Home       About Us       Salsa Store       Referral       Lifebooks       Recipes       Videos       Blog Headers

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A peek into Ro and Ree’s lunchboxes

People always ask what we do for school lunches, and I know I’m always curious to hear what works for other parents. So here’s a peek into the girls’ lunchboxes:

Ro and Ree have tried school hot lunch exactly once, and they hated the experience so much that they have refused to ever try it again, saying they only want “mama lunch.” Apparently it took so long in line that they didn’t have any time to play, plus they reallyreally didn’t like the taste. We’ll try again this year. In the meantime though, that means I’m packing somewhere around... let’s see... oh! 360 lunches each school year. Hm, didn’t know that number was so big until I did the math.

To make things easy for me, I won’t pack two different lunches in a day (so they get the same thing as each other, luckily they have similar tastes for lunch) and they choose one main thing each day from this menu (which I’ve been using and modifying since last year): Microsoft Word - Menubycategory_lunchboxes2.doc

The menu keeps lunches a little more fun for all of us and gets some variety in there. To be honest, it stops me from giving them a PBJ every single day because I can’t for the life of me think of anything else at 7 o’ freaking clock in the morning.

It’s customized to Ro and Ree, of course, so I’ve put on the things I know they’ll eat and the things we always have on hand. Things that are easy to put together in the 10 minutes while they’re eating breakfast and things that I know will keep nicely in their lunchboxes all day. If you want to make your own menu, just do a three-column page in MS Word and paste in your own pics or some from Google Images.

Once Ro and Ree have picked a main item from the menu, I fill the rest of the lunchboxes with something crunchy, something fruity, and sometimes a little surprise. Today’s lunches had cheese and bacon tortilla wrap-ups (Ree got to choose today – we rotate who chooses each day), pretzels, applesauce, and mini oreos. And by the way when I use bacon in lunches I used the microwavable kind that is ready in 5 seconds per slice:
DSC_2062LR2

I pack lunches in divided Ziploc containers and Pack-It freezable lunch bags almost every day. I like the Ziploc containers because they’re leakproof (even with gloopy stuff like applesauce or yogurt), they have a bunch of compartments to keep food separate, you only have to open one kid-friendly lid to get to all the food, and they’re dishwasher safe on the top rack. I like the Pack-It bag because the whole bag goes in the freezer at night and then the gel walls get frozen. I don’t have to fuss with cold-pack inserts and the bag stays icy cold all day long so even things like cheese stay perfectly cool and don’t get limp and sweaty and dangerously warm.

DSC_2066-EditLR2

I pack hot foods (like soup, pasta, rice, etc.) in one of those squatty Thermos containers and just use any old non-freezable lunch bag on those days. The hot things stay REALLY hot. I write a little arrow on the top with a Sharpie because otherwise the girls don’t know which way to go and end up twisting both ways blindly and inevitably tightening it:
DSC_2094LR2

What else? Oh, I send water with ice each day in a flip-top Thermos. The temp stays cold all day and they’re easy to operate. And I use a little sandwich cutter/press to make my own PBJs, I use the heck out of these colorful silicone cups (any time I want to make a 4th section in the Ziplock containers), and I use manymany food picks a day (to secure tortilla wrap-ups, to skewer fruit, just for cuteness, you name it): 
DSC_2089-EditLR2

So anyhow, that’s what Ro and Ree are eating each day at school. What do you do for school lunches around your house?

Where we got stuff: Ziplock divided containers from Target (they don’t always have them in stock) or Amazon.com or Drugstore.com, Pack-It freezable lunch bag from Amazon.com or natural stores like Whole Foods, squatty hot-food Thermoses and flip-top beverage Thermoses from Target, sandwich cutter/press from Sur La Table or they have a similar type of thing at Amazon.com, silicone cups and cute food picks from a local Daiso store or online at Amazon.com or ebay.

40 comments:

  1. Great ideas! I'm hoping my daughter will like the school hot lunches when she starts Kindergarten next week. I'm kind of ready for a break from packing lunches for Day Care/Preschool for the past 5 years!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear you! I'm hoping Ro and Ree can at least pick one hot lunch a week they like - ahhhhhhh, it would be so wonderful! Fingers crossed.

