Back to school..back to lunch packing

As everyone is gearing up for back-to-school, I know many parents are bracing themselves again for another year of lunch packing.  Packing lunches can seem like a daunting task because, well, it’s kind of like delivering the mail…it never really ends.  Sure, we get summer break (unless you have to pack for camp) and weekends off, but most days parents are in the kitchen trying their best to fill lunchboxes with a variety of foods that will stay fresh, be healthy, AND actually get eaten by their kids.  Well, believe me, you are not alone! I just happen to read a lot on the subject, and I have collected a few tips and links here that might just help turn your lunch packing frown upside down.

planetbox lunch 5.3

planetbox lunch 5.3 (Photo credit: velostricken)

  • Use a great container.  There are so many cool, eco-friendly lunch boxes out there right now.  You can go simple with a divided Ziploc container, or get really fancy and check out my favorite, the Planetbox .  Either way, when food is all in one container, it not only looks more appealing to kids but also saves time because they don’t have to open up a lot of little containers in the limited time they often have to eat.  Not to mention it cuts down on waste.
  • Pack a balanced meal.  Lunches should contain a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein.  There are many creative ideas to get you out of the sandwich rut; for some inspiration check out 100 Days of Real Food, who posts pictures of her daughters lunches daily on Facebook, or my friend at Tribeca Nutrition’s Pinterest board with her girls’ lunches too.
  • Stock the pantry.  Be sure to stock up on staples weekly at the farmers market or store so you have enough to pack during the week.  Some great pantry staples for lunch include nuts or nut butters, a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, dips such as hummus, whole grain bread or crackers, cheese, and yogurt.
  • Variety! Even the pickiest eaters have a few different things they like to eat.  Be sure to switch it up day to day, and try serving same foods in different ways (making apple slices with nut butter into a little sandwich one day and serving a whole apple with a nut trail mix another).  I also will slide a couple pieces of less liked foods into my son’s lunch from time to time.  I’m not really sure if he actually eats them, but at least he is exposed to them, which is the first step in accepting a new food.
  • Make it look pretty.  As we all know, we eat with our eyes first.  When food is laid out in a divided container, it looks more appealing, as well when there are lots of colorful foods together.  Try combining two colorful foods like orange slices and blueberries.  Cut vegetables into fun shapes or stack them on a mini skewer to make them more fun to eat.  Vegetables, fruit, and sandwiches can also be cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.
  • Leftovers are your friend.  Leftovers can easily be made into a new dish for lunch.  Think roasted chicken into chicken salad, or leftover rice into a cold rice and edamame salad.  Leftovers can also be frozen in individual portions that can be put in the fridge to thaw the day before.  Think soup, muffins, or waffles.

Hopefully these tips will help inspire you lunch packers a little bit, and ease you back into another year of packing.   Wishing all the kids and parents a great year of school ahead!

And here’s a nice kosher recipe for the High Holidays week…just kidding.  I am terrible and forgot and cooked bacon at the market on Rosh Hashana.  I am a terrible jew.  Who loves bacon…

Here is the link to the recipe for Swiss Chard with Red Onions and Bacon from Deliciously Organic.

Red Chard growing in the garden of Slow Food N...

Red Chard growing in the garden of Slow Food Nation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was delicious, but there wasn’t much chard to be had at the market this week, so I substituted some baby Red Russian kale, a little baby chard, and beet greens.  I think it would have been better with just chard, because kale is tougher than chard and I couldn’t really get it too soften up enough for my liking without adding a little liquid.  I did add a little water in the end, but it never got soft enough.  I think it was partially the kale’s fault, and partially the wind, which was blowing the stove’s flame all over the place.  Ah, the joys of cooking outdoors without knowing if your ingredients will be available.

Stay tuned though, I actually have a non farmers market post brewing.  I cooked up some deliciousness for Rosh Hashana and wanted to share a couple of recipes.  Have a nice weekend!

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