Juggling work and family, on top of meal planning and every day chores, is the daily struggle many of us are facing.
But while we can’t fix your Zoom call woes, we can scour the Mumsnet forums to find quick and healthy meal ideas that keep hungry tummies full until dinner time.
These hearty veg-packed lunches are perfect for term-time whether you’re homeschooling or making packed lunches for children who are able to attend school.
1. Cheesy Quesadillas with Rainbow Salad
If gooey cheesy goodness at lunchtime isn’t enticing enough, you’ll be pleased to know that these hot quesadillas are super quick to makeThey’re also a very versatile meal that can be packed up in a lunchbox if you’re after a filling meal for children who are attending school.
Simply cut a tortilla in half, sprinkle some grated cheese and spring onion onto one side and close with the other half of the tortilla. Then heat the tortilla in a non-stick frying pan for one minute on each side or until the cheese has melted. Cut into quarters and serve with bean, pepper and cherry tomato salad.
2. Tuna Mayo Pitta Pockets
Tuna mayo is a classic sandwich filling. It’s quick and easy to make and works out fairly cheap too. Try toasting wholemeal pittas before adding the tuna mayo filling for some added crunch.
You could also add sweetcorn and tomato to the tuna mayo filling to sneak in an extra portion of veg. Serve with a piece of fruit for a balanced meal.
3. Savoury Muffins
Savoury muffins are a deliciously filling lunch and a great way to sneak in a few extra vegetables. You can make them in advance and freeze them so they’re always on hand which means they’re perfect for a quick lunch at home, or for packing into a lunchbox. Pair with a piece of fruit and some carrot sticks for a great lunchtime meal wherever you are.
“I make a massive batch of spinach/feta muffins and stick them in the freezer (already baked) and take one out for DD first thing in the morning. It's good to eat around lunchtime.” - Mumsnet user
4. Creamy Lentil and Veggie Curry
If there’s one plus-side to homeschooling it’s the joy of a homemade hot meal at lunchtime, especially the kind of hot meal that can be made ahead of time. This creamy lentil and veggie curry is packed with vitamins and can be made in advance. Freeze in individual portions so they’re ready to go when you need them.
5. Veggie Pasta Bake
Pasta bake is a classic and a great meal to make in advance, whether you're packing lunchboxes or serving food at home. Try adding roasted butternut squash, spinach and a little olive oil to wholewheat pasta for filling lunch with two of their five-a-day. For a hearty lunch that’s also vegan-friendly, pair with a school-compliant lunchbox loaf and a piece of fruit.
“My children get bored with sandwiches, so instead I do veggie pasta. Cook the pasta and let it cool. Then add a splash of olive oil, chopped red pepper and sweetcorn, and a little grated Italian hard cheese. Eaten every time.” - Mumsnet user
6. Easy Omelette in a Bun
Quick, easy and surprisingly delicious. Making an omelette and then folding it into a bun sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it does. What’s more, you can pack it with as much veg as you like using whatever you have in the fridge.
7. Ham and Cheese Bagel
Cut a bagel in half, toast it and leave to cool. Top with sliced cheese, ham and a little bit of lettuce. Serve with a side of hummus, some cucumber sticks for a simple, yet tasty lunch.
8. Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Pitta Pouches
Stuff a wholewheat pitta with shredded chicken with roasted red peppers for a great lunch. Pair with a portion of fruit.
9. Easy-peasy Ploughman’s Lunch
A Ploughman's-inspired lunch offers a selection of tasty bites, perfect for little fingers and fussy eaters. What’s better, you can use whatever you have in the fridge to create it. A boiled egg, some ham, chunks of cheese and some fruit and veggie sticks packed together – and you're good to go. It’s a great lunch to spread out on the table buffet-style, but it works just as well in a lunchbox too.
For a healthy lunch, pair with a portion of fruit and an individually wrapped Soreen Apple Lunchbox Loaf that tastes great at home or on the go.
10. Leftover Roast Chicken Wraps
Utilising leftovers is a great way to spice up lunchtimes. For a meal adults and children can enjoy, try filling soft tortillas with roast chicken and salad.
“I cook a chicken on Sunday, which I carve and keep in the fridge. I then add the meat to wraps with shredded lettuce, sweetcorn and chopped mini peppers. A squirt of low-fat mayo, BBQ or sweet chilli sauce makes them extra tasty.” - Mumsnet user
11. Cream Cheese and Cherry Tomato Pinwheels
Tortilla pinwheels are an easy way to shake up lunchtime meals. We’ve suggested cream cheese and cherry tomatoes in this recipe, but you could use pretty much any sandwich filling.
