Indian Simmer Lunch Box

Life was definitely simpler when I was growing up. There was no rush to get anywhere. Things take time. Everyone knew that and was OK with it. As a parent you could trust your neighbors and you did not have to sniff and poke into everything to confirm if it was real and true. Hot and fresh school lunches were a norm and our mums had enough help to make that possible, day after day, every day for years.
Well, to say that things have changed quite a bit in these years would be an understatement. And for obvious reasons. Decades have passed and we have grown. Money has lost its value and so has trust. Time has taken that place so everything has to be fast. Faster cars, shorter movies, crisper messages and quicker food. So for someone like me who grew up eating piping hot parathas and dal chawal (steamed rice with lentil soup) for school lunch, it was tough to adjust to the fact that my daughter will eat microwavable hot pockets and cold pizza for her lunch. So I promised myself not to fall in that trap. Its not always easy but trust me, not as difficult as they say it is! Just a little homework and preparation is all it takes. Here’s what I do to keep myself on track and to keep it “fast”:

Plan ahead and make a list: Every Friday night just 10 minutes before going to bed, I make a list of five dishes I plan to send in her lunchbox the coming week. I try to keep the dishes simple that do not ask for a lot of prep work. Like me if you like bookmarking or “pinning” great recipe ideas, when running short, just go back to those recipes and try something new.

Shop for the week: Weekend is when we get time to shop for groceries. Just like lunchbox food, I also plan my meals for the whole week and shop for everything during weekend.

Do major prep the night before: I usually pick recipes that do not ask for a lot of prep work but if there is any, I finish it off the night before.

Wake up before them: Set up the alarm and get out of bed at least 30 minutes before the rest of the crew to save yourself the chaos of having to run to the bathroom when tea is on the stove or when the little one spilled her milk. Extra points if you can squeeze in your morning yoga or run in there too!

Don’t skip breakfast. Just keep it simple and quick: Milk and cereal, granola fruit parfait,  pre-boiled eggs and toast or just a banana. This will save you time to concentrate on the hot lunch you are cooking instead of juggling between breakfast and lunch.

Assemble and put things together in the morning: If time consuming work is done the night before, then in the morning all you need to do is put it all together. Pack in the lunchbox and send them off.

Below is a list of things I sent in her lunchbox this week:

Monday: Avocado Paratha with lemon pickle Night prep: Mash avocado. Add salt and lemon juice. Knead with whole wheat flour. Refrigerate.
Roll and cook paratha in the morning.

Tuesday: Tuna cakes with rice cakes for lunch. Mini bagel with honey almond smear for snack: Night prep: Drain canned tuna. Mash with boiled potatoes (add vegetables of choice), dried mint, salt and panko. I make shapes using ongiri mold, just for cuteness factor. You can roll into little patties. Refrigerate.
In the morning pan fry tuna cakes. Cook rice and make shapes using ongiri molds. Assemble bagel.

Wednesday: Grilled veggie cheese pita for lunch. Apple and cheese for snack: Night prep: Frozen steamed veggie medley. Thaw at night. Use choice of meat if you like. Refrigerate.
In the morning, toss veggies with cheese. Adjust salt. Fill into pita halves. Wrap in aluminum foil. Cook like grilled cheese sandwich. Cut into quarters.

Thursday: Sausage fried rice for lunch. Apple sauce, cherry tomatoes and cheese for snack: Night prep: Chop sausage and choice of vegetables. Cook rice. Refrigerate.
In the morning, saute vegetables and sausage. Toss with rice.

Friday: Mini Idly with honey for lunch. Olives, cucumber and cheese for snack: I prepare my own idly batter a day in advance using this recipe. You can also use store bought batter.
In the morning, cook idly.

Hope this list gives you some ideas on what to pack as a healthy lunch for your kiddo. I am always looking for new, interesting ideas because there’s just not enough of them. So please feel free to share yours with a possible link in the comment section. I will come back with another plan next week!