Packing a lunch is, we all know, the frugal choice. Like many working mums, I am responsible for making packed lunches for myself and my family and if I am honest, it often feels like a ball and chain around my neck! However, I do like knowing that myself and my family have something tasty and reasonably healthy to eat each day, and there is no way I could budget for buying lunch out everyday.
I've been making packed lunches for myself, my husband and my daughter for many years, and I thought I would share some ideas that have worked for me.
The good old sarnie is the backbone of most packed lunches, isn't it? I usually make them the night before, so I steer clear of anything that will go soggy or smelly! I don't often put salad into the sandwiches, because I find it often makes them soggy. However, I quite often put some sliced cucumber and tomato into a little plastic tub and put them into my sandwich at lunch time. As far as fillings go, I tend to stick to the basics, like cheese and cooked meat. I find wraps and pitta breads very useful, because I can buy them well in advance, and they will keep for a long time in the cupboard or freezer.
2. Instead of a sandwich...
I sometimes give my daughter sausage rolls instead of a sandwich. I often have some in the freezer, and they come in handy on days when I have run out of bread or fillings, or just for a bit of variety.
My daughter rally enjoys a pasta salad instead of a sandwich sometimes. Just some cold pasta mixed up with mayonnaise, with some chopped up protein, like cheese, chicken or ham, and some vegetables like sweetcorn and cucumber. At home, she loves a big pile of salad leaves, with dressing and grated cheese, but she won't have that at school, because she worries about getting bits of green stuck in her braces!
3. A hot dinner...
Both my husband and myself have access to a microwave, which opens up a whole world of possibilities! I often make some veg soup at the weekend, using up odds and ends, and freeze a few portions in old margarine tubs. I'm happy to have that for lunch, but my husband is not a soup fan. I will quite often pack up leftovers from the previous nights meal for my husband. This works out pretty well most of the time, and he much prefers it to a sandwich.
Jacket potatoes make a nice lunch, with a bit of something to fill them, like a dollop of coleslaw. I usually cook them before hand, then just heat them up in the microwave at work. That way, I'm not tying up the micro for too long when other people might need it.
I do sometimes pick up a ready meal or two, especially if they are reduced. They are not a regular lunch, but are handy to keep in the freezer as a back up.
4. A savoury 'extra'...
I often pop a treat or two in our lunch. Sometimes sweet, sometimes savoury. I'm not adverse to a packet of crisps now and then. Not every week, because they have a lot of salt in them, but I might pick up a multipack if they are a good price. My daughter only really likes to take ready salted crisps to school, she is worried that other flavours might make her breath smell.
We all like olives, so a few in a little pot always go down well.
I have a couple of little tubs with a sealable pot in the centre, and I will sometimes fill it with a dip of some kind, surrounded by cucumber and carrot sticks.
5. A sweet 'extra'...
I like a yogurt, which is nice and simple. I look out for whatever is a good price. I'm quite happy to eat Smart Price /Value yogurts.
I bake quite often. Simple muffins, maybe with a chopped up Mars bar mixed in, or a lemon drizzle cake. I might freeze individual portions, and bring them out as I need them.
I look out for special offers on chocolate biscuits, like penguins or kit Kats.
We eat a lot of fruit, too. If I take an orange to work, I slice it up at home first.
Water. Plain and simple, in a reusable bottle. Very infrequently, I will give my daughter a small carton of fruit juice in addition to the water, but none of us are very keen on fizzy drinks, so they never feature in packed lunches.