Before I had kids I barely used my freezer – a tray of ice, the odd tub of ice-cream and packet of frozen peas was about all you’d find. It was only once my kids started school that I discovered the time-saving benefits of freezing, especially when it comes to packing a healthy, whole foods lunchbox quickly and easily. With a good freezer stash of food and perhaps a few leftovers, I can pump out a couple of packet-free school lunches in less than 5 minutes which on mad mornings, is really important.
As it’s that time of the year when parents are back packing lunches (at least in QLD we are), I thought I’d share 5 of my favourite freezer friendly food ideas to help you to pack a nourishing, delicious school lunch in a matter of minutes.
1. Cooked meat
A good quality protein really helps to keep my kids focussed and energised throughout the school day. As I avoid processed meats in my kids lunchbox, I dice and portion left over roast, bbq’d or grilled meats and if I’m not going to use it up the next day, I freeze it in small glass containers to use later in sandwiches, sushi or fresh spring rolls. Cooked meatballs are also great to freeze (one of my kids favourite meatball recipes here).
Cooked meat can be defrosted in the fridge overnight to use in the morning.
Instead of buying breads with preservatives to extend their shelf life, buy a good quality, additive-free sourdough bread, slice and freeze it. I have these cloth bags which I double up (put one bag inside of the other) and keep sliced sourdough in one set and gluten free bread in a second set. It’s such a great plastic-free way to store bread.
For more about why it’s really important for your kids health to choose a good quality bread, click here.
3. Baked goodies
When I bake healthy treats (cakes, cookies, biscuits, savoury crackers, slices and muffins) for my kids, I always make a double batch (or two different things at the same time) and freeze them in large airtight containers. Crackers, cookies, biscuits and bliss balls I place straight into the container (when using plastic containers I always line with safe baking paper so the food doesn’t come into contact with plastic). For muffins, slices, cakes, pikelets etc; I lay them out on a lined tray and pop them in the freezer for an hour or so to snap freeze them and once frozen, I add them to the container to store. I usually have one container for sweet and another for savouries and both have a variety of snacks in them to choose from (so I just add to it each time I bake).
This means I only bake every 2-3 weeks and the freezer is always filled with home-made, nourishing snacks to grab and go. All baked goodies can be packed into the lunchbox from frozen. There is loads of baked treat inspiration here.
I also freeze no-bake and raw treats like bliss balls and gummies to pack from frozen. Raw and no-bake treat recipes you can find here.
4. Yoghurts, smoothies and chia puddings
Yoghurts, smoothies and chia puddings can all be frozen in little cups or refillable food-pouches and packed in the lunchbox from frozen. By morning tea or lunch they will still be defrosted enough to eat. There are a couple of chia pudding recipes here (also checkout the fruity whip recipe). My kids love these in summer and they are also great for helping to keep the rest of the lunchbox cold (along with ice bricks on hot days).
5. Leftover soups, curries and casseroles
These can all be portioned and frozen to heat up and pack in a thermos flask for lunch (we do this a lot in winter).
I use recycled glass jars or pyrex containers to freeze leftovers and generally take them out the night before to defrost.
The fruit and vegetable component of my kids lunch box is often the only part of their lunch that I prepare in the morning. Now my kids are old enough to pack their own lunch, the freezer has become even more important in helping them to choose healthy options to fill their lunchbox.
I hope this has given you some inspiration to start using your freezer and pack a nourishing, whole foods lunch for your kids. For loads more posts about packing kids lunches, click HERE. You’ll also see that I’ve recommended avoiding storing food in plastics in the freezer. This post will explain why it’s really important not to freeze food in plastic containers or bags (BPA-free containers and bags are no safer, read more on this here).
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