It Takes a Village to Pack a Lunch, 2012 Edition: “Lunch Box Inspiration”

by Bettina Elias Siegel on September 5, 2012

Wondering what to put in that daily lunch sack?

Welcome, TLT’ers, to the 2012 edition of “It Takes a Village to Pack a Lunch!”

For newcomers to this blog, this is my third annual series of posts, shared on an ad hoc basis throughout the month of September, designed to help parents with the sometimes challenging task of packing healthy and creative school lunches on a daily basis.

In the past I’ve hosted reader exchanges of lunch ideas, shared round-ups of clever and sustainable lunch gear, and enlisted other bloggers to motivate and inspire you.  And this year I have a lot more in store!

Today’s theme is “Lunchbox Inspiration,” a few useful sources to get you thinking outside the (lunch) box.

LaLa Lunchbox

It’s a good idea to get kids involved in school lunch planning to ensure the packed food actually gets eaten, and here’s a high-tech way to do just that.  The LaLa Lunchbox iPhone app allows each of your kids to create a unique monster avatar and then plan a week’s worth of school lunches.  Parents set the template for a standard lunch (i.e., how many fruits, how many vegetables, etc.) and can also edit the list of lunch items, including adding new foods that aren’t pre-programmed into the app.  Once your kid has made his or her selections, a weekly shopping list is generated for you to take to the store.  Neat!

Red, Round or Green Monday Menus

Blogger Bri of Red, Round or Green is known for sharing delicious, healthful recipes throughout the year, but right now she’s offering her readers a special bonus:  six weeks of free, weekly lunch box menus!  She’s about halfway through the series, posted each Monday, and has already shared eighteen new lunch ideas in categories like Easy BitesMini-Meals, and my favorite,  Stuff in Other Stuff.

And speaking of Bri, here’s a recent article about lunch box packing in which she and I (along with Jeanne of The Jolly Tomato) are quoted, and here’s a great post Bri wrote last year for this series to get you “strategizing” about lunches more effectively.

EasyLunchboxes 

Kelly Lester, CEO of EasyLunchboxes, has been a friend of TLT since the very beginning.  In addition to selling her wildly popular lunch box system, Kelly has acquired a big fan base among bento lunch packers willing to share their ideas, recipes and tips.  Kelly’s compendium of lunch box blogs will keep you surfing  – and inspired — for hours!

A Special Offer from The Six O’Clock Scramble

Finally, I wanted to share an item which appeared with perfect timing in my inbox today.  Longtime TLT friend The Six O’Clock Scramble, a wonderful meal planning service for busy families, has a special offer going on right now. For every meal-planning subscription purchased through the end of September, you also receive a printable chart of The Scramble’s 25 Mix and Match Healthy Lunch and Snack Ideas, plus you’ll be entered into four weekly drawings for a variety of items that will help with lunch packing, including gear, food items and a cookbook.  You can sign up here.

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What are some of your go-to sources for inspiration when  you hit a lunch rut?  Don’t leave a desperate mom or dad hanging – let us know in a comment below.

[Blogger disclosure:  I did not receive any compensation from any of the companies or individuals mentioned here.]

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Bri September 5, 2012 at 11:01 am

Thanks for the share, Bettina! Glad to be included in such amazing company. :-)

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Cassie Webster September 5, 2012 at 11:33 am

I use Easy Lunch Boxes and MOMables. com (a subscription service as well) and they help me stay organized and make it easy for me to send my kids to school with healthy bento-type lunches! I prepare all that I can the night before and pack it all up in the morning. Easy peasy! :)

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jenna @kidappeal September 6, 2012 at 8:02 am

rightly or wrongly, i take a different approach to lunch. maybe it’s because as a working parent with one recovering reluctant eater with food allergies who invests creativity and planning on breakfast and dinner, there just isn’t enough time to make lunch awesome. so i don’t stress about how boring our lunches are. they are practical and sustainable!

when i was approached by a literary scout to write a recipe book for picky eater lunch boxes i declined. lunch is my least inspired meal.

the kids have resisted anything dinnerish in lunchboxes, and actually prefer predictability to variety in lunch boxes. the closer i can make their lunch box stuff to what their peers eat, the more success i have with getting them to eat it. so they are gluten free sandwiches/muffins, coconut yogurt, cut/whole fruit, apple sauce, cut veggies, carrot pickles and kombucha or hibiscus tea to drink. every once in a while they ask for beans and rice or chili in their thermos fun tainers.

i barely have time to cook breakfast and dinner, i can’t imagine adding “cook lunches” to my list. because packing lunches is brainless, it means hubby can help too. he now does 80% of lunch box packing! plan to teach my 3rd and 1st grader to pack their own lunches this year.

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Bettina Elias Siegel September 6, 2012 at 8:23 am

Jenna: So long as a kid’s overall diet is varied, I have no problem with giving them the same lunches (more or less) for as long as they’re satisfied with them. Predictability can be comforting — not to mention so much easier on the lunch packer! :-) In my own childhood, I definitely became wedded to certain lunches for long stretches, and even link some lunch foods to particular elementary school grades in my memory (fifth grade = cheese sandwich!). But I offer these resources for parents and kids who are looking for some variety and coming up short.

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mommm!!! September 6, 2012 at 9:05 am

I’m with Jenna. Our version of variety comes in terms of sandwich fillings and breads. For example, a hoagie roll or sliced bread? Asagio cheese bun or a baguette? When my child was in grade school, he got a home cooked hot meal from me that was complicated, gourmet, and the envy of his peers and his teachers. But he also got a 45 minute lunch. Now he’s in public school and it takes acts of heroism to wolf down a sandwich. So we keep it simple and simple has also allowed him to be able to pack his own lunch which includes:

~sandwich
~crackers of various kinds
~cheeses of various kinds
~whole fruit
~some type of veggie which he may or may not pack some sort of dip like hummus
~possibly a hard boiled egg or some deviled eggs if I made any over the weekend
~some sort of dessert of something I have baked
~juice or a V8 thingy

And that’s it. When he was in private school I stayed home. I invested in the expensive lunch accoutrement to accommodate the gorgeous hot meals I sent my child to school with. We have since moved states and with my 47 jobs and my school our time constraints are vastly different now. His lunch box has a cold compartment that’s separate from the main compartment and the main compartment is large enough to hold a man sized thermos with lots of room to spare. He has outgrown this type of lunch carrier and wants to downsize it to something more simple and I agree with him.

I’ve tried the brillant little containers of engineering genius and the lids get lost and once the lids are lost the container is useless. I’ve tried a couple of other new and improved sort of lunch carriers and they just aren’t sturdy. What worked for my son all these years has been a sturdy lunch carrier that has room for an adult thermos that is capable of keeping something hot, a drink thermos capable of keeping something cold, room for food not in the thermos and that’s really about it.

Plus he’s at an age now where he really needs to be taking care of himself in some capacity so I’ve been making him pack his own lunches for the past couple of years and I’ve watched him get more creative with sandwiches on his own. Last night I roasted a chicken for dinner and my child exclaimed that he could make chicken sandwiches with the leftovers. Uummm….he’s never had a cold chicken sandwich in his life! LOL! I just nodded in agreement, “Yep you sure can!” :) I made biscuits last night as well and he’s already got breakfast plans for the leftover ones….egg sandwiches. I can see breakfast is going to be a much bigger meal this school year because he has to wait so long for his lunch break.

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