Tired of ziploc baggies, bags of chips, plastic cups of applesauce, and notes from the school cafeteria that I had forgotten to pay, I set out to make some changes in the way I packed my kids school lunches this school year. I wanted to go greener and healthier. Here are some things I learned along the way.
It is all about the lunch container. We started out the year with Japanese bento boxes. They were fun, adorable and compact. The kids loved them- as did all of their friends. There were things we liked, and things we didn’t like about them however. They are just the right size for a kids meal- it is easy to pack them full and know that the kids are getting the perfect amount of food. What I didn’t like is that they are kind of hard to clean. Most Bento boxes are not dishwasher safe, and have a lot of pieces. My daughters’ boxes had 6 pieces each. This gets tiring to wash and dry every day after school (I made my kids wash their lunch boxes). We wound up changing over to containers from easylunchboxes.com. Only two pieces per kid, and dishwasher safe, we saved a lot of time (and tears) by using these handy boxes. Here is another great link for lunch boxes and accessories at great prices: http://www.allthingsforsale.com/104-bento-box-lunch-box.
Know how much your child will eat. At first I made the kids bring home everything they didn’t eat so I had an idea of how much to give them. This is a very handy guide by age to look at when packing your child’s lunch (note how women should eat the same amount as 9-11 year olds!). The containers from easylunchboxes.com were just right for Jonah and Brett, but too large for the girls. I solved the problem by packing the juice box into their lunchbox, and then I packed the rest full.
The kids loved pretty much any lunch in their Thermos. It is great investment to buy a good quality Thermos. Jonah still uses the one I bought for him in kindergarten. Leftover spaghetti, soup, and chili were all very popular. So nice and warm on a cold day! I have a friend who packs a Thermos every day for her son.
Variety is key to making lunches fun. Move away from the sandwich/chips/fruit combo (although this past month I was getting burned out and fell back into this- as you can see from my last lunch box). I did a lot of different cut up veggies and fruit. It saves a lot of time in the morning if you spend a little time and cut up melon cubes and carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, etc. ahead of time and store in the fridge. Instead of sandwiches, I made tortilla wraps using butter or cream cheese, grated carrot, lettuce and a favorite lunch meat. Rolled up salami or lunch meat was a favorite (Costco has great lunch meat without nitrites). Hard boiled eggs with salt and pepper, bread and butter, sliced sausage, mini bagels and cream cheese, etc. all bring variety to lunches. Abbey liked hummus and pita chips or flat bread. Little dip containers are great for ranch sauce or peanut butter. I referred to this link a lot for creative ideas: http://wendolonia.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Wendolonia_Lunch_Box_Idea_List.pdf.
I made it through the year with no school cafeteria lunches- a marathon for sure. It is definitely satisfying to know that I packed healthy lunches for the entire school year- and only went through one box of ziploc bags. Next year the goal is to go the year without juice boxes… Wish me luck!