch:
Main Item - This can consist of a good old sandwich with a variety of different fillings. Alternatively to the sandwich you could use a tortilla wrap, or filled pita bread. I also sometimes make salads or pasta in a plastic tub. We both also have the thermos soup flask which is quite expensive at £20 each but allows you to take hot soup or pasta to work in a handy compact flask which comes complete with spoon and bowl included and keeps food hot for up to 7 hours.
Banana - We both have a banana every day as they are a good source of potassium, dietary fibre, manganese and vitamins B6 & C. They are also filling and release energy slowly.
Fruit / Veg - I try and include at least one portion of fruit in our lunch boxes every day and vary this through the week. It may include a simple apple or orange or some melon, grapes, berries, etc chopped and placed in a small plastic tub or snack bag. If we take sandwiches to work I will often include a little pot with some cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and celery or carrot batons in to increase our 5 a day intake.
Sweet Treat - Although we try and be fairly healthy everyone needs the odd little treat so I do always put something a little naughty in our lunch boxes. This normally consists of a small chocolate bar like a penguin, yogurt or a little cake. Sometimes I will bake banana bread or muffins so these are added to our lunches.
Snacks - I will occasionally add in other little snacks to the lunch boxes these include dried fruit or nuts, crisps, mini pork pie, sausage roll, scotch eggs, cheese triangles or dippers. Although I tend to limit these items to occasional days to ensure that not too many calories are being consumed.
I normally aim to spend no more than £15 per week on packed lunch items which works out at just £1.50 each per day but this is still much cheaper than buying lunch out which would be a minimum of £3.00 each per day and for not as many items.
When my eldest started school I decided she would take a packed lunch. I made this decision as I thought it would be cheaper and I would know what she was eating. I have carried on doing this and she is now at high school. My youngest started taking a packed lunch to nursery and still does now she is in reception.
They do have a school dinner sometimes, when it is a special one like Christmas dinner or a teddy bears picnic.
I want my children to have a healthy diet and this includes at dinner time, this isn't to say they don't eat chocolate and crisp - they do a lot, but it's all in moderation.
I know I would get bored if I ate sandwiches every day and my girls are no different, in fact my youngest isn't keen on sandwiches. This means I have to have lots of idea.
For a healthy dinner that will keep you going all day (or until you get home from school/work) try to include protein, carbohydrate and some fruit.
I tend to put a main and one or two snacks in my girls lunch boxes my eldest has an extra snack for break which tends to be one of the following quorn fillets, quorn bites, a piece of fruit, a carrot, a cereal bar or sometimes a bag of crisps or something similar.
The mains tend to be one of the following a sandwich, wrap or pitta with lettuce, quorn meat or cheese, somtimes cucumber and mayo might go on it (more likely when husband makes it). Sometimes I make a broccoli quiche, other things are cheese/sausage rolls, sausage wraps (we don't eat meat so quorn/soya), pasta salad, cous cous with broccoli escalope or a pasty. If I am desparate for my youngest it might be pasta sausage and cucumber.
Fruit can include one or two mainly of grapes, strawberries, kiwi, melon or tinned fruit such as pears, pinapples or peaches.
Sometimes they don't have anything else depending what the main was other times they might have cheese, a biscuit or small chocolate bar. A yoghurt goes down well with my youngest and she really likes the corner ones with either cereal or chocolate in. My eldest might have a bag of crisp. I tend to keep the chocolate crisps etc to once or twice a week. Another treat that sometimes goes in is cheese dipper of some kind. But sometimes I buy the small packs of philidelphia cheese so I will put one of those in and either bread sticks or cucumber and pepper sticks to eat with it.
Raisons or dried fruit or fruit flakes coated in yoghurt go down well with my youngest.
Oh and they always have a drink.
I know it can be difficult to think of different things to put in your childs lunch box especially if they are fussy and sometimes time plays a part in just doing the same thing. I always do the dinners the night before never in the morning as I simply wouldn't have time
If your children, partner or even yourself are bored with the same old things in your packed lunch every day then this could just be your answer.
The variations are endless and they are quick, easy and cheap to make.
Not only can these be made for packed lunches but you can also make larger one's in cake tins and pie dishes for the entire family as snacks or part of a meal.
