Lunchbox efficiency: tips to lighten the meal prep load

The holidays are behind us, our New Year resolutions are fading, and the reality of the daily grind has set in for 2018.  If you have school age kids you're likely to be packing 400-600 lunches a year, as well as sorting out something for yourself every day.


Maybe after the first week of good intentions and healthy lunches, it's already getting pretty tempting to either stock up on random junk in packets, or spend your hard-earned coin on takeaways and tuck shop.

Before you reach for the E-numbers and processed cheese-esque substances, here are some tips from Plan Buy Cook to sort out some healthy lunches while still having time to get on with the rest of your life.

Plan around the busy bits

Once the new year schedule settles down, you'll know when you have to work late, when the kids have after-school activities, and when your busy patches for the year are likely to fall.  Take advantage of that: save the complicated meals and trying out new dishes for when you have a quiet night in, and save the leftovers and the dinners you know you can throw together quickly for the busy nights.

Do one big shop

Easier said than done, right?  But once you have a handle on your busy night/not busy night situation, use that to plan your meals ahead and do one big grocery run rather than picking up bits and pieces through the week.  It'll be more efficient, and you'll save money on all the chocolate and softdrink you're not impulse-buying at the checkout.

Have breakfast

Another one that's often easier said than done, but a decent breakfast really does sort you out for the day ahead.  The standard breakfast fare is all you need - cereal, muesli, toast, eggs if you have a bit more time.  There are also brekky options like bircher muesli you can prep the night before if you really need that extra three minutes shuteye in the morning.

Sneak in some veg

Five serves of vegetables a day is an... optimistic... goal for a lot of Aussies.  Get your tally up by including a few in the lunchbox, particularly ones that that are mess-free and easy to handle like carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes.

See past sandwiches

Much love to the sarnie, but they can get repetitive when you're relying on them five days a week.  Try incorporating a little variety into your lunchbox with leftovers, some of that sneaky veg, or fillers you can make ahead and freeze, like muffins.  Speaking of which...

Freeze some fillers

On one of those not-busy nights, make some portable lunchbox fillers like muffins, pizza scrolls, or whatever suits your family's tastes, your enthusiasm for cooking, and your will to live.  Meals that freeze well like curries can also lurk in the freezer on stand-by until you need a quick lunch.

Prep while you're putting the groceries away

It adds time, but makes life easier down the track.  For instance, split meat up into individual serves before you freeze it so you don't have to defrost the whole tray at once.  You can even marinate the meat before you put it away.

Got more tips?  Leave them in the comments!