Tips for a quick dinner and a good lunch box

When you get home from work after a long day, you want a quick and easy dinner. For most craftsmen, whether you’re a carpenter, plumber, builder, or electrician, it’s helpful if you can use the leftovers in your lunch box the next day. Here are five tips on how to think about fast food and lunch boxes.

  1. Planning and preparation

Although it sounds boring and doesn’t come naturally to many of us craftspeople, planning your dinners and buying everything in advance saves a huge amount of time. You can then just crack on with it when you get home.

Weekly planning is best. Simply sit down one evening a week and decide what to cook for dinner for the next seven days. Then make sure you buy everything you need.

It’s also a good idea to keep your cupboards well stocked with dry goods and preserves, and your freezer full. You can then cook a good dinner quickly without having to shop first. Bear in mind you might need to take things out of the freezer the day before so they’re defrosted when you get home.

  1. Be creative with leftovers

Using leftovers is a good tip for quick dinners and lunch boxes. Almost any combination of cooked protein and cooked vegetables, together with a can of ready-made tomato sauce or a splash of cream, makes for a very good pasta sauce. Protein + vegetable + good bread also becomes a nutritious sandwich (preferably with some type of sauce or dressing as well). Why not try:

  • Roast beef and green salad
  • Pulled pork and coleslaw
  • Grilled chicken and grilled vegetables
  • Baked salmon and asparagus
  1. Good food for lunch boxes

Some types of dishes can be stored and heated better than others:

  • Casseroles – best with rice, mashed potatoes or potato gratin
  • Soups, preferably with a sandwich
  • Pasta with sauce – remove a portion of pasta from the boiling water about one minute before the rest and rinse directly with cold water, then store pasta and sauce separately and mix before heating in the microwave
  • Pasta salad – take leftover pasta, sliced vegetables, optional protein and a dressing, and mix for a while before lunch time
  • Nutritious sandwiches – make up leftovers, store ingredients separately and put together at lunch time
  • Nutritious salads – store dressing and any croutons separately

Bonus tip: If you have leftover pizza, the best way to heat it is to put two equal-sized pieces together in a double sandwich and heat in a sandwich grill. This is great if you have access to a grill or waffle iron at work.

  1. Food that is NOT good in lunch boxes
  • Crispy food, such as fish fingers, fried chicken, French fries, mashed potatoes, loses all charm after a night in the fridge
  • Whole pieces of meat, such as different kinds of steaks, whole chicken breasts and whole pieces of fish are difficult to heat in the microwave without becoming dry and dull
  • Many people dislike boiled potatoes the following day. If you like them, that’s fine, but you could also try rice, mashed potatoes or potato gratin for good alternative sources of carbohydrates that are better when re-heated
  1. Simple emergency solutions

If you don’t have a lunch box with you, there are plenty of cheaper and healthier alternatives to fast food or ready-made microwave dishes.

  • Proteins such as canned tuna and grilled chicken are affordable, good and easily available (smoked fish works well, too and can be combined with things like:
    • Potato salad, bread, beans and canned lentils
    • Feta cheese, hummus, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt
    • Bagged salad, tomato, cucumber, raw carrots, sugar snaps, avocado
    • Any type of sauce or dressing

You can round these off a fruit or two, or yogurt, rice pudding or similar.

Professional tip: don’t buy the cheapest tuna, as it’s often crumbly and tasteless. Instead, spend a few quid extra; we promise it’s worth it!