What is great about these also is that they are designed to be eaten hot or cold.
I have made many variations of this but here I will review the Egg and bacon pies.
I say pies, but this is the cheaters way of making them :o)
For the egg and bacon pies you will need....
2 or 3 rashers of bacon
Bread (Whatever kind you like. White, Brown, Multigrain, etc)
Salt & Pepper (Although I don't use salt)
Mixed herbs (Optional)
Bowl for mixing
Individual cake cases or cake tins
Note - The cake cases are only recommended with white bread
OR Cake tin/pie dish for family sized pie
Knife and a fork
As I said, you can make this on a larger scale but here are the instructions for the individual pies.
1. Grill the bacon to how you like it and then cut into small pieces (Small enough to fit into a cake case/tin).
2. Whilst the bacon is cooking cut the crusts off your bread, you will need one slice for every pie you make. I usually make 6 at a time, so 6 slices of bread.
3. Pat down lightly on each slice of bread so that it is not quite so fluffy and so that it is a little easier to bend and mould.
4. If using white bread, mould each slice of bread into a cake case (Or cake tin, although grease cake tin first) and push the sides (Not the bottom) into the case to help it stick/stay in place, cut off any of the bread sticking out as it will burn and use it to fill in any small gaps around the sides. Place on a baking tray.
Note - White bread seems to be a lot easier to get into cake cases... If using Wholemeal or Wholegrain bread it is better to use cake tins, although they do tend to stick so you need to grease the bottom of tins well.
5. Once you have your bread in your cake tins/cases, then equally place the cut up bacon into each case, you only need 2-4 small pieces in each case... not even half full.
6. When this is done, crack the 4 eggs into a bowl and whisk with a fork.
7. Add roughly a tablespoon of Worcester Sauce (But generally add as much or as little as you like) and a sprinkle of mixed herbs and black pepper to taste, and mix in.
8. Pour the egg mixture into each case, almost to the top. If you think you are not quite going to have enough egg mixture then add a tiny amount of milk (Don't worry if you have any left over).
9. Place pies in the oven at 160/170 degrees (Gas mark 3) for about 15-20 minutes.
10. To check if egg has cooked, take out of oven and check with a knife in the centre. When you do take them out of the oven leave to stand for 5 minutes as they will continue cooking.
These can be eaten straight away when hot, or taken out of cases/tin and kept in the fridge for packed lunches and snacks.
They really are very tasty and kids absolutely love them. They are a fantastic way to add something different to a lunch box, and if you use brown bread (Like I do) and use low fat margarine to grease the tins they are quite healthy as well compared to a bag of crisps or a bar of chocolate.
What's great about these is that you can make any number of variations. I've made Egg & corned beef, Egg & Ham, Baked beans and corned beef, etc, etc.
You can even add mince with gravy with mashed potato on top for mini Shepherds Pies.
I would suggest if you want to put grated cheese on top then it's better to put it on after the pies come out of the oven, then stick it under the grill for a couple of minutes to melt/brown.
As I briefly mentioned you can easily make larger one's of these in a larger cake tin or oven dish and serve with beans, vegetables, mashed potatoes, etc and have as a family meal.
It all depends on the fillings, your oven type and the size of the pie/s you're making, but to make 6 Egg and Bacon pies takes approx. 10 minutes to prepare and cook the bacon, then a further 15-20 minutes in the oven.
Again it depends on what you use and how far your imagination will stretch. But for 6 Egg & Bacon pies the cost is approx.
2 x Rashers of Bacon - Around 60p
6 Slices of bread - 20p? (I use Tesco wholemeal for these, which easily does the job at 55p a loaf)
4 x Eggs - 40p
Mixed herbs, salt & pepper, butter, etc - 5p?
Which means you can make 6 of these for around £1.20, not bad for a week of school lunches per child.
Obviously the cost will go up or down depending on the ingredients you use but at the very least they are a wonderful alternative to the usual boring lunch box food.
My girls adore these, I've even made them for friends at times.
Incidentally, with the leftover crusts and any of the egg mixture you can put a tablespoon of Olive oil into a pan, cut up the crusts into cubes and fry them.
