And Just Like That, It’s Another School Year

lunch on 24 Aug 2017: ham and guacamole pocket with pea sprouts and red pepper, peanut butter filled pretzels, plums and apples

I can’t believe that the lazy days of summer are over and the kids have been in school for a full week. I am full of optimism for this new school year. I now have a 4th grader and a 7th grader (first time middle schooler!), so I feel like an old pro at lunch making.

Here is how the first week went:

lunch on 21 Aug 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and banana sandwich with carrots, lipstick peppers, and an apple
lunch on 21 Aug 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and banana sandwich with carrots, lipstick peppers, and an apple

I’ll admit that the first day of school snuck up on me. It was the day after my daughter’s dance recital and it coincided with the epic solar eclipse (which wasn’t so epic here), so there was a lot going on. For lunch, I stuck to a classic combination: peanut butter, Nutella and banana (quite possibly the greatest sandwich ever) with some crunchy veggies and a little farmers market apple.

lunch on 22 Aug 2017: ham, cheese and sprouts sandwich with carrots and plums
lunch on 22 Aug 2017: ham, cheese and sprouts sandwich with carrots and plums

On Tuesday, my son actually tried school lunch for the first time ever. He was underwhelmed by the “street tacos” so I’m not sure if he will by buying lunch at the middle school too often. For Lily’s lunch, I made a ham and cheese sandwich with butter and pea sprouts.

lunch on 23 Aug 2017: edamame hummus and sprouts sandwich with salami, lipstick pepper, plums, nectarines, Goldfish and almonds.
lunch on 23 Aug 2017: edamame hummus and sprouts sandwich with salami, lipstick pepper, plums, nectarines, Goldfish and almonds

My kids are crazy about these salami sticks that come in two-pack at Trader Joe’s, so I typically throw them into a lunch at least once a week. On Wednesday, I also included a little sandwich with edamame and hummus, half a super sweet lipstick pepper, some plums and nectarines and parmesan Goldfish with almonds.

lunch on 24 Aug 2017: ham and guacamole pocket with pea sprouts and red pepper, peanut butter filled pretzels, plums and apples
lunch on 24 Aug 2017: ham and guacamole pocket with pea sprouts and red pepper, peanut butter filled pretzels, plums and apples

I was motivated to try something a little different for lunch on Thursday. I folded a tortilla around some sliced ham and guacamole to make a little pocket of yumminess (a little cheese glues the edges together). These were a big hit with the kids, so I think I’ll be making more tortilla pockets in the future.

lunch on 25 Aug 2017: pretzel bread with sprouts and grilled fish, carrots, plums, Goldfish and almonds
lunch on 25 Aug 2017: pretzel bread with sprouts and grilled fish, carrots, plums, Goldfish and almonds

On Friday, the lucky kiddos got sandwiches made on pretzel bread filled with leftover grilled cod fish and sprouts. How yummy does that sound? Whew, we survived the first week of school.

 

And Just Like That: The End of School

lunch on 6 June 2017: teriyaki tofu and cucumbers with sweet chili sauce on King's Hawaiian rolls, baby carrots, mango banana chia pudding, and grapes

I still can’t believe it: the school year is over. It’s been a long slog this year, but we survived it. I’m actually relieved to get a break from lunch packing. I was starting to run out of inspiration as the school year wound down. I’ll be using the summer to get my lunch packing groove back and to try to master the art of choux pastry.

Here are some of the favorite kid lunches from the last two weeks of school:

last day of school lunch: pita pizzas with papaya, nectarine, Trader Joe's dark chocolate Nutty Bites and Reese's Pieces (special treat!)
last day of school lunch: pita pizzas with papaya, nectarine, Trader Joe’s dark chocolate Nutty Bites and Reese’s Pieces (special treat!)
lunch on 6 June 2017: teriyaki tofu and cucumbers with sweet chili sauce on King's Hawaiian rolls, baby carrots, mango banana chia pudding, and grapes
lunch on 6 June 2017: teriyaki tofu and cucumbers with sweet chili sauce on King’s Hawaiian rolls, baby carrots, mango banana chia pudding, and grapes
cantaloupe, donut peach, fennel, mini peanut butter banana chocolate chip muffins, grilled chicken and salami sticks
lunch on 31 May 2017: cantaloupe, donut peach, fennel, mini peanut butter banana chocolate chip muffins, grilled chicken and salami sticks
lunch on 1 June 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and bananas on homemade challah, grapes, cherries, kiwi and baby carrots
lunch on 1 June 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and bananas on homemade challah, grapes, cherries, kiwi and baby carrots
lunch on 5 June 2017: cantaloupe, grapes, Cheez-It snack mix, salami sticks for Iain and mortadella wrapped around cheese and sprouts for Lily
lunch on 5 June 2017: cantaloupe, grapes, Cheez-It snack mix, salami sticks for Iain and mortadella wrapped around cheese and sprouts for Lily

