This post brought to you by Campbell’s Soup Company . The content and opinions expressed below are that of Stuff Parents Need.
Three cheers for all you Bento box mamas out there. I used to sort of hate you because I felt like your creativity indicated some inherent flaw in me that I really didn’t care to have pointed out. But I’ve come to realize that most of you who are crafty and are able to create full scenes worthy of a magazine spread in your child’s lunch box every day really do get a lot of joy out of it. It’s not about me, or how decidedly lacking in skills it makes me feel. It’s about bringing a smile to your kid’s face. And so I say to you, rock on, mama!
As for me, my child will not be eating food items that I turned into panda bears or the ocean floor. But I haven’t given up on creativity altogether. Sometimes you just have to re-think it a bit and take an easier approach.
Wanna hear my fun lunch box idea? Go with a picnic theme (hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.) and to add a bit of flare and to make your child giggle, your picnic needs to get invaded by ants, big-time.
Enter California Raisins!
My daughter is more partial to hot dogs than hamburgers, so I went in that direction. She’s only 5, though, so half a hot dog is going to be enough for her. Half a hot dog is not cute in a picture, though! 🙂
What’s a picnic (or a hot dog, for that matter) without some slaw? I’ve left it to the side so that the bun doesn’t get soggy. You could switch this out for potato salad, relish, or whatever you think might appeal most to your child. Also include a few carrot chips, because they are fun to pair with the slaw to turn it into a dip.
The problem with this picnic definitely started with peanut butter that was meant for the apples. You can see that the “ants” (yummy California Raisins!) are going to town on it! All you need to do is cut your apple into slices and put them in a bag with a bit of water and a squirt of lemon juice (this keeps them from browning). The ants won’t be able to get inside the bag to the apples, but they should be covering the peanut butter. And let me just tell you, apples dipped in peanut butter and raisins is SO good. I’m keeping it in mind as a snack for myself, too!
Depending on how old your kid is, and therefore, how much food they need in their lunch box, you can add other elements (watermelon comes to mind as a picnic-worthy addition). Once you have your lunch complete, it’s time to add those extra raisins all around. I think kids will have great fun finding raisins all over the place as they eat their meals. Raisins are such a fun, naturally sweet snack, and so I think kids will have no problem “exterminating” them on the spot! They will also be very easy to take off the food (to each his own, but a raisin hot dog is not really my jam).
California Raisins, whether you turn them into ants or not, really are a great item for the lunch box. They fall in line with clean eating practices, which is what we strive for. Go ahead and check out the ingredient list on the box of raisins in your pantry, or the next time you are in the store. It likely says, “raisins.” That’s it! Woo hoo! They are also the most economical dried fruit out there, and they are fat free, cholesterol free, and have 9% of your daily fiber and 6% of your daily iron in 1/4 cup. They are also a wonderful option for anyone who doesn’t have a way to provide temperature control for their lunches. Hot, cold, or in between, raisins don’t mind! If you want more ideas about fun ways to incorporate California Raisins into your lunches or snacks, check out the California Raisins Facebook page (you can sign up to receive a California Raisins prize pack, there, while supplies last!).
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Del Monte, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #DelMonteBTS http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV.
My baby girl is at her first day of Kindergarten at this very moment. I was all smiles dropping my Darah off this morning for her first of approximately 2,340 school days that stretch from 8-3 from now until she graduates from high school.
I pretty much cried like a baby all the way back home. This is such a HUGE milestone. It feels much more monumental than her first day of preschool or her first time heading to a school program 5 days a week. Now we are fully in “the system” of American education. All day, 5 days a week, 9 months of the year. It’s like my baby has entered into the work force, only her job is to learn.
I will miss her, you guys. She’s one of my lunch buddies. But now it’s time for her to sit with her friends at lunch and form new relationships over soy butter sandwiches (peanut-free…that’s how our school rolls) and juice boxes. But lunch will also be an opportunity for her to feel connected to her mama, even if only for a brief moment while she inspects the contents of her lunch box. This is just one more reason why I want to have lots of ideas on hand so that I can offer her a fun variety that she will also love.
One of the brands I look for on the shelves to add to my lunch box supply arsenal is Del Monte. They have some great healthy products designed to give your kids the nutrition they need to stay focused in school. We regularly use Del Monte Fruit Cups as add-ins to our smoothies. For school lunches, though, we go with Fruit Burst Squeezers.
These are a HUGE hit with both of my girls and Darah in particular gets tickled any time she gets them as part of a meal or as a snack. So I knew it was the perfect thing to include in her very first school lunch box. I can promise you that it will be the very first thing she eats. I really love it because there’s NO high fructose corn syrup and no artificial flavors.
Lunch Box Breakdown
Here’s the complete breakdown of what I packed in Darah’s first lunch box. Maybe it will give you a few ideas to have on hand if you are a bout to launch into daily school lunch packing duty!
1. Soy butter and jelly sandwich. We don’t have nut allergies at my house, but they are very prevalent in her classroom, such that we have been asked not to send any food with nuts in it. I found soy butter at the store and it tastes quite similar to peanut butter, so we are going with that!