      Delete
    2. My girls also want a Mommy Lunch instead of the disgusting school lunch but they DO like the school lunch on Pizza Day. Lucky for me, that's every Monday and Friday so I get a nice break twice per week! Phew, needed that!

      Their school has a $52 per year (per kid) cold milk program so I don't have to fuss with that part of lunch either.

      Donna

      Delete
  2. I made your menu last year with our favorites, and it's still running strong. Our menu has morphed to look a lot like yours these days. Sara could live on Bacon and Avocado sandwiches, and Kelly wants Sunbutter & Jam, mac and cheese, or turkey and provolone rolls. They both want yogurt parfaits (I pack blueberries and granola with vanilla yogurt and they mix it themselves), some fruit and a veggie. Sara likes broccoli and sweet peppers, and Kelly likes cucumbers and carrots. About once a week I core out cherry tomatoes, put in a round mozzarella ball, and sprinkle with basil. I try to buy sweet things at the bulk candy aisle, and put in tiny sweet, which are always a surprise. They are very into Horizon Organic Vanilla milk, which is maybe only a little bit better than the milk at school, but at least they'll drink it! I swear by our Hannah Anderrson lunch boxes: 2 sections! I can send hot and cold in the same lunch box. I can't believe how many decent lunches we make, 10 minutes at time!!! GO US!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awesome, love hearing that!!

      Delete
    2. Oh, and doesn't bacon pretty much make anything better? Mmmmmmm.

      Delete
    3. Anonymous8/30/2012

      Indianalori: I want you to pack my lunch everyday :). I was drooling at the end of your comments.

      Delete
    4. Ha, me too - cherry tomatoes with moz and basil?!! Yum!!

      Delete
    5. Indianalori, Can you make my lunch each day? :o) Do you ship to Canada?

      Delete
  3. Anonymous8/29/2012

    are those little segmented lunch boxes BPA free? i'm always hesitant to use things like that because i just don't know. A1

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are BPA-free, which is nice. I checked the info on the ziplock.com website FAQ "SC Johnson does not use BPA in its plastic products, Ziploc® Brand Bags and Containers."

      Delete
  4. I make Bug's lunch right after I am done eating dinner. he chooses the main item and then I add the rest. He is a creature of habit- so his choices are turkey cheese roll ups on tortilla (last year's favorite), peantu butter crackers (made by me, not prepackaged), salami and cheese on tortilla (what he has choosed every day so far this year), and PB&J sandwich. he gets 2 fruits, one crunchy/salty item and one snack for the morning. He buys white milk.

    he really wants to buy lunch at school, but he is in a small school with a kitchen about the size of my master bedroom (10 x 10), so they have very limited choices. When I look at the menu and picture the lunches, they are brown or orange. Not exactly the best. So we comprimise, he is allowed to buy one time per month and he chooses. But I encourage him to choose days when I have to travel for work, so my mom does not have to figure out what to fix for him.

    His lunch box is just a regular one and I pack an ice pack it in, the ice pack is usually still cold when he get home, although not frozen. I send frozen yogurt- helps to keep the lunch box cold too, or frozen grapes. Anything to boost the coldness of the lunch box in the early part of the school year when we still have 90+ degree days.

    Bug will not eat anything from a thermos, so no point in trying that unless I want monster straving boy to come home from school.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always forget about frozen yogurt - great idea!

      Delete
  5. I usually pack what we eat for dinner for the kiddo's lunch. So it makes it super simple in terms of making it- also I pack it before we sit down to to eat so that makes it seem like it's part of dinner prep instead of an extra lunch prep. It usually contains a protein, veggies, fruit, and sometimes a carb. She also gets a thermos of water, and a separate morning snack that is usually a protein and a carb -like a ham and cheese roll up with a couple of crackers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like that, it sounds like how I think too "protein, carb, fruit/veggie" -- makes it easier, right? One thing that's new this year is that the girls don't touch their morning snack. I think it's peer pressure? But they gobble it up after school when we play on the playground with friends, so I still pop one in the outside zipper of the backpack. It's usually a granola bar.

