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How can I give my lunchbox some love?

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Ramona Andrews Ramona Andrews | 15:00 UK time, Friday, 17 September 2010

Thinking about packed lunch consumes a great part of my working day: remembering to pack one in the first place, working out the optimum time to tuck in and then thinking about the next day's lunch... So where can I find inspiration? As the weather changes, soup is a comforting lunch option. Make it in large quantities in advance and freeze it - beans are particularly useful for bulking it out if necessary. And you can normally buy a fresh bread roll just before lunch. There was talk about pattypan squash on the messageboard recently, this roasted patty pan and fennel soup might do the trick. There's also Jamie Oliver's inspiring selection of soups.

Leftovers are definitely the way to go. Make a little extra the night before and set aside tomorrow's serving before it gets nabbed - you'll find that dishes like curries and casseroles actually improve the next day. Love Food Hate Waste has some great cook once, eat twice ideas.

Any robust salad that can stand the wait is perfect for preparing the night before. Couscous, noodle or pasta salad will fill you up nicely. Add extras like some cheese or hummus or sliced vegetable sticks to keep your interest after a few days! Get your tastebuds going with a peek at 101 cookbooks' salads.

funky lunch's 'horse' sandwich


Another nice option is to set up a salad club with workmates - everyone brings in a different element to the salad and you'll have something so much greater than the sum of its parts. Or just be a little more inventive with sandwich fillers. Do tell us about your favourite sarnies...

Far be it from us to enforce 'bossy' lunchbox advice, but a few healthy kids' lunchbox suggestions can be a lifesaver for many parents. Indeed only one per cent of childrens' lunchboxes meet the nutritional standards set for schools - so even if you're not up to the fun of Funky Lunch's sandwich faces, it's worth giving it some thought.

Mumsnet can be relied upon for useful lunchbox dos and don'ts, as can the Food Standard Agency's tips for a healthy lunchbox, or Epicurious' back-to-school cooking ideas. It's a good idea if you can get your child involved in deciding what's going in their lunchbox - maybe you could spend some time online together checking out recipes.

Do you have any inspirational ideas to lift lunchbox lethargy? Are you a packer or a purchaser? And what's on the menu for lunch today for you or your children?

Ramona Andrews is the host of the BBC Food Q&A blog and messageboard.



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