When I first started out on this lunch-packing journey, I had almost no clue what I was doing (it’s sort of a theme in my life, this learning as I go thing). I only knew that my kid needed to eat and that I needed to provide a well-rounded meal (okay, some are not as well-rounded as others, but he got fed, amirite?). I am certainly not an expert, but I have put together a few tips that might help a fellow lunch-packer out.
My favorite “bento” type lunch container is made by Ziploc. I’ve only tried two and the second one we tried has worked out very well, so I stopped searching.
(I’m not sure why Amazon is selling these for such an astronomical price – I got mine last year [1 pack of 2] on clearance for less than $3 at Target)
I originally bought the Rubbermaid Lunch Blox kit, but did not like it because there was not a tight seal, and the wet food got into the dry food (this canine terminology applies quite well here, don’t you think? Kids are a lot like dogs anyways), making it quite soggy.
There are so many choices out there these days. You just have to find one that works for you. What was important to me was a tight seal, that it was easy-to-clean, it was fairy indestructible, and that it fit in my son’s zippered lunch box. After over a full year of using these Ziploc containers, they are still in good condition. One has a slight splitting of the plastic, but it hasn’t affected the quality of the food, or even gotten worse over time.
The Nitty Gritty
I truly think variety is the spice of life. You might think that to be hypocritical coming from the Mommy who packed a PB&J sandwich almost every day for her son last year. And that would be true. But I changed the shape and color of the sandwich along with the sides enough that he never felt like his lunch was the same each day. This method works really well for a kid who is not so adventurous with his food. He LOVED PB&J, but I wanted each day to be unique and fun. This year, he is more open to variety, so I’ve got more options for sandwich-less and PB&J-less meals. Now, you don’t have to go out and buy a million different options – I just think it’s fun to switch up the separate components each day so that it appears different. Especially the non-main-course of the lunch. If you have grapes and blueberries, do one of each for a couple days and then mix them on the third. Each day is different, but you’ve only had to purchase grapes and blueberries.
Humans eat with their eyes first. I say “humans” because I am pretty sure my dog would eat just about anything without a care as to what and will swallow it without even tasting it (travesty). If food is aesthetically pleasing to the eye, it will taste better. My big boy never used to love carrots, but I found that if I let him dip them in peanut butter, he’d eat them. And have fun, doing so. If your child isn’t into sandwiches, they might enjoy the sandwich components in kebab form (meat, cheese, and a veg on a stick). If you make it look yummy or fun, they are more inclined to eat it.
And don’t give up! Sometimes, it takes many times being exposed to a certain food to develop an affinity towards it (isn’t that the same with meeting some people?!).
Something else to remember is that most likely, your kid’s lunchbox will be flipped up side down a few times. So, when I pack more than one thing in the larger compartment, and I don’t want them to be mixed, I place a folded paper towel (or piece of tin foil if it is more wet than dry – dog food reference again), over that section and sort of put it flush against the food, and then put the Ziploc lid on top. This prevents unwanted mixing.
I always try to have a “main” course (sandwich, kebabs, something with protein). I throw in a few sides (nuts, dried fruit, Goldfish crackers, fruit by itself, fruit salad, seasoned corn), something sloppy (applesauce or yogurt), and a dessert (brownies, cake, yogurt raisins, etc.).
That seems well-rounded enough for me. And since I personally love variety more than large quantities of fewer items, I try to do that for my kids. I also think it helps expose them to different types of food.
The Decorations and Equipment
Where do I get my lunchbox accoutrement, you ask? Well, since I love to bake, I’ve amassed quite a collection of things that aid me in making lunches (as well as decorate cakes and other desserts). I think that cookie cutters are the way to go, for sandwiches. You can make any sandwich look like anything. It’s so easy! You don’t even have to decorate the shape (unless it is super hard to figure out what it is). I always did because it gave me great joy and I think it did for my son, as well. But that isn’t even necessary. I use sprinkles (in my lunchbox), Food Writers (food safe pens), food color spray (food safe grade), paper or silicone cupcake wrappers (to match colors and themes), and plastic picks. I am sure you can buy these picks outright, but I’ve been collecting them off of cupcakes for years. Next time you pick up a six pack (or more, if you are lucky!) of cupcakes from your Publix (or wherever), look for the ones with picks that you’ll reuse. You can stick these in applesauce, yogurt, and sandwiches. It really helps in keeping with a lunch theme (which I adore doing).
Speaking of themes, you can wrap up lunch items in Christmas paper for the holidays or you can put stuff in Easter eggs for Easter. This is the beauty of lunch-packing. It’s fun and only limited by your imagination. It has not been limited by a budget, for me. I do not use a lot of money to pack these lunches. I use what I have on hand (unless it is a super special lunch and I need something extra from the store, but I am cheap so I won’t buy it if it is pricey).
I pack their lunches at night. It is a huge time-saver for me. I used to do it in the morning until I realized how much better it was to already have it done so I could drink my coffee and not have to think.
Feel free to browse my past lunches – they should all be tagged under the “Kid Food” and “Lunchbox” tabs on the top of this blog. I sure hope this guide and my blog can help some of you out there. My sweet, sweet friend Courtney told me today how much it’s helped her pack her daughter’s lunches. Courtney is a fellow blogger and real-life friend and actual wrote about my blog on her blog today. Please check her post out, and while you’re there, read the rest of her blog. It is hilarious and insightful and makes you think! She recently did a post on how kids are like dogs, something we are all thinking (like what I said above) and she worded it perfectly. Woof.
Every good and perfect gift is from above… – James 1:17