Even though The Kid is going into grade 9 and could probably make his own lunches by now, I still enjoy doing it. Until he started grade 7 he ate a hot lunch at school so I have really only being doing the daily packed lunch thing for 2 years and I haven't had a chance to burn out. That is probably the only reason why I don't abhor the grind of packing a lunch to be honest. Even if you are sick of it, these kids have to eat so I like to make it a bit easier on myself.
If you have a picky eater who only likes to eat the same two things every day, this post is not for you so don't read this and roll your eyes and yell at me that I am ridiculous. Not every kid is picky or wants to eat the same meal every day. I almost envy the parents of those kids because there is no guesswork when it comes to lunch - their lunch becomes a uniform that you just throw together while on auto pilot every day because it never changes - god I will miss uniforms.
There are those of us who have kids who really like to eat, want variety and get exited about trying new things. This post is for you. These are all meals that will provide tasty leftovers that are perfect for packing for lunch.
If you have a child who isn't a huge sandwich person but will happily eat leftovers I cannot recommend some sort of bento thermos system highly enough. I finally invested in a Zojirushi bento thingy and I am kicking myself for nothing doing so sooner. I have wasted so much money in the long run buying different thermoses that didn't keep food hot enough, didn't fit in any of his lunch boxes or leaked that I could have probably bought two of these systems by now. It keeps his food piping hot until lunch if I send hot food and ice cold if I prep it for that. LOVE THIS THING TO DEATH
Now, over the last few years I have trained him to eat some sandwiches but the curse of having a kid who really likes to eat is that you can't just slap a slice of ham between a couple slices of bread and call it lunch. He is the monster I created so I now deal with the fallout and although he will eat sandwiches, he likes them to be a little special. He loves egg salad, he likes Montreal smoked meat, Vietnamese meatballs in a french bread sandwich sort of like a banh mi and both tuna and salmon salad. Training him to eat sandwiches has made my life easier but I still like to send him a hot lunch at least a few times a week. For lunches like the chili baked potato, I make an extra baked potato when we have them and I keep single servings of chili in the freezer so It's actually a really easy thing to throw together in the morning and shove in his bento ( you can chop the baked potato up and layer the bottom with that and pour the chili on top to make it easier to eat). You can totally skip the potato and just send along a container of the chili but the potato makes it more filling and you can stretch a smaller serving of chili that way too.
For dishes like the Japanese mixed rice bowl, I make a batch of it and then I freeze single serving portions of it to thaw out the night before, heat up and send in his bento with a couple pieces of broccoli or bok choy or something on it. Basically, the thermos bento thing means you can send pretty much any kind of leftover you have laying around the house and knowing I can do that has taken most of the stress out of worrying about his lunches. Just heat up a bowl of leftover something or other, throw in a chunk of nice bread, maybe some cut up raw veggies or salad and you are done.
When I do some sort of soba noodle lunch, I don't bother making the noodles the night before because they only take about 5 minutes to cook and then you just rinse them under cold tap water. Throw in some leftover cooked vegetables, leftover cooked meat or chop up some fried tofu and toss it with some sort of sauce and you have lunch ( you can make the sauce the night before or you can be lazy and use soba sauce like this one that you bought at the asian grocery store)
The freezer is your best friend. Mine is always full of my little vietnamese meatballs as well as store bought chinese dumplings and bbq pork buns for emergency lunches. Just make sure you always make extra when you make any soup, stew, chili, meatloaf or roasted meats and get in the habit of freezing small one serving portions that you can take out of the freezer the night before and they can get a great lunch that looks like you put hours of work into it when it really didn't take much longer than making a ham and cheese sandwich. Of course, these are all great lunches for the adults to pack themselves to take to work as well because lunch doesn't have to be boring.
Here are ten of my favourite lunch ideas :