I’m not only good at making lunches for the kids, I would say I’m almost at expert level! Over the (many, many) years, I’ve developed a good system and now my kids mostly do their own lunches. However, over the last couple of years, I have been working at becoming better at doing adult lunch boxes. Recently, my husband went through a super busy time, and I made lunches for him during that period (often using leftovers) which you can see below.
Still, I struggled to consistently plan ahead when making lunches for myself. I usually did not have enough food during the day (I just ate an apple on the run), or had to fall back on take away options. This year, I’ve been making more of an effort with my own lunch food. Now that the colder months have arrived, we are focusing on those delicious comfort foods in my household, like soups. Winter in Brisbane is my favourite time of year. I love wearing coats and scarves, and finding a warm spot to sit and enjoy food. I’ve put together some tips for investing in easy lunch box food ideas this winter from what I’ve learnt over this past year.
The first thing to consider is storing food and making it easy to pack lunches. Especially in winter, warm food is lovely, but you need the right sort of containers. In the past, I have used the Fuel Lunch Box (pictured above). These are handy because they are microwavable, however the lids do not seal (they just sit on the top of the container) so you need to be really careful what you put in there and how you carry it.
Another option is to use a variety of different microwave-safe containers and place them in a lunch bag. This is a good option, but I find all the containers fiddly and annoying. I think that is the thing: you have to work with what works for you or it’s not sustainable.
One of the better options I have tried is these sectioned reusable containers by Michelle Bridges – pack of 5. I stumbled across them in the kitchen aisle of my local Woolies. They are portioned which makes packing food easy, and they are microwave, dishwasher and freezer safe.
2. Pack food options you look forward to
Taking a nice moment during the day to enjoy food is important and I have been making more of an effort to actually stop. I went through a phase of packing the same food each weekday to make things easy. However, I really missed the variety. For me, having a variety of things to eat is really enjoyable. Having something to look forward to is important.
Soups are one of my favourite foods to eat and they work well for lunches, and you can mix it up too. Either make your own (here are a few recipes: pumpkin soup recipe, chicken noodle soup, meatball soup, chicken and corn soup, lentil soup, chicken enchilada soup) or you can grab the Woolies single serve soups which are easy to pack (I picked up 4 for $10 in my recent shop). They also come in larger 1 litre sizes. There are many different flavours to pick from – I went with Minestrone, Creamy Pumpkin, Pea & Ham and Asian Style Chicken & Corn. Woolworths have also recently released a number of new soups in time for winter and they are so yummy! The new range includes a Hearty Chicken & Bean Soup, Lamb & Barley, Mexican Soup with Chilli Bean, Peppered Steak and Beef & Vegetable Soup which are all $5 each for 500g.
I’m not really a sweet tooth, but I do enjoy something small to nibble on, especially in the afternoons. I tried the Free From Gluten, Dairy Free Chocolate Cheesecake (made with nuts and coconut) and it’s just the right sort of sweet for me (i.e. not too sweet). I cut it up into small sections, and made a batch of apricot balls and put them in a container for the freezer. This will probably last at least three weeks. I simply remove what I need for that day, and it thaws out by the time I need to eat it.
Even on a day when I have a very quick throw together lunch like this one, that little treat is something I look forward to.
Although I don’t have it very often, having a piece of cheese every now and again is a lovely treat.
Pea & Ham Soup |Cheese | Crackers | Carrot, Celery & Capsicum & Hummus | Strawberries
Another thing I enjoy during winter is flat bread, naan bread or roti instead of sandwiches, because I find it easier to portion control. Simply cut a few strips and add to the lunch box. It’s kind of making a grazing plate, which is one of my favourite ways to eat because you get a little bit of everything. I like these sorts of breads during winter too, because you can heat them up and it makes eating a little more cosy.
Carrot & Snow Peas | Naan Bread | Hummus | Falafel | Apricot Ball | Free From Gluten, Free From Dairy Choc Cheesecake
Kiwi Fruit | Almonds | Naan | Creamy Pumpkin Soup
Strawberries | Roti | Lettuce/Olives/Crumbled Feta | Asian Style Chicken & Corn Soup
3. Use Leftovers
Making a bit extra for dinner is another easy way to make delicious, warm lunches. Bolognese and pulled pork is are especially good because you can use them in so many ways. For example, serve with:
- corn chips
- a roll with coleslaw
- a wrap
Turn an easy mid-week dinner into easy lunches.
Woolworths Slow Cooked Pork Shoulder With Bbq Sauce| Vegetables | Corn Chips | Apricot Balls
Seeded Roll | Woolworths Kaleslaw Kit | Pulled Pork | Apple
4. Take Time to Savour it
This is what I struggle with the most! Taking the time to sit and enjoy food (not just eat while I work at my desk). There are a couple of ways I make myself stop to enjoy lunch.
Find a different spot
I find it helpful to find a different spot to where you work. For me, eating in the fresh air relaxes me the most. I sometimes worry that I’m wasting time, but I tend to be more productive after a nice break anyway.
Make it a bit special
Another tip is to use a mug for soup (just pour it in after heating). There is something so cosy about sipping soup from a mug. It’s the little things, like using proper cutlery, or finding a pretty spot to eat.
I find it hard to switch off, so listening to music, reading or watching interesting videos is a nice way to take a moment after I enjoy lunch. So not just eating and moving on, but savouring the food and taking the time to stop. It does me good.