Saturday, November 19, 2011

Giving Thanks!

My goal when I started Little Lunches was to get and share ideas about making easy, fun, healthy lunches for my kids as they grew from tiny babies into actual eaters. Four years into this I am still in awe of the inspiring lunches I see other moms making. I am grateful for the feedback and suggestions I get from the nearly 1,000 other parents who have joined the conversation.

The next seven weeks of holiday madness can make us crazy. Here are a few tips to make things a little smoother in the lunch department:

  • Baking cookies? Do a couple of batches of muffins while the oven is going and freeze most of them for popping in the oven on rushed mornings or sticking into school lunches (they will thaw by noon).
  • Speaking of cookies - use those cookie cutters to make some fun themed lunches. See what our friend Shannon is whipping up over at What's For Lunch at Our House.
  • Keep a bowl of mandarin oranges on the counter (they are usually easy to find this time of year) - great to toss to a hungry kid for a snack, easy to include in a lunch or to take the edge off your hunger while baking those yummy holiday treats.
  • When you are baking your holiday dressing - scoop a few extra servings into silicone baking cups and freeze for lunches later in the season.
  • Stock up on your basics while you are at the store anyway - big holiday meals require big shopping trips, don't forget to get some lunch stock while you are out. It's easy to get too focused on the big meal and forget to get things for the next week's lunches.
  • Stick more fruits and veggies in the kids lunches than usual...they are going to be getting plenty of baked goods, try to encourage a little bit of crunchy, healthy snacking.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Alternatives to PB & J - Coping with a Sandwich Strike

Over the three years of lunch packing we have gone through a series of "sandwich strikes." The oldest of my three Ps goes through weeks of wanting PB & J (actually Sunbutter and J) in every lunch followed by weeks or months (basically all of last school year) of refusing to eat any sandwiches, regardless of content.

Basically, we moms like sandwiches because they are an easy way to deliver whole grains, protein and a fruit or vegetable serving in a handy carrying case, oh and most of us can make a PB & J before we have had our coffee, with our eyes closed, while carrying a baby. Kids like them, when they like them, because they are easy to eat, taste good and look like what everyone else is eating.

So what to do if (a) you get bored making the same three or four different sandwiches every week or (b) if your Little Luncher goes on a sandwich strike?

Trader Joe's onigiri, cheese flowers and grapes

Think in terms of creating a simple lunch entree that has the same key components as the sandwich:

  1. protein - hard boiled egg, sandwich meats, meatballs, meatloaf, hummus, cheese, nutbutter
  2. whole grains - pasta, whole grain crackers, pita, bagels
  3. fruit and/or vegetable - self explanatory category 
  4. some sort of sauce, condiment or garnish - nutella, ranch dressing (check the ingredients), organic ketchup, pizza sauce
Some of my daughter's favorite sandwich replacements are: 
  • pita cut into triangles, shredded mozzarella & pizza sauce for dipping (each in a separate container so she is fully in charge of the mixing)
  • a bagel cut into quarters, nutella and raisins
  • muffin (made with vegetable puree and added cheese) with cream cheese
  • an assortment of crackers (we love the butterfly shaped ones), cheeses (also cut into shapes with cookie cutters) and shredded carrots 
  • pasta (spirals or penne hold up best for a day in the lunch box) sprinkled with parmesan ("snow cheese") with a few olives in a little silicon cupcake holder (Wilton Square Silicone Baking Cups, 12 Count)
We came across this article called "School Lunch Box Cheat Sheet" last week that has a fantastic list of ideas that might work for your Little Luncher in the place of the usual sandwich. She alludes to next week's topic...Make Ahead Lunch Items.

What have you packed for your Little Luncher instead of sandwiches?