Every school day (apart from Thursday when the day is too short to warrant it) my two teenage sons take a food flask with them to school. That's in addition to a pretty sizeable lunchbox stuffed to the gills with nourishment for the day. They are also (when I remember) armed with some emergency money for a canteen trip just in case (god forbid) they may experience a food crisis before the last bell. They are fully covered.
I don't enjoy packed lunch production - I think it's the 'day-in-day-out' nature of it that messes with my head - but I can see that it's a necessary evil.
And I realised some time ago that making the food flask element of packed lunches easy (or at least easier) HAD to involve making the most of the freezer.
So here's how I maintain a bit of food flask sanity -
- I have a stack of containers (nothing fancy - they are actually old margarine tubs) which each hold exactly the right amount for the two flasks.
- When I'm making something that lends itself to a food flask (ie pasta, curry, soup, dhal, stews ... you know the kind of thing) I fill a freezer container (or 2 if I'm lucky), label it and whack it in the freezer.
- And then when I need an easy food flask solution, I'll defrost one the night before, heat it through in the morning and I can be certain that there'll be exactly the right amount for both food flasks with no annoying waste left over. Bingo.
It's not rocket science, I know, but then most tips aren't - just a useful way to find the shortest path through daily drudgery. And I bet there aren't many parents who don't view packed lunch production in those terms.
Most tips aren't rocket science - just a useful way to find the shortest path through daily drudgery.
Hella has started feeling the love for a food flask too, but I'll hold off for a while with her - at least until I've found a suitable 3 portion container!
And here's an update - some years later ...
Since I first wrote this post, I've been through every combination of food flasks and have had to tweak my approach accordingly. First I had both boys taking a regular flask to school 4 days a week. Then there was that short period when they were both 'STARVING, Mum' and so we upped the game to an XL size flask for them both. Now both boys are away at university in the US and Hella (don't be fooled by her small size) also has a healthy appetite and wants a food flask to eat en route to swim training after school every day.
My approach has stayed largely the same -
- Work out how much food is required (for Hella it's a regular size flask, normally filled to 'almost full').
- Find a container type that is about the same volume - you can work this out by filling the flask with water and tipping it into a few containers until you land on the best one - and then use these containers to fill with your pasta, curry, soup, dhal, stews to freeze it for later.
- I freeze loads of things, so I ended up buying some cheap containers from Amazon but re-using old food or takeaway containers also works brilliantly. The most important thing is that the size is right.
- Be sure to label what you put in the freezer. Although you think you will just know what it is, as soon as it's frozen, everything looks the same. I have some small, simple stickers that I write on. Come to think of it, I should consider upgrading these - I bought them years ago (in a bumper pack) when my eyesight was decent and they are so tiny that I can barely see to write on them even WITH my glasses on! Note to self ...
- I now have a section of the freezer for 'food for flasks' but that's a story for another day ...
This really does take the fuss out of needing to come up with a portable small meal for every day and I would highly recommend it for your packed lunch sanity.