Solution for the Packed Lunch Challenge

Ferninda is one of the inspirations for this blog, though she doesn’t know it.

Over the years, she has asked me for advice on homemaking matters. Though I am not an expert by any means, she knows that I am someone she can turn to for advice. Cooking isn’t one of her fortes yet. When she was a university student, she would explain the art of Balinese dance, which I found fascinating, but thought that I could never learn to dance like her. The art of cooking is definitely much easier.  

She is a working mum now with two young children, and she is pursuing a teaching diploma part-time. She has her hands full, but is determined to start cooking gradually.

She wants to know how to plan packed lunches. They have to be healthy, but have to be cooked over the weekend for the whole week. Now, that is a bit of a challenge!

My advice is as follows:

  1. Cook two main dishes (meat/fish) for the week
  2. Cook 1 vegetable dish
  3. Make 1 salad
  4. Cook rice
  5. Cook fried rice or noodles

The above is manageable and does not require too many ingredients. The idea is to alternate the dishes so that there is variety (mix and match). It also ensures that there is a variety of nutrients and vitamins. Cooking time is estimated to take around 2 to 3 hours.

Meat/fish dishes

  1. Steamed chicken (Week 1)
  2. Pork stew (Week 1)
  3. Roast chicken (Week 2)
  4. Prawn noodles (Week 2)
  5. Tuna omelette (Week 2)
  6. Basil leaf chicken (Week 3)
  7. Pan fried fish fillet (Week 3)
  8. Stir fried egg with tomatoes

(The photos do not correspond with the list of dishes, but are examples of simple dishes which are good for packed lunches)

Vegetables

Stir-fried mixed vegetable

Boiled cabbage and carrots

Salad

Carbohydrates

Rice

Noodles

Bread

Steps in meal planning

  1. List the proteins, vegetables and carbohydrates you plan to serve
  2. Look for a few simple recipes
  3. Plan the menu for the week, you can also plan the menu for three weeks, which could save you the time of doing it every week
  4. Make a shopping list when you plan the menu. (I usually include a column in my menu plan for ingredients)

Menu for the week 1

Monday

Steamed chicken

Mixed vegetables

Garlic and egg fried rice

Tuesday

Pork stew

Salad with roasted sesame dressing

Rice

Wednesday

Steamed chicken

Noodles with mixed vegetables

Thursday

Pork stew

Garlic and egg fried rice

Friday

Noodles with prawns and mixed vegetables*

Week 2

Monday

Roast chicken

Stir fried cabbage and carrots

Rice

Tuesday

Prawns with noodles and green vegetables

Wednesday

Fried rice with shredded roast chicken

Salad

Thursday

Chicken with noodles and green vegetables

Friday

Tuna omelette*

Salad

Rice or bread

Week 3

Monday

Basil leaf chicken

Salad with Thai dressing

Rice

Tuesday

Pan fried pork fillet

Noodles with beansprouts

Wednesday

Basil leaf chicken wrap

Salad

Thursday

Pan fried pork fillet

Boiled beansprouts, carrots, beans

Friday

Chinese scrambled eggs with tomatoes*

Cucumber and carrot salad

Rice

*Cooked on Thursday evening

Some tips

  1. Think of dishes which are easy to pack and which will not spoil fast.

(Cooked food can be kept in the fridge for three to four days.

Cooked food can be frozen and kept for longer)

2. Cook a variety of vegetables

(serve leafy green vegetable first and vegetables which will keep longer last)

3.Plan your shopping time so that your meat and vegetables are fresh when you cook

4. Plan your preparation time and cooking time

(Cut and marinate meat, then cut and wash the vegetables while the meat is marinating. Use separate chopping boards and knives for meat and vegetables. Remember to boil rice or noodles while you are cooking the meat and vegetables)

5. Allow time for cooked food to cool before refrigerating

6. Keep cooked food in containers and pack the following day’s lunch at night (Glass containers are easier to wash and better for heating in the microwave)

Lunch is an important meal, especially if there isn’t much time for a proper breakfast. Dinner can be lighter. The important thing is to ensure that meals are balanced and that you are getting the nutrition you need to stay healthy. Our best defence against illness is to ensure that we are healthy, and a balanced diet goes a long way!

By Chayo, HomSkil Editor 1, 22 August 2021

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