 

A Week of Lunch Inspiration

lunch on 10 May 2017: little turkey, cheese and dill pickle sandwiches with mini bell peppers, honeydew, Goldfish and pistachios

This was a pretty good week of lunches for the kiddos: lots of variety and plenty of delicious fruit. We got some particularly delicious mangoes and a big, sweet honeydew that the kids have enjoyed throughout the week.

Lily makes here lunch: pita with edamame hummus, purple carrots and grilled chicken, salami sticks, more carrots, orange slices and chunks of mango
Lily makes her lunch: pita with edamame hummus, purple carrots and grilled chicken, salami sticks, more carrots, orange slices and chunks of mango
lunch on 9 May 2017: pizza bread on King's Hawaiian sweet rolls, mango and carrots
lunch on 9 May 2017: pizza bread on King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls, mango and carrots
lunch on 10 May 2017: little turkey, cheese and dill pickle sandwiches with mini bell peppers, honeydew, Goldfish and pistachios
lunch on 10 May 2017: little turkey, cheese and dill pickle sandwiches with mini bell peppers, honeydew, Goldfish and pistachios
lunch on 11 May 2017: rice salad with ham, tofu, cherry tomatoes and butter lettuce with seaweed, honeydew and Goldfish trail mix
lunch on 11 May 2017: rice salad with ham, tofu, cherry tomatoes, edamame, and butter lettuce with seaweed, honeydew and Goldfish trail mix
lunch on 12 May 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and bananas on flat bread with mango and honeydew
lunch on 12 May 2017: peanut butter, Nutella and bananas on flat bread with mango and honeydew

How to Make Lunches for the Whole Family Without Going Insane

lunch for the whole family on 3 May 2017: fluffernutters with honeydew and veggies for the kids, peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches for the grownups

I actually don’t possess the secret for making lunches every week without going insane. Some days it seems impossible to balance work, kid activities, exercise, cooking, and errands/chores. Typically, my lunch-making strategy is to pack lunches while I’m cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. That way I’m not making a mess twice. I always have more energy for packing lunches early in the week—by Thursday night, I’m often a hopeless mess. But, miraculously, work gets done, the kids do their homework, dinner gets on the table, and the lunches do get made. I even occasionally get motivated to make decent lunches for the adults in the house.

kid lunch on 1 May 2017: chocolate chip brioche rolls, salami sticks, watermelon and colorful carrots
kid lunch on 1 May 2017: chocolate chip brioche rolls, salami sticks, watermelon and colorful carrots
lunch for the grownup on 1 May 2017: sandwiches made with leftover grilled pork, smoked turkey, cheese, and butter letter; roasted potatoes and watermelon salad
lunch for the grownups on 1 May 2017: sandwiches made with leftover grilled pork, smoked turkey, cheese, and butter letter; roasted potatoes and watermelon salad
lunch on 2 May 2017: fruit salad (watermelon, mango, strawberries, and apples), pancake muffins with jam and chocolate chips, and Goldfish trail mix
lunch on 2 May 2017: fruit salad (watermelon, mango, strawberries, and apples), pancake muffins with jam and chocolate chips, and Goldfish trail mix
lunch for the whole family on 3 May 2017: fluffernutters with honeydew and veggies for the kids, peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches for the grownups
lunch for the whole family on 3 May 2017: fluffernutters with honeydew and veggies for the kids, peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches for the grownups

