One of the things that I am flat out BAD at is packing lunches that meet our allergen diet requirements, and also fill us up. This is especially true if I’m feeling concerned about things like nutrition. At least, this USED to be true.
This week, we have been conducting an experiment, so to speak. There has been some extra stress at our house this summer and heading into this fall. As we started into our structured school year, Walter and I were fighting nonstop. We decided that for our relationship (and some piece of my sanity), we would put Walter into school and see if it helped lessen the strain at home.
So, I took my baby who can’t eat dairy, soy, corn or gluten and I enrolled him in school. And I’ve spent this week working with his teacher, educating the school staff about how to keep him safe, and what to look for to indicate that he has gotten a contamination.
And all of this means, I had to pack him lunch – because there is no way that the school can feed him. And not only does he have lunch at school, but he has a breakfast/snack time in the morning, then lunch at noon, and an afternoon snack before he comes home for the day. I pack him a LOT of food each day, I feel like! And I decided that if I am going to learn to pack a stellar lunch, I’m going to document it! So, here is our first week of school lunches (and snacks).
Monday it was another child’s birthday, so everyone had cookies. Walter brought his own so he could enjoy a treat too. But his real lunch was Easier Than Hamburger Helper in his thermos, a fruit cup, kiwi, sliced bell pepper, and a Lara Bar.
Tuesday he had more Easier Than Hamburger Helper, sliced bell pepper, a fruit cup, trail mix and an apple.
Wednesday his new lunch tray had come, so he took rice in his thermos, salami roll ups, trail mix, grapes, dried apricots, baby carrots a fruit cup and a Lara Bar. I *might* be afraid he is going to run out of food and be hungry at school.
Thursday he took beans and rice in his thermos, and sliced bell pepper, sliced kiwi, grapes, baby carrots, and a Lara Bar in his tray. I realized while snapping the picture that if I traded the yellow bar for a blue one, we’d have a whole rainbow! I traded them but didn’t have time for another picture. That bus thing is tough!
Friday, today, he has gluten free crackers, salami suns, baby carrots, sliced bell peppers, sliced green apple, a fruit cup and a Lara Bar.
So, a few things that I’ve figured out about packing lunches:
1. Freezer cooking is my friend! I made a batch of Easier Than Hamburger Helper, a batch of plain rice, and a batch of plain black beans on Sunday. I froze them in muffin tins, then moved them to a bag or a glass dish to store in the deep freeze. I could easily pop them out and heat them up on the stove top in the morning and pop them into the thermos hot. The beans and rice I could put together and season up in the morning, too.
2. The divided lunch tray helped me to think about how much food to pack, and how to divide it up into a fun meal. I have aimed for 1 carb source, 2 protein sources, 2 veggies and 2 fruits in each lunch. And while we love this particular tray, it is a bit large for Walter’s lunch bag, so we decided to trade it in for a Lunchbots Bento Cinco – and get one for each of the other kids too. There is certainly one on my Christmas list as well! We may not go to school, but we go places often and have to pack lunch.
3. Thermos! Why do all of my children not have one of these yet? And me? Don’t forget me! Again, Christmas list.
4. I’ve made a list on my white board of things that we have available for lunch options, so that when I am packing, I can just read the list to Walter and he can tell me yes or no. I’m going to make us a list of good options that we can usually pull together and laminate it. Then we can plan at grocery shopping time, on the weekends for freezer meal prep, and on the day that we are packing, so that we can use more whole foods and less prepackaged food.
So, what does your child’s lunch box look like this week?