As load shedding has become a permanent part of our lives, we have learnt new tricks and tools to make it more bearable.
Packed lunches are a major part of a South African work or school day, unfortunately there are some mornings when we are forced to prepare them without electricity. Here are a few tips on how to pivot and still enjoy delicious, healthy packed lunches every day.
Let’s remember the basics:
- Know your area and your schedule to highlight the mornings you will be without electricity.
- Some foods just taste better as leftovers simply because the flavours have extra time to be infused, so batch cook extra of your kids’ favourite rice, pasta and chicken dishes.
- Fresh fruit and vegetables are great, healthy, tasty and work brilliantly for packed snacks.
- Plan your lunch and snacks around what tastes good at room temperature as electricity might not be available to reheat either.
- Variety is key to an exciting packed lunch. Fill your lunchbox with foods that you know you and your children enjoy. Start with a main lunch component of protein, add raw fruit or veggie sticks, add a naturally sweetened energy booster, as well as some healthy hydrators.
- Remember that if you do prepare a cooked lunch, all you might have at your convenience is a gas-top cooker, so plan within those parameters.
Plan ahead and make your appliances work for you
Keep a stock of puff pastry or store-bought bread dough in your freezer. This, along with low-fat proteins like chicken, is extremely versatile for lunch dishes. Prepare in advance if possible. Pies, pasties, Magic Buns (bread rolls filled with a dry braised curry), quiches, even pizzas can be made ahead, frozen and then defrosted, baked or airfried the night, or even just before, load shedding.
Stock up and refrigerate easy “wash-and-eat” fruit and veg, cocktail tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, celery, strawberries, blueberries, mangoes, etc. These make great lunchbox fillers.
Cream cheese, cottage cheese and mini cheese rounds all store well in the refrigerator and work exceptionally well with crackers on days on which cooked meals are not possible.
Ready muffin mixes can be whipped up in minimal time the night before or in the airfryer just before load shedding hits and these make for great treats or even a sweet lunch.
These Japanese-inspired lunchboxes consist of a single portion of protein, carbs (usually rice or noodles) and an assortment of fresh or pickled vegetables.
Bento boxes cater for adults and children; everyone can “pimp up” their Bentos. Adults and children can both enjoy carb options such as pasta, noodles or fried rice, with a grilled protein on the side like fish or chicken. Both the carb and protein option can be prepared the night before and enjoyed at room temperature. Compartmentalised Bento box lunch containers are now freely available at most stores and online.
Even leftovers work well in a Bento box. Leftover grilled chicken can be sliced and added on the side with a quick boiled pasta or stir-fried leftover rice, both of which can be done on a gas burner.
Update and embrace the old-school staple – the sandwich
Sandwiches have stood the test of time; we have continuously upgraded and revolutionised the filling of the humble sandwich. Gone are the days of soggy fish fingers and tomato sauce fillings or even grated cheese – which was partially melted even before break time.
Check what suits you and your family best. Maybe wrapped flatbreads work better than bread or even packing the filling in a separate container.
Leftover roast chicken or rotisserie chicken picked up on your way home the day before makes a great filling for peri-peri chicken mayo wraps or naanzas (pizza using naans as a base).
With a little imagination and planning, you can enjoy trusted store-bought staples in new and exciting ways!
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