Take out when crispy, scramble up the egg mixture and eat together whilst waiting for the pies to cook :o)
Or simply cut the crusts into cubes and fry up for croûtons when you need them in soups.
Despite being a cheap and quick alternative to pastry pies, these are surprisingly tasty, especially as you experiment with ingredients, etc to put in them.
As far as packed lunches go for my brother he is very fussy and confused what to eat at work on a daily basis. Usually his packed lunches involve chicken salad wraps or cheese sandwiches and on the odd occasion a tub of pasta. So he was on at me to think of something veggie that he could eat for a few days this week, as he thought he was just consuming too much meat lately with packed lunches and meals at home. My family's term of vegetarian is without egg and fish too. My dad has this rule that we go vegetarian on two day in the week. So my brother is a bit limited on what to eat and ends up eating a cheese sandwich, which he was begun to hate with a passion and let's not even talk about Quorn as he not keen on it and feel he might as well eat meat instead of it.
So while on a shopping trip to ASDA I was looking at the cooking sauces and though I veggie fajitas are a good alternative for a vegetarian instead of being limited to cheese sandwich. I made a batch of the filling up for my brother and we worked out that since he was taking it for few days it would cost him about £2 per a day.
570g ASDA Fajita Sauce (tomato sauce with red peppers. onions, coriander and jalapeno peppers) Tastes good, not overpowering and is mild.
2 large carrots peeled and cut into sticks
1 courgette cut into sticks
175g bean sprouts
165g baby corn (cut into halves)
1 tbsp of corn oil
Wholewheat Tortillas or tortillas of your choice
1. Place the oil into a wok and heat up.
2. When oil it hot, place all the vegetables into the wok and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes.
3. Add the fajita sauce and coat the vegetables and allow it to simmer for 20 minutes while stirring it from time to time.
4. After it is cooked let it cool and then place in the fridge till up you are ready to prepare the wraps.
5. Warm the tortillas up in the microwave for about 10 seconds so it makes it soft and easy to handle when wrapping them.
6. Give the filling a good mix before placing in the tortillas as most of the sauce would have settled at the bottom.
7. Place the filling on the tortilla and fold an edge up towards the filling, then take the sides and wrap it up tight.
8. Wrap them in cling film to keep them in tack.
9. Place in the fridge and take them out before you leave the house.
I have often cooked this to pack to work because it taste good cold (plus i cook it for dinner and pack the leftovers for work the next day)
1) Cook 250 g packet of egg noodles according to the instruction on the packet and then drain.
2) Heat 1 table spoon of sunflower Oil (or any type of oil) and add 2 table spoon of peanut butter.
3) Add a splash of cold water and a dash of soy sauce or replace with a dash of salt.
4) Stir the mixture over gentle heat until throughly combined.
5) Add noodles to the pan and toss to cover it with the peanut mixture.
6) Sprinkle chopped up spring onion over.
Put the mixture into the lunch box and leave it to cool first before closing the lid. Otherwise, the noodles would not taste good. It is also possible to throw in meat, eggs and any other ingredients you would like to make the noodles taste better.
Packed lunches are good for both you and your wallet. Let's take a look at my typical spends for the week with both packed lunches and lunches bought from local shops at work - it proves my point! I should preface this by saying that I eat a lot - not particularly heavy, just got a very active stomach :-)
2 rolls with meat and salad (~£0.8/400 cals)
yoghurt (~£0.20/100 cals)
apple (~£0.20/70 cals)
banana (~£0.20/70 cals)
cereal bar (~£0.25/110 cals)
cuppa soup (~£0.15/70 cals)
bag of baked crisps (~£0.25/100 cals)
So, roughly £2.05 a day/910 calories a day/2.5 portions of fruit and veg (this includes my breakfast!)
Ham, cheese and pickle wrap (£2.60/500 cals)
2 bananas (£0.40/140 cals)
Can of coke (£0.60/135 cals)
Bag of crisps (£0.50/150 cals)
So, roughly £4.10 a day/925 cals/2 portions of fruit and veg (breakfast not included)
Packed lunches represent a 50% cost saving and also are slightly less calorific, with more fruit and veg.
