After two entire weeks off from work and school, I need to get back into my usual routine of packing lunches. I have used many packing mediums such as brown bags, insulated lunch boxes, thermos type canisters, tiffin carriers, and plastic sectionals. I mostly stick with the insulated lunch boxes as they are the most functional and easiest to maintain. I have stocked and organized my pantry. When I am completely organized I do not mind the routine of packing lunches but if I am low on supplies or food I am in such an awful mood.
WHAT TYPE OF LUNCH BOX DO YOU CARRY?
HE WENT TO TIFFANY’S- OR TIFFINS THAT IS
Here is a Tiffin Carrier that Himself got for me while deployed to Haiti back in the mid 1990′s. He had the fun job of purchasing supplies from all over Haiti for the military’s use in rebuilding the country. He enjoyed it immensely as I fretted away at home at the thought of him atop the back of a HMMWV armed to the nines carrying thousands of dollars in his side pocket. As he travelled through town, he noticed the civilians carrying these nifty lunch containers and knew that I would like one. He scoured the city for this fancy schmancy one as a simple one would not do. I enjoy taking it to potlucks with each layer filled to the brim with many kinds of goodies. I get so many comments on it.
CLEAN YOUR DRAWERS
I hope to have my snack drawers looking like this again by the end of the week.
And the refrigerator drawers need a good purging as well. This is what they will be like at the end of the week. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, shall we?
IT’S ALL ABOUT PORTIONS
I keep a stash of portion cups in my pantry for the children’s lunches. I can make homemade pudding, portion out apple sauce, and cut up some fresh fruit to be placed in these too. Also small amounts of condiments fit perfectly in the 1 ounce containers. When serving puddings, I place a tiny spoon in with it. The spoons are purchased from a restaurant supply store and are called sample spoons like the ones you get when sampling ice cream at Baskin Robbins. I also will place a toothpick in their lunch if it is a cup of cut up fruit. Kids love a gimmick so if it takes tiny spoons and toothpicks for them to eat- I’m there.
This is a 9 x 13 inch Banana Cake with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting portioned out for the children’s (and Himself’s) lunches. I place these in the freezer and they are perfectly defrosted by lunch.
9 TIPS FOR PACKING BETTER LUNCHES
1. Packing Heat- If you are packing a hot lunch in a thermos type container, then fill with boiling water while you are preparing the lunch. Once you are ready to pack the lunch, pour out the water and place the hot item in the pre-heated container.
2. Use tiny spoons, toothpicks, skewered little bites, sprinkles, dip, cookie cutters to cut cute shapes, bento boxes, and any other gimmick to get your child to eat their lunch. Manipulation is legal.
3. Many small portions may be better than fewer large items. This will keep your child interested in their lunch.
4. I do not need to preach healthy here. I know we are all trying. I do send the children to school with a rule. They must eat their sandwich or main item, fruit, and veggies before the cookie. If they cannot finish the cookie they may save it for the ride home.
5. Throw them a hot lunch once in a while. I need to do this more often to keep them happy. One of their favorites is hot oatmeal, fruit, French Toast Sticks (homemade) or pancakes with a portion cup of syrup for dipping. They do have access to a microwave in their classrooms which makes things a bit easier for me. I either place their food already hot in a thermos type container or place it in a microwave safe container for them to reheat.
6. Freeze your sandwiches. They will be perfectly defrosted by lunch. Do not place an ice pack in their lunches if the sandwich is frozen. It will not defrost. Trust me.
7. Prepackage as much as possible. If you are concerned with creating too much rubbish then may I suggest the plastic sectional containers as seen in the very first photo, placed in an insulated container with an ice pack. These can be found at The Container Store. Wash them as soon as you get home from work or school so they are ready for packing that night or the next morning. If you are concerned with plastic touching your food then may I suggest the insulated container and wrapping your food in paper. If you are afraid to use up too much paper as it kills trees then I can’t help you there. See, we are all thinking about convenience versus responsibility. Seek a balance. That is what I do.
8. Purchase the huge Costco sized cans of fruit and portion it out yourself. It is cheaper, you can control the portions, and you can pick the type of packing container you prefer. Of course fresh fruit is preferred but not always the freshest in the winter months.
9. Pack lunches the night before. Man I need to practice what I preach!
I pack therefore I am. The reason I pack is simple. Our school does not have a cafeteria. We do have a lunch program that delivers lunch but I can do it more cost effectively and healthier. I did pay my 8 year old once to pack lunches and he packed a PBJ, chips, and a cookie everyday for weeks. I fired him.
I have many other tips and experiences but I will open the floor to you all. What are some tried and true packing tips? Resources? Family Favorite Brown Bag Recipes? Other ideas to get us to think outside the bag.
UPDATE: View Kate’s comment in the Comments Box for some great links in packing inspirational Bentos and lunches. Thanks Kate!
There is some great feedback on this post, see all comments for more ideas.