2. Cream cheese and celery. Ordinarily I would go with peanut butter and raisins on a piece of celery, but that’s not an option, so I headed in another direction. Darah loves cream cheese, so she’ll go to town on this. The celery isn’t going to load her down with awesome nutrients, but it’s still a veggie, so that makes it a win. Plus it has an awesome crunch factor! Carrots would be another great “crunch-tastic” veggie to send.
3. Del Mont Fruit Burst Squeezers. I have complete and total success getting my kids to eat these. More so than if I send a piece of fruit. I think it has to do with how fun they are to eat, and how easy they are to eat. Darah is a very slow eater. She always has been. So she might not make even finish her lunch in time if some of it isn’t liquid. Totally serious about that. Fruit Burst Squeezers go from full to completely sucked dry in about 30 seconds. It’s quite amazing to watch, actually!
Free Photo Offer
Right now at select Walmart Super Store locations you will find a free back-to-school photo offer! You can take your first day of school photo (or really, any photo you want!) of your child to Walmart between now and September 13th (or while supplies last) and get a free 5×7 print with a back to school border (the photo will be 4×6 and with the border, it will be 5×7). I had one printed of Darah in her classroom so that I can see her in her element during the day.
But it gets even better! When you get your free print you will also receive a $1 off Del Monte products coupon in the photo envelope. I took mine and headed straight over to the aisle with the products I wanted and got stocked up for a great price. That was a total win/win! Prices vary by area, so I can’t guarantee that you’ll find the same prices at your store, but the Fruit Burst Squeezers for me were priced at $2 per pack of 4. So with my coupon, I only spent $3 (plus tax) for 8 individual squeezers. Woo hoo!
Do you have any great ideas for stuff to include in school lunch boxes? And have you tried Del Monte Fruit Burst Squeezers, yet? Did your kids love them as much as mine do?
I still have two more weeks until my oldest is in kindergarten, and therefore, in school from 8-3 every day. That’s just 14 more days that I have to get my list of lunch ideas jotted down for quick and easy reference before each shopping trip, and every morning while making her lunch.
Ok, time for a moment of self-analysis: I’m making theses lists in a desperate attempt to try to control something, while watching my kids grow up and time marching on. I simply can’t slow it down, try as I may. I’m struggling with this kindergarten business much more than I struggled with turning 30 (I actually rather enjoyed that year!). And perhaps I’ll really enjoy this first year of Darah being in school for such long stretches, if I just give it the chance. I think that’s easier said than done, but however it goes, I’m gonna have some good lunch ideas, dang it!
I actually created a clean eating version of the ready-made lunches you can find in the refrigerated section of stores and will be sharing exactly what I put inside the kit in just a bit. It turned out great!
How to Replicate the Wet Napkin
Speaking of “clean” eating, the other thing I’ve been contemplating is how to replicate Darah having a wet napkin with her meals. This is something she has become quite used to at home, and I think every family has little idiosyncrasies that seem perfectly normal because you are used to them, until you step back for a moment and realize that it is actually rather unusual. Well, our kids get damp napkins to help them wipe their faces and hands with pretty much every meal. Anyone else out there do this?
I was originally thinking that I’d need to buy the canister of Wet-Naps and just pack them in a little plastic baggy for her each day. Seemed a bit wasteful, but I what other option did I have?
Where to Find Wet-Nap Products
I actually had a bit of trouble locating these in my Walmart, so I thought I’d let you in on exactly where I found them. Check the section near shampoo and conditioner that has other baby and feminine care products. That’s where I found mine! Other folks reported finding them in the napkin/paper goods aisle, which is where I looked first, but they were not there in my store!
Clean Eating Lunch Kit
Ok, so let’s break down what I found at Walmart to replicate those popular pre-made lunch kits (you know the ones…). To make it more in line with clean eating, I was looking to avoid artificial ingredients as much as possible, High Fructose Corn Syrup, enriched grains, pesticides and nitrates. I had a lot of success!
I used a pre-divided container just to give it more of that “lunch kit” feel, but of course that isn’t necessary. Use what you have, my friends!
I started with the fruit. I chose cantaloupe because my Walmart has a more limited selection of organic fruits, and canatloupe is on the “Clean 15” list, so pesticides aren’t as big of a concern for this conventionally grown product. Other options that aren’t organic would be kiwis, mangoes and bananas. Otherwise, try to get organic if at all possible.
I next added a sweet yet sensible treat. In this case I chose Somersaults because they do not contain enriched wheat or HFCS. I put them in a cupcake liner, just as I did with the fruit, so that they would stay separated.
For the drink, I decided to juice up Darah’s water, but just a touch. I found some organic pineapple juice (which tastes divine, but was definitely not cheap…hmph). I poured about 15% juice and made the rest water, and then added the mixture to a stainless steel cup. She’s used to water, and she’s used to watered-down juice, so I think she’ll like this just fine.