You can't argue with the maths :-D
I try to take a packed lunch or at least a few food items from home for my lunch each day at work, otherwise i'd spend a fortune. Lunches can get very boring eating the same thing day in day out and sandwiches in particular can be a bit unappealling. Here are some of my ideas for lunches at work - though I am lucky that we have a microwave, fridge, toaster and panini maker at work!
Toasted pitta bread and hummous.
This is so quick and easy but filling and delicious too. It is cheap as well and i can make this last 3 days if necessary. Buy a 26p pack of basics or value pitta bread and a large pot of hummous (usually about £1 or so). Toast the pitta either in the toaster or i put them on the panini maker if you just want them a bit warm. Slice or tear bits off and dip into the hummous. My favourite hummous is Morrison's jalapeno hummous! Spicy but nice - but full of chilli and garlic so no good if you have a meeting after lunch where you are going to breathe on people! I have about 1/3 of the hummous and 2 pitta bread and therefore it lasts 3 days.
Hummous, rocket and roasted vegetable baggette.
Hummous again i'm afraid so if you don't like it thats my first two ideas not good for you! Slice a baggette, spread some hummous fairly thickly on the inside of the baggette, add a few rocket leaves and some roasted vegetables - i usualy just use peppers that i have roasted left over from my dinner before. Then either eat cold or put in panini maker if you are lucky enough to have one - or you could heat up in a sandwich maker instead.
Soup and toast.
Depending on the facilities you have available - i;m assuming most people especially if working in an office will have a kettle (or if not you could bring a flask of soup) - but just make either a cup a soup and have it with bread if no toaster. Or if you have a toaster make it into toast and if you have a microwave you can move onto much nicer soups than cup a soups! My favourite is Covent Garden Chicken soup. Filling and quick to eat and cheap too.
Cold packed lunch. Most of my ideas so far have meant heating things up as I do prefer that for lunch - makes it a bit more interesting. But if I have to just eat a very quick sandwich or snacks for lunch then one of my favourites is roast chicken with sweet corn and mayo. It's delicious on malted brown bread too or granary bread. If i'm feeling healthy i'll usually put a few other things in my lunch box such as a small bunch of grapes, a yoghurt (muller light usually), go ahead biscuits bars and maybe an apple or a banana too but they usually end up in the bin after sitting on my desk for 5 days!
Cold pasta either made specifically for your lunch or left over from the night before can be great for lunch. If you want it hot and have a microwave then even better. Pasta that i'm happy to eat cold or hot includes simply cooked pasta with dolmio stir in sauce - either tomato and bacon or sweet pepper (my favourites) plus chopped up bacon that was cooked the night before too - ham is ok too but crispy bacon a lot nicer.
Just some of my ideas for lunches at work anyway.
I approve very much of the idea of packed lunches, for both adults and children.They are a cheap alternative to buying canteen food/ ready made sandwiches etc.
If we look at packed lunches from a childrens point of view first and explore how they have changed over the years......
When i was at school my mum 90% of the time gave me a packed lunch for two reasons,1- Having 4 children at a school age it was alot cheaper than paying school meal prices everyday, and 2- She was very weary of our diets and liked to keep an eye on what we ate. We where given things like ham/cheese/tuna sandwiches, a pack of crisps, piece of fruit, a small chocolate bar etc. I remember at lunch time opening up the box and seeing what i had that day, back then the concept of having chocolate, and crisps wasn't really that a big deal, the only rules where no sweets and no fizzy drinks.
Packed lunches nowadays in schools are a very risky business! Because now of the growing obesity rates in children schools are a lot more stricter as to what children can eat whilst being at school, sweets, chocolate, biscuits, fizzy drinks and anything that resembles having a little bit of fat is a no no! Things like white bread are also frowned upon as schools are trying to encourage children to eat more healthy and do recommend to parents to give their child a healthy balanced lunch, with things like fruit, raw vegetables, wholemeal bread, yogurts, low fat cheese etc.
And although yes i do agree with what schools are trying to achieve, i do think it can be hard on parents because not every child will eat healthy food.
Endless leaflets and campaigns guiding parents on what to give their children have worked, but not in all cases, schools are only responsible for what a child eats at lunch time, and yes could eat a healthy meal then but who's knows what the child eats before ad after school, this is where the problem lies and why obesity rates are rising, it's up to the parent at the end of the day to make sure their child eat's the right food.
