Life on the inside: 10 homeschool lunch ideas

Homeschooling is now de rigueur around the world, and one thing that goes along with the lessons and PE sessions is lunchtime.

You might have sent the children off with a packed lunch in the past, or relied on school meals, but now it is down to you to make sure they are getting something healthy and filling. And that can be hard, especially when you’re relying on a lockdown larder.

The temptation to reach for yet another sandwich and a packet of crisps will be strong. But here are some alternatives to consider.

1. Roasted vegetable soups

Not just the preserve of winter menus, soups made with roasted veg are really wholesome and a doddle to prepare.

The main thing to start with is vegetables – you may well have some left aside from the Sunday roast dinner, or even be growing your own. Chop up the veg you wish to use and roast in the oven with garlic and some dried herbs.

Once roasted, add to a pan with stock and seasoning and blend until smooth.

2. Baguettes

Make sandwiches extra special by baking your own bread. Baguettes look tricky but are actually simple to make.

One method is to add 5g yeast to 250ml water and let it dissolve. Then add 320g flour, a teaspoon of salt and leave the dough to prove in a bowl for one-and-a-half hours. Shape them into baguette shapes and then bake at 240 degrees for 25 mins. You need to put half a cup of water into a tray at the bottom of the oven before you bake them to ensure a good crust.

3. Freezer stir-fry

A stir-fry is a sure-fire way to get loads of vitamins into your children after a hard morning’s work. Using frozen veg is simple and means you can make this whenever you feel the urge.

Include broccoli, which is packed with vitamin A, and fry off with five spice for some zing. Add in sweetcorn or peas (freezer staples) and for protein, throw in some prawns or quorn, plus any additional veg you have going limp in the fringe.

4. Homemade hummus

Tins of chickpeas going dusty on the shelf? It’s time to make your own hummus.

You’ll also need tahini, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil (cumin is a nice addition if you have some). Throw it all in a food processor, whizz it up until smooth, and simply add more of each ingredient until it tastes about right.

5. Make a sharing platter

If you’re sick of lunch for one then it’s time to share. Chop up cucumber, carrot and peppers into sticks and chunks, along with cheese and cold meats, just like you’re preparing nibbles for a dinner party. You could even put some of that homemade hummus in the centre.

Sharing is a lovely way to come together during the day at a time when everyone’s struggling with the “new normal”.

6. Try a fakeaway

Missing your regular takeaway? Try mocking up your favourite dish at home. Stick chicken burgers in brioche buns to replicate a McChicken sandwich and add shredded iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise.

7. Tortilla pizza

Making pizza with the kids is great fun, and for lunch you could use tortillas as the base to keep it light, healthy and quick.

Add tomato puree or a tinned tomato sauce, and then any toppings you like. Get the kids to make a ‘face’ on the pizza with the toppings, or go with a theme if that’s been part of your learning that day. Pizza ‘planets’, anyone?

8. Cauliflower mac and cheese

If you’ve found yourselves with quite a lot of pasta lately, then this is a great way to use some up.

You can use either frozen or fresh cauliflower (plan ahead and bake some with your Sunday roast to keep aside). Add to a dish with cooked macaroni- or whatever you’ve got in the cupboard – layer up with cheese (any hard cheese, but cheddar is good) then bake in the oven until it’s bubbling and golden. Serve with peas for another portion of their five-a-day.

9. Bubble and squeak

This one’s for Mondays, when you’ve got leftovers from the Sunday roast.

Take the potatoes and any other veg and mash it with herbs (try fennel seeds or dried basil). Add some butter to make it bind. Form into patties, and fry until golden. Serve with salad or a runny fried egg.

10. Frittata

A frittata, or a baked omelette, is quick, simple and healthy.

Fry off your ingredients – any vegetable such as cooked potatoes (which is traditional) onions, peppers or tomatoes – and then add beaten eggs to the pan and let them begin cooking.

Keep checking whether the mixture is cooking from below and when half cooked, transfer to the grill to cook the ‘topside’. Top with cheddar or feta for the last minute. Divide into quarters and serve hot.