Mrs Bun the Baker marks the start of the school year with some ideas for homely comfort food

It is September, the holidays are over, and they feel like a long distant memory. We had some good weather. The Bun family had a few days away, to the Isle of Wight. Loved the chilli and garlic farms. I am obsessed with food.

It is now back to routines of work, school, and countdown to Christmas.

So what to put in a packed lunch?

We want a balanced meal and with some schools now banning chocolate bars and crisps, what are our options? Here I have come up with some alternatives to the humble sandwich.

PASTIES: A favourite in our house and ideal for packed lunches. With many fillings chicken & mushroom, cheese & onion, ham and cheese and Cornish ones. Pasty derives from Medieval French ‘pasta’ meaning “pie, baked without a dish.” Popular with miners, it was an all in one meal, easily carried and eaten without cutlery. Perfect.

PASTA/COUSCOUS SALAD: Pasta and couscous are great as they give you the carbohydrates for long lasting energy through the afternoon. Proteins like meat, fish, egg, beans and cheese can be added with a variety of vegetables, from cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, onions and carrots.

STICKS & DIPS: I love these; some bread sticks, cheese straws for your carbohydrates with vegetables such as carrot, cucumber, celery or pepper sticks with some humous, bean dip, tzatziki, salsa or make up your own.

BREADS: If they really do like a sandwich, try different breads. Wraps are colourful and bagels are fun, almost like a savoury doughnut. If it has to be bread try a different kind. Use cutters, to cut them into interesting shapes. My son never liked crusts when he was younger, so I found a dinosaur cutter, which made crusts go (yes there was guilt over waste, but it was important he would eat his lunch). It made it fun too.

Maybe try a club sandwich layers of bread with different fillings.

We need our five-a-day, or is it eight? I don’t know about you, but apples just get eaten around the middle, bananas, often get bruised, and with oranges, I always seem to get squirted in the eye when peeling. So how about a fruit kebab? Put different fruits on a stick to look like a colourful rainbow. No sticks? Layer the fruit up in a pot. Or puree some together such as bananas, strawberries and apple juice to make a smoothie and pour in a bottle.

We all like a sweet treat, but we also want it to be healthy. How about making some muffins, adding bananas or apple to them, or a flapjack with dried apricots. Blueberry pancakes are a hit here; they could be dipped into some yoghurt.

Homemade cakes are always lovely but aim to cut down the sugar in them, slowly, and soon taste buds will change and not notice.

Have some fun with those packed lunches, and hopefully the box will come home empty, if doesn’t already.

Mrs Bun the Baker is Angie Johnson, from Didcot, a qualified food teacher for over 15 years. She has taught around the country and was based at Wallingford School as a food teacher for 12 years.