Packed lunches like i previously mentioned are a great idea and are a cost effective way to save money, buying what you need at the beginning of the week can help you save loads.
Packed lunches in adults and older children ( secondary school age) again is the easy option and simple option, when i was at secondary school, there was always a selection of chips, pie's sausage rolls and a other wide array of fatty foods on offer, in proportion 90% of the food was unhealthy and 10% was healthy, seeing this choice i decided to stick with packed lunches so i knew what i was eating, but so many kid's got sucked into process of buying these fatty foods everyday, and it has only been in the last 2-3 years that the standard of healthy food has rose in secondary schools, but more still has to be done
Ever since I decided to really needed to pay off my credit cards and start saving money, about three years ago, I have been taking a packed lunch to work.
I used to always use our canteen at the school where I work as a teacher. I would have a jacket potato, sandwich or sald and this would cost about 2 pounds a day with a cake for dessert. This works out over 40 pounds a month.
Now I take soup. I buy fresh soup from Tesco at around 99p for a tub (this lasts 2 days) and then take 2 pitta bread to go with it. I like scotch broth, chicken and vergetable, cream of tomato, leek and potato and chicken and sweetcorn. A packet of 6 pitta breads is 48p. This works out at about 70p a day which is a big saving. As I take soup its really healthy and full of energy. It also hardly takes no time at all to prepare the night before- I just grab and go. Moreover I think it tastes a lot better than the meals at work!
Overall I think packed lunches save a lot of money, taste loads better and are often healthier.
After having two children and working in many primary schools, I know it's difficult to think of healthy packed lunch ideas. I have seen a lot of packed lunches and I'm surprised what some children have in their lunch box, from just having a plain sandwich and a chocolate bar, to having a lunch box filled with everything.
A healthy lunch is important, to keep your little one going through the day, and shouldn't take too long to prepare if you are organized. A balanced diet that is rich in nutrients is needed for healthy growth and development. If you have a fussy child like many of us do, you can always get them to help when you do your weekly shop letting them choice fruits and other tasty snacks for their lunch. Variety is also important, not many people want to eat the same food everyday it gets boring. So try and mix it up a bit.
Healthy lunches don't need to be boring, you don't need to fill them with sugary snacks to make your little one happy, this may make them happy in the short term, but long term think of the damage it will cause.
Also I have seen firsthand that children behave better when they eat a healthy diet than children that eat a lot of sugary foods, these types of foods give you an instant high and then leave you feeling low for the rest of the day. Healthy food gives your children energy, helps them to stay focused for the rest of the day, making them more able to concentrate so they learn more.
A lot of parents are rushed and have little free time, so we buy things that are convenient and that we think our children will like. Supermarkets are full of these convenient foods that are appealing to children, making it hard to avoid them.
A lot of us when shopping buy convenience foods that are designed for childrens lunchboxes, like pre packed cartons of foods, these are not only expensive and usually end up in the bin without the parent knowing, they have little nutritional content, and are probably full of salt. If you expect your child to eat it, then you should try it yourself. This will definitely put you off buying these types of foods in the future.
At a school where I worked a little boy would sit and cry at lunchtime. and he would not eat any food, his lunch box was filled with sweet snacks, so I asked him what he would like instead and asked him what fruit he would like, and told him to ask his mum if he could have the fruit he liked and after that he started to have more food that he liked and ate. This just goes to show that children don't always prefer to have sweet treats.
If you have a fussy eater, and you worry about what they have eaten at school, you could always suggest to the teacher that maybe all of the children should not be allowed to throw any food away at lunchtime; only empty wrappers should be disposed of. This is done in a few primary schools, but if yours doesn't do this then it's worth suggesting it. As many children sneak all of their food into the bin and tell you that they ate it. That way you can see what has been eaten.
Healthy eating should be introduced from the weaning stage and carried on for as long as you have control over what your little one is eating. As they get older hopefully they will continue to eat healthy. You can also encourage healthy eating by eating a healthy balanced diet yourself, children will soon follow. Limit the amount of unhealthy foods you buy to stop them wanting these foods.