Lunch Container 4.0 and a Fancy Sammie

lunch on 6 Sept 2016: lamb and mint jelly sandwich with berries and Goldfish/TJ's Candy Coated Chocolate Drops mix
lunch on 6 Sept 2016: lamb and mint jelly sandwich with berries and Goldfish/TJ's Candy Coated Chocolate Drops mix
lunch on 6 Sept 2016: lamb and mint jelly sandwich with berries and Goldfish/TJ’s Candy Coated Chocolate Drops mix

Well, it’s another school year and another opportunity to try out a new lunch container. I feel like I’ve tried every lunch container under the sun. Way back during the preschool days, I started packing lunch in:

The Planetbox

lunch on 22 Mar 2016: berry yogurt with oats, mini peanut butter and Nutella sandwich, veggies and crunchy cinnamon apple sticks
yummy lunch in a Planetbox

The Planetbox is a great stainless steel lunch container. The Planetbox itself is not leak-proof, but you can get large and small round containers that seal tight for dips, yogurt, pudding, juicy fruit salads, and the like. I think the separate compartments encourage you to pack well-balanced, healthy lunches with lots of variety. The Planetbox is also very easy to open, which is great for preschoolers and younger kids. The downsides are price and weight: the Planetbox is very expensive and it’s also really heavy. Now that my kids are older and biking to school with backpacks filled with big binders and books and a water bottle, it’s a challenge to carry all that weight. Last year I also started having my kids wash out their lunch boxes after school. My son complains that it’s hard to wash out the Planetbox, especially if you use the separate containers. In addition, you pretty much have to buy the Planetbox insulated bag, because the container doesn’t fit in a standard lunch bag.

The Fuel Bento Box

lunch on 27 Jan 2016: fruit salad with homemade bread courtesy of Grandma, cucumber/tomato/sausage salad and a cookie
a fun lunch in the Fuel lunch box

Another container I’ve tried is the Fuel Bento Box, which I bought at Target. I got the Fuel lunch box because it has separate compartments like the Planetbox and I thought it might be a little lighter since it’s plastic. The Fuel lunch box has an outer container with two separate inner containers. The lids of the two separate container are really easy to open and the separate outer container makes the whole box leak-proof. The size is definitely larger than the Planetbox Rover—it’s targeted more toward adults than kids. The biggest downside to the Fuel is that all the separate containers and lids make it a real pain in the butt to wash everyday. The size is also a little bulky compared to the typical kid’s insulated lunch bag. And, it’s still pretty heavy.

Random Containers

lunch on 4 May 2016: pumpkin muffins with yogurt and granola, apples, carrots and tomatoes
a delicious lunch in plastic and stainless steel containers

Some time last year, the kids lobbied for sack lunches with separate containers. I guess they were tired of bento-style lunches. They just wanted things they could pull out of their lunch sacks individually. We have a drawer with a gazillion little containers, so that wasn’t a problem. Packing lunch this way is fine, but I feel like it requires a little bit more work to plan out the individual portions and to figure out which containers will work for which foods. And, then, there’s clean-up. If you’re washing by hand like the kids do, there are lots of little pieces to wash. However, using little containers like this, especially plastic ones, makes for a lighter lunch bag.

Easy Lunchboxes

my new set of Easy Lunchboxes
my new set of Easy Lunchboxes

Enter Easy Lunchboxes. Since I’m an obsessive lunch packer and I’m continually in search of ideas for school lunches, I’ve seen lots of Easy Lunchboxes out there on the interwebs. Last week I decided to order a set to see how they go over with the kiddos. Easy Lunchboxes come in packs of four and they are quite inexpensive ($13.75 US for a set of four). They are plastic and lightweight, but they feel fairly sturdy. The lids are easy to pop off, but the containers are not leak-proof—although you can get separate mini containers from Easy Lunchboxes that seal tight for dips and such. My main rationale for getting yet another set of lunch containers is that I wanted something both easy to pack and easy to clean. I also wanted to lighten the load of the kiddos’ ridiculously heavy backpacks. We’ll see how it goes.

But, back to today’s lunch. Can we just take a moment to salivate over this sandwich of leftover grilled lamb and mint jelly? Iain actually requested the lamb for dinner: that boy is a fancy pants when it comes to food. I only have myself to blame.

grilled lamb sandwich with mint jelly
grilled lamb sandwich with mint jelly