Step 2: Weekly Plan for Lunchboxes

As this week screeches to a close, my head is already rolling forward to the next. It always helps to have a sketch of what the lunchboxes would look like and for me sometimes it helps to think geographically as this give me themes to play with. I know there are many cuisines of the world to think of, but I try to stick to the ones most familiar (and the ingredients are readily available,) such as:

  • Middle Eastern,
  • Western – Swedish, Greek, Italian, American, British, Tex-Mex
  • South East Asian – Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Indonesian
  • Asian – Chinese, Korean, Indian

The countries I think of would also give me clues to what items to buy for the week – beef for mincing, chicken (whole for roasting, fillet or whole legs,) fish, prawns for protein, as well as herbs such as coriander, Thai basil, Italian basil, mint. The rest depends on the things that I can find in the market e.g. avocado, berries, spinach – whatever is fresh, in season and perhaps on sale.  Sometimes there are great bargains on certain types of foodstuff, I would usually get the item and find recipes to try out, (this was how I embarked on the Vietnamese rice roll adventure).

For each of the theme, it can further be divided as:

  • protein
  • veggies and/or fruits – salad or soup
  • carbs

If 2 items are mixed (e.g. mini pizzas – carbs+protein) that gives me an extra item to play around with (and that usually means additional veggie and/or fruit item.) Due to the limitations of the Thermos lunch tiffin that my son has, I try to keep his lunch item to 3 most days. However, on Thursday (swimming day,) I usually add another tupperware of baked goods or fruit based item as post-swim snack and for him and his friends.

Sounds complicated? Actually it helps not to be too stubborn 100% with the plan. Have a plan but be prepared to be flexible and allow for some changes to the menu based on the freshness, availability of produce and any special savers, deals that may be available at the market.

The lunchbox menu is then incorporated as part of my weekly and monthly household menu which is cross-referenced to the weekly shopping list. Below is a sample print screen of my household menu in 2010 – the reason the menu is in malay is because we then had a helper at home who did not speak English. I have translated some into English to provide the general idea of the format for the menu plan:

Sample Menu

Busy week so far…

Pardon me for the tardiness in updating this blog. Wait.. wait.. there is a really great excuse for this, we have a visitor at home. My darling sister in law came to town on a break this week, so I have been enjoying the fact that there is another woman-person at home to talk to and spend time with. So much so that this blog has had to suffer for it, oops! However, lunchboxes continue to be packed, and have also had a little motivation to try out new recipes, e.g. chocolate macarons with salted caramel filling (ooooh, mama!) and baked coffee cheesecake, not to mention our little stash of cookies around my finally completed “hospitality corner.”

So what did I pack for my dear boy’s lunchbox this week? OK, here goes:

IMG_00000270 IMG_00000269

Monday:

  • Roasted butternut, carrots and chicken sausage soup
  • Cheese scones
  • Steamed vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower)

Tuesday:

IMG_00000276

  • Rice noodles
  • Chicken and vegetable broth

I separated all items – rice noodles is blanched in hot water and kept separate from the broth so that it won’t get soggy. The broth is kept hot in the thermos along with the chicken pieces, vegetables are also placed separately from the broth, otherwise there will not be enough broth for the noodles.

Wednesday:

IMG_00000284

  • Lamb Souvlaki
  • Tzatziki
  • Home-made pita bread

I will fill in the recipes below each of the heading above later when time permits, but for now, I hope the pictures will help with some packing ideas.

Another project I had been working on is my abovementioned hospitality corner. One of the final purchases I made in Riyadh was the much wanted Cuisinart coffee maker with burr grinder attached. The machine grinds coffee beans fresh each time, and as the freshly made coffee is stored in a thermal carafe, there is no need for a hotplate to keep the pot of coffee warm either, so goodbye burnt tasting and smelling coffee! (Yes, yes, I did count the number of times I used the word coffee in the previous sentence!) Anyhoo.. it would be nice to have a corner where one can make coffee or tea and have some nibbles (cookies/biscuits and other lovely nibblets) – so, with all the hardware in place, it was time to bake. The result is a small jar of granola, and 2 glass jars containing oatmeal cookies and chocolate chip with malt cookies, to go along with the coffee and tea corner. Ahh… Now that is in place, I am a satisfied woman.

IMG_00000267  IMG_00000268

To round this update up, I decided to make chocolate macarons with salted caramel filling because my son thought macaroons and macarons are one and the same… so he had to be educated, so there! (Yes, yes, and the education ended with all the said macarons being consumed the same night, sigh with nary a picture to take.)

IMG_00000285 IMG_00000289

Finally, I made a baked coffee cheesecake for sister in law (and me,) to have with our coffee as we inaugurated the hospitality corner in my cute little house 🙂 Hmm, we are running a little low in the cookie department, but no worries, I still have the dough all rolled up in the freezer, ready to be sliced and baked pronto when the last cookie is consumed 🙂

IMG_00000287 IMG_00000290