      Delete
    2. It could be peer pressure or perhaps they are just more interested in playing (assuming morning snack is during morning recess like my kiddo's). If she doesn't have a morning snack her blood sugar drops and she gets cranky so she still eats a little something. She eats breakfast so early that it wouldn't tide her til a noon hour lunch.

      Protein/veg/fruit/carb is the only way I can think. I get up at 5:30 am for work, so whatever I can get done the night before helps me tremendously.

      Delete
  6. I will have to look for those divided Zip Lock containers - I have never seen them before (just the reg kind).

    We are not allowed to send any nuts, peanut butter or nut butter. I would be so much easier if we could.

    I have those little bento picks too - the kids love them. My kids like the cocktail boconcini with cherry tomato in pesto, ham and pineapple spears, mini Bon Bells and Baby bells, pita and hummus, laughing cow cheese with crackers, coleslaw as well as many of the items you mentioned.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh I always forget about the mini bells -- need to add them to the grocery list!

      Delete
  7. The menu idea is genius! I may have to try that on my son :) I usually pack lunches the night before because I am not a morning person so I am impressed that you can pack 2 lunches in the morning!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I only pack the night before if it's the first day of school or something big is happening the next day (like TubaDad having surgery, which is actually happening on Friday morning, so I'll pack lunches Thurs night). And it's really because on a normal day I'm just too dang lazy and all I feel like doing when the girls go to bed is watching crazy reality tv shows. Seriously. :-)

      Delete
    2. Anonymous8/30/2012

      Is TubaDad okay?

      Delete
    3. Yes, he's good, thanks for asking. He's having a "routine" surgery tomorrow and then resting and recuperating for the next week or so.

      Delete
  8. Do you put the freezer bag into a larger lunchbox, or does that become their lunch box, and the water fits too? Curious because we live where it is very warm a lot, lunches stay in backpacks baking in the sun and some days my daughter won't eat because parts of her lunch are warm, like cheese...just curious. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The freezable Pack-It bag is their lunch bag, it doesn't go in anything else. The water thermos is separate though, I don't put that inside. Most of the kids leave their thermoses on desks all day for easy sipping and don't take them to lunch. I was telling some moms about the bag after school today. It was HOT out, close to 90-degrees, and the girls were checking to see if they had any food leftover from lunch (it was about 3pm by that time) and I grabbed Ree's bag to show the moms and they were so surprised to feel that the inside was still so cold.

      Delete
  9. Man, I WISH I could send PBJs to school with my girls (talk about easy!). Sadly, our entire school is a "peanut free zone" so no go with the creamy goodness that is peanut butter. I admit to actually HATING the whole packing lunch process, but don't like the idea of hot lunch (mostly for the reasons your girls mentioned). Alas, cold lunch it is {{{{{sigh}}}}}.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our school does it the opposite way of most schools, which is interesting: they have a special area for kids with food allergies to sit during lunchtime and everyone else is allowed to bring whatever they want for lunch. Food sharing is also strictly prohibited. It's worked for them so far.

      Delete
  10. I've been thinking of implementing a menu of sorts, kinda like yours. It would help as I have turned over the lunch making tasks to the kids themselves. With 7 kids, (only 5 in school)...that makes for 900 lunches to pack! Ugh! It does sounds worse when you add it up!!
    Anyway, my older 3 are on their own, but I do check them after they are packed. If I don't they will end up with chips, cookies, chips, granola bar, and chips. :/ They menu idea is great for helping the younger two think and help pack, and really helps me when we don't get it packed the night before. When I am organized we have a packing lunch party before bed. But when I am wiped out (most often!) I crash on the couch too. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Becky, your kids packing their own lunches might do well with a 3-page menu like I used last year. I had one page for "mains" one for "fruits and veggies" and one for "starchy stuff". And I would have the girls pick one thing off each page. It's here if you want to take a peek at it. It was great for making sure they ended up with something balanced.

