This post was originally published September of 2011; this one has a few updates and
larger better photos. 🙂
Got the lunchbox blues?
We’re a month into school here and many parents are suffering from an emptiness that is growing inside them. I’m not talking about hunger pains or missing our youngster during that long school day. I’m referring to the frustrations of having NO idea what to pack for lunch other than the same old turkey cheese sandwich or peanut butter jelly sandwich. Read on for tips in this department.
Kids coming home with a half-eaten lunch?
Don’t fret. Kids love to talk. Ever been to a school cafeteria? All they do is talk. And shout. And scream. You don’t see many of those kiddos eat. If they were to all eat all their lunch, that expansive social gathering would be frighteningly quiet. Besides, eating is a social act for us adults isn’t it? It should be for them too! And of course, kids don’t like to try new things….unless you’ve exposed them to it 13 times. Read onwards for tips on dealing with the “never emptied lunch box”.
No time to pack a lunch in the mornings?
There are always solutions. I’ve heard of many creative ideas, some involving the freezer, some involving the thermos. Read on.
This post is the first of a series that will include lunchbox tips and recipes as well as other online resources to help you figure out this one tiny little stressful subset of the job we call raising children. Though it may not be a comprehensive guide with fancy flowcharts and graphs like Camp Blogaway buddy over at Eating Rules puts together, this ought to hopefully give you some ideas and inspiration. Here are 5 ways to inspire you, help you, or motivate you in the direction towards having at least exposed your children to a variety of foods.
- Develop a “lunch chart” with your kids. I learned about the food chart idea from my friend Tanima, who has 3 elementary-aged kids. To get them out the door faster on school mornings, she had them all agree on their daily breakfast and write it down for Monday to Friday. I copied this system, adding the lunch meal, and now we develop a breakfast and lunch chart every other Sunday evening (the chart is repeated for the 2nd week).We gather ideas and recipes from various cookbooks, magazine clippings, or surprisingly just our brains or the memory of a particular food. (When asked about a side vegetable, my 1st grader asked for the “white carrot”–a parsnip which she hadn’t had since last Winter).It’s a fun time for us to spend together, and a bonus is that my 1st grader can practice her reading and writing simultaneously.
- Re-invent your lunchbox.Brown bag lunches are great….if you’re at Whichwich. But kids need a good amount of color and character. And by character, I do mean IronMan or Dora or Cinderella 😉 Just kidding. Anything will do, as long as your child is excited about it.Separate containers for each food is beneficial for the sanctity of the food itself, but is also visually appealing. Kids eat with their eyes first more than even adults! No need to purchase anything fancy here; reusable containers like Tupperware are just fine, or plastic Ziplocs. But see my upcoming post in this series on LunchWare for more information on the lunch equipment that’s out there. Here’s an example of a lunch kit that I have grown to love:
- Take a cooking class…or have your child take a kids’ cooking class to get them interested in their own food. Here are a few places around Austin that have kids’ classes: Patricia’s Table, Foodie Kids, and Central Market.
- Pack lunch the night before.I’ve only done this once, and boy it shaved off almost 15 minutes of the morning routine. It really is a time-saver. I just don’t do it as much because I’m usually exhausted after bedtime routines. I’ve heard of people making stacks of sandwiches for their kids on the weekends and freezing them. I’ve heard of thermoses being used as cooking vessels for things like oatmeal or even for melting cheese. More on this soon.
- Be creative with leftovers:Re-use the food you’ve made, but wait about 2 days. Most people (me too) don’t like leftovers the very next day.Had meatloaf? Make meatballs and marinara (wait 2 days!).Had Indian take out? Use the chicken or paneer on a naan pizza.Had roast chicken? Use the leftover chicken in a wrap or a quesadilla.
I have 5 more tips to discuss on the 2nd part of this series, and a list-format of lunch foods in another part of the series. Stay tuned! In the meantime, please leave a comment if you think you’ve got a great new lunch that your kids have enjoyed this school year!