Spread the cream cheese onto the wrap and layer thinly sliced tomatoes on top. Roll it up tightly and then cut into six pinwheels. Secure them onto bamboo skewers to keep them in place.
12. Grilled Chicken Skewers
Chicken skewers are easy to make in advance and a great way to sneak in a few extra veggies at lunchtime. Simply thread pieces of chicken and vegetables onto a bamboo skewer – you can use any vegetables you have in the house – we like tomatoes and peppers best. Grill until cooked. Leave to cool before storing them in the fridge. Serve with couscous, salad or pitta bread.
13. Falafel and Hummus Wraps
Falafel balls are a good source of protein and delicious served warm or cold with some grated vegetables and hummus.
Spread a generous helping of hummus onto a tortilla wrap before filling with pre-made falafel balls, grated carrot, olives and tomato. Delicious!
14. Chicken Pesto Pasta
A little bit of pesto swirled into wholewheat pasta makes a quick and easy lunch. Try and add a protein source – such as beans, ham or chicken – and some extra veg for a more balanced meal.
15. Cookie-Cutter Sandwiches
A wonderfully simple way to spice up the humble sandwich – and put a smile on your child's face. Use a cookie cutter to create a shape from the bread and then assemble as you normally would.
“We have a teeny rabbit cutter that we used for Easter and heart-shaped cutters for Valentine’s as well as stars for everyday use. You might waste a bit of bread, but before we used cutters the sandwiches were often completely uneaten. Now there are never any left.” - Mumsnet user
16. Homemade Lunchables
“I make my own, much healthier variation of a Lunchable. I use wheat crackers or cream crackers, which I layer with slices of salami, ham or pepperoni and little squares of cheese. To make them super healthy, I add sliced cucumber, radishes or cherry tomatoes – which always go down very well.” - Mumsnet user
Easy lunchbox snacks
Sometimes a main meal just isn’t enough, so why not keep lunches interesting by trying one of these easy lunchbox snacks as recommended by Mumsnetters.
“I like to make a variation of boiled eggs – ‘golden eggs’. It’s super simple. All I do is shake the eggs like crazy before putting them in the water to boil. They’re a great, healthy snack and this just makes them a little more exciting for the kids.”
“Recently I’ve been adding mozzarella pearls wrapped in basil on a cocktail stick with cherry tomatoes as a fun snack full of calcium and protein.”
“I find frittata bites are a great way of sneaking in some extra veggies in the kids' lunch. I mix a few egg whites with vegetables like red onions, bell peppers and spinach and then bake in the oven.”
Soreen Lunchbox Loaves
“We love the Soreen Lunchbox Loaves in our house! Our kids liked the banana ones best, DH and I prefer the original ones. Great for a snack if you want something healthier that won't make you feel guilty.”
Homemade power balls
“I like to make ‘power balls’ by mixing up coconut, sesame seeds, oats and lots of cacao, rolling them into little ball shapes and popping in the fridge. Yum.”
Trick a fussy eater into another portion of fruit by threading fruit in a kebab stick. We don’t know why it works, but it does.
6 Mumsnetter tips for winning at school lunches
1. Utilise leftovers
“Chicken drumsticks with the skin removed and cold frittata as well as cold rice or couscous with bits of veggies mixed in are popular. Also homemade chicken nuggets, cold sausages or fish fingers and pasta pesto with peas.”
2. Make extra when cooking for the grown-ups
“I make meat/vegetable pasties, big ones for my husband's lunch and little ones for my daughter's lunch. Use leftover veg and pre-rolled pastry and they're really quick to make.”
3. Offer things you'd like to eat yourself
“I love a tortilla wrap, with cream cheese then filled with chicken and grated carrot, rolled up and sliced into chunks. For dessert, add some natural yoghurt with a handful of frozen raspberries, which defrost during the morning. No more faff than a regular sandwich and yoghurt lunch but a bit tastier.”
4. Mix and match
“If your child only likes sweet sandwiches, try giving them jam, then adding cheese or satay sticks alongside, so they get carbs and protein, just not in the same sandwich. Another trick for kids who hate veg is raw sugar snap peas – they're really sweet and great for dipping in cream cheese.”
5. Go with a theme and surprise them
“So falafel with hummus, pitta bread and vegetables on one day, mini samosas the next and a mini portion of Greek salad with feta and olives the next.”
6. Get them involved
“Whether it's getting them to butter the bread or being more adventurous and whipping up a batch of super-healthy flapjacks packed with seeds and dried fruit. Anything they've helped to prepare is much more likely to get eaten.”