Don't restrict nice treats, as these are okay from time to time, as a little of what you fancy doesn't hurt. Stopping a child from eating certain foods and teaching them that they are bad is not going to stop them from eating these foods, it's going to make them want them more. So a balance is needed. If you instil good eating habits from a young age whilst you have control over your child/children's diets as they reach secondary school they are more likely to keep up eating a well balanced diet.
~Some ideas for tasty nutritional snacks~
Instead of a sandwich why not try:
* Pita bread.
* French stick/baguette.
* All of which you can add a tasty filling to.
* Naan bread.
* Spring rolls.
* Pasta with - Salad/veg./peas/sweet corn/tuna.
For fillings try:
(Some children prefer to have these to be packed separately so they can add what they want or eat them separately.)
Cheese with- lettuce/cucumber/grated carrot/slices of tomato/salad cream/pickle/coleslaw/sliced onion.
Meats - chunks/slices of chicken/ ham/turkey/beef (try to avoid processed meet when possible).
Spreads for a sweeter option - High fruit jam (this is the healthiest option and tastes a lot nicer it's sweetened with grape juice instead of sugar.) Marmalade/lemon curd/Honey.
Tuna - Which goes nicely with - cucumber/mayonnaise/salad/sweet corn/
Instead of crisps why not try:
* Sliced cucumber.
* Sticks of carrot.
* Small tub of salad
* Cherry tomatoes.
* Slices of peppers.
Instead of chocolate why not try:
* Fruit that is in season.
* Yogurt coated dried fruit.
* Fromage frais.
* Dried fruit - dried pineapple, apricots, sultanas, apples.
Don't be tempted to buy the yogurts that come in the tubes, these are a waste of time, you get very little yogurt for your money, and they are no more convenient. You can buy cheap plastic spoons for using in lunchboxes.
* Rice cakes (You can get pure rice cakes with no salt in.)
For a nice treat you can add:
It's nice to give them a nice treat at least once a week.
* A fruit filled pie.
* Homemade pizza.
* Scones - Fruit/savoury/cheese.
Always opt for high fruit juices, these have a higher content of fruit in them. Fruit juice should be welled diluted, only a little is needed to flavour. Try not to give these daily. Fruit smoothies, these are great if you find it difficult to get your children to eat fruit, just blend up all the fruit. Water, you can always add a squeeze of orange to the water.
In the summer put a bottle of drink in the freezer, and in the winter put it in the fridge the night before, put it in the centre of the lunch box and it will keep everything cold and fresh, and it will be ready to drink in time for lunch.
You can use an empty plastic drink bottle; a lot of water bottles also come with sports caps. Empty water bottles are great to re-use.
A lot of the fruit Veg. and salad can be bought in big family packs, its cheaper to buy in bulk; these can also be used for the rest of the family for snacks, lunches for work, and used in the evening meals.
Food tubs and plastic containers are great for preparing and storing food over night in the fridge and they easily pop into their lunchboxes.
You can also keep tubs from food and wash them up to re use for this too.
Plastic spoons are cheap, and better to pack so your good spoons don't get lost.
A tissue or a wipe can be added if you wish, not necessary but handy for wiping spoons and fingers.
A lot of food can be prepared the night before so you don't have to rush in the morning. Once you are in a routine this will take less time.
If you have a particularly fussy eater, don't pack their lunchbox with all new foods, or foods that they don't like otherwise they will go hungry all day, instead pack a few healthy options and don't force these, and add a few of their favourite things too, that way they are going to eat something and may even try the new foods in time.
If you have a young child that gets upset at lunch time, leave a little note in there box, saying something like: 'Enjoy your lunch love mummy and daddy' with a smiley face, this makes them smile.
If you really struggle with packed lunches and find your little ones won't eat well, then you could always try school dinners, they are affordable and are no more expensive than providing a packed lunch, school dinners have really improved they offer a much healthier meal, and have good options, and have plenty for vegetarians too. There is always a good choice of Veg. and salad and the portion sizes are good too.
The desserts are popular too they have a good choice of fruit, flapjack, and ice cream.
The lunchtime staff will always watch your child if you have concerns.
Always remember to ask what your child wants for lunch, and even get them to help you to make it.