      Delete
    2. Oh thanks! Yes, that is exactly the type of thing I was thinking of. Even the 1st and 3rd graders would do great with that. Hooray for making things easier!

      Delete
  11. LOVE this post! My girls are in a small private school for pre-K, but will be in public school for kindergarten next year and I plan to pack their lunches. This will be so helpful.

    P.S. Found your blog when searching for hair accessory storage solutions for my twin girls.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I see avocado on the list of foods... how do you keep it from turning brown?
    Angie H

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I give them avocado as a dip with tortilla chips I mix in a tiny bit of lemon juice and salt and pepper. When I just do slices or chunks in the lunchbox, I don't do anything at all and they always eat it all. I don't prepare it until 7:30 though and they eat it at 11:30, so maybe it's just a short enough time that it's ok?

      Delete
    2. Will try that... I love avocado and was not sure how to bring it to work with me...
      thanks

      Delete
  13. we have a similar menu posted on our refrigerator, based on a post you did on your menus at least a year ago, and our three kiddos LOVE the picture menu. It also came in very useful last fall when we brought home two older children who didn't speak English. The next time we adopt an ESL child, I'll place picture "menus" all over the house for all kinds of situations that the child faces during the day. Thanks for the great idea! Love your blog!!!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Wow! What a variety!! My girls have done the same lunch for as long as I can remember and they do not sway from it one bit. A bit boring if you ask me, but they eat it all which is all I can ask for. They each get a turkey/cheese sandwich, some type of chip or pretzel, one gets broccoli the other carrots and they have to be steamed, and fruit one apples or cantaloupe and the other orange or pineapple. I have been known to mistakenly put the wrong fruit or vegetable in the wrong lunch container. Believe you me they let me know too:-)
    They came home the other day and told us about lunch trays some of their friends get and the only thing that appealed to them about that whole ordeal was the ice cream.

    ReplyDelete
  15. After trying for variety the first two years of school, I've gone more simple this year. Every week I make 2 sandwiches, cut them in half, and bag them (so..4 days worth of sandwiches), bag up some pretzels, goldfish or something similar, and put those in a rubbermaid in the fridge. I also throw 'dessert" cups of some sort (pudding, applesauce, fruit) in there and occasionally will bag up carrots and/or celery. Maya picks out her lunch the night before and bags it up in her lunch bag. ONE lunch-making session per week makes for a happy momma! Oh...since there are only 4 sandwiches, she'll usually take a hot leftover one day.

    Oh..I did see a great tip on Pinterest the other day. Ball (canning products) makes a great 8oz. plastic cup that can go in the freezer and microwave. I made a batch of chicken noodle soup one weekend and then filled 6 of those cups with the soup. PERFECT single serve size. If she wants soup for lunch, I just take one out the night before, thaw in the fridge, zap in the micro in the morning and throw it in the thermos.

    That's our lunch gig!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Anonymous8/30/2012

    Some children find "Right to Tighten, Left to Loosen" helpful

    ReplyDelete
  17. Anonymous8/30/2012

    Have you tried "Beanitos" chips? Wheat and corn free, high-protein, high-fiber.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Oh man! This makes me miss my college crew!! Your count of 360 lunches made me smile...and do some math. I've got 4 in college and 2 in elementary school. So far, according to my calculations, I've done 9,800 school lunches (no lunch program at our little private school, and yes, I made lunches for my high schoolers) so far, with something like 7,000 left til my little guys graduate. It's probably a good thing I don't mind making school lunches!! :) Love my guys, and fixing them lunches they enjoy is such a great way to remind them that Mom loves them. That makes it worth the effort. Thanks for the memories. :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Such an awesome post! I have one more year before needing to pack a lunch for Hannah but you know I'll be looking back at this for help and ideas. Hmmm....wonder if I make something like this together for myself if my lunches will get any more interesting? When I'm rushing in the morning I pack the same thing every day. Boring!

    Love that lunch bag. Will look into ordering a couple of those next summer too. One for Mommy and one for Miss H.

    Thanks for all the great ideas you share with us friend!! Love ya!

    ReplyDelete