Now it’s time to make the meat, cheese and cracker combo! I couldn’t find the particular brand of crackers that I was hoping to buy, but I did find these whole wheat crackers from Carr. They were on the pricey end, but I liked their size. I used the cracker as my guide for how large the meat and cheese should be. And then I scoured the cabinets to find something that I could use to cut them to that size. I did eventually find something (though I was starting to sweat it, a bit!) and now I’ve got my go-to meat and cheese circle maker! :-).
When you are shopping for the meat, it’s really important to read your labels and look for the absence of nitrates. Most deli meats contain them, so start your search by looking for something that says “no preservatives” on the front as your starting point. As for the cheese, I looked for organic cheese first, and having not found any, I started looking for cheese with as few ingredients as possible, and no food coloring. The no food coloring bit wiped out all the “orange” cheeses immediately.
Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated
Once again, you’ll want to keep the crackers in a separate area from the meat and cheese, or else your kid will have soggy crackers by the time lunch rolls around. Besides, getting to build the little “sandwiches” is part of the fun!
Clean Up Time!
And of course, we can’t forget the Wet-Nap packet. It fits nice and neat in between the fruit and dessert. I realized after my creation was complete that there was room for a baby carrot or two, as well. Next time!
While choosing cleaner ingredients for this lunch kit does make it more expensive than it might be otherwise, the price still hovered right around $2.50, which is exactly what the more conventional kits cost. And honestly it didn’t take long at all to make. If you cut up your cantaloupe and your meat and cheese all in one setting for the week, which still only takes a few minutes, then putting lunch together each morning will be lightning-fast.
Happy lunching, friends! And don’t forget your Wet-Nap coupon!
Thanks to Foodie.com for partnering with me today to form this curated collection of AWESOME school lunch recipes! All thoughts and opinions are my own, as always.
Check out Lunch Box Love
This morning I worked on compiling some great school lunch recipes that I am going to be using starting a few weeks from today when my oldest heads off to kindergarten (How did this happen? Seriously!). I know many of you out there are going to be packing lunches, too. Whether you are new to the endeavor, like me, or a seasoned pro who could use a few fresh ideas, I think you’ll find some things you like in my collection. Go check it out and be sure to save the ones you like the best to your own collections!
As a work-at-home parent, I get to save money each day by eating my lunch at home. My girls are also usually home at lunch, too. And we live just a 5 minute bike ride from my husband’s work, so most days he is also home. We are so lucky to get to have that time together!
But that also means that I need to actually prepare lunch every day, and I run out of lunch ideas FAST. To help me get out of a rut, I put together a list of 16 great lunch ideas. A few of them I already use and love myself, and the rest of them are on my list to try out in the upcoming weeks.
If you work from home, or if you like to bring your lunch into the office and need to think outside of the frozen meal or the simple sandwich, here’s a great list of recipes to try!
- Pasta Recipes that Mix and Match: Easy, Kid-Friendly by Stuff Parents Need
- Lemon Garlic Tuna Burgers by Can You Stay for Dinner?
- Italian Walnut Salad by Amy J Bennett
- Toddler Thai: Noodles in Peanut Sauce with Chicken by Vanderbilt Wife
- Mediterranean Tuna Salad by Glued to My Crafts
- Mini BBQ Chicken Pizza by Second Chance to Dream
- Turkey and Avocado Panini by Marly’s This & That
- Apple Gorgonzala Salad with Home-made Italian Vinaigrette by Marly’s This & That
- Pico de Gallo Chicken Sandwich by All She Cooks
- Chicken Gyros by Cooking on the Front Burner
- Gluten Free Coconut Chicken by JaMonkey
- Buffalo Chicken Quesadillas by Love Bakes Good Cakes
- Chicken Cordon Bleu Sliders by A Family Feast
- Green Goddess Pasta Salad by Call Me PMC
- Bacon Chicken Ranch Taquitos by What’s Cooking Love?
- Loaded BBQ TVP Sloppy Joe by Watching What I Eat
Want to see the entire 31 Days of Unforgettable Recipes series? Just click the banner below to see the full list!
We have one more week until Darah goes back to school as an official pre-schooler! My eyes well up with tears at the mere thought of it!
Darah won’t be staying at school for lunch, so I don’t actually have to pack one for her, but I still have to have a lunch prepared for her when she gets home every day. I work as hard as I can on the blog and on grading work for my college class I teach, so I don’t really have much time to devote to preparing a lunch. I need to rely on more convenient options so that I can spend as much time as possible working before she gets home.
But like most moms, I don’t want my need to go for convenience to eclipse my desire to provide healthy food for my child.
Earth’s Best has got some great products that are absolutely perfect for the mid-day rush, and if you are packing a lunch, they work well in a lunch box, too!
Darah has been enjoying the Earth’s Best Sunny Day Snack Bars at lunch time and as an afternoon snack. They are naturally sweetened cereal bars filled with real fruit. They come in strawberry and apple flavors, and have Big Bird and Grover on them, which delights my little preschooler. I’m delighted by them because they are the right serving size for smaller tummies, and they provide big doses of calcium, iron, zinc and six B vitamins.
The other item in my pantry “lunch box” is Earth’s Best Kidz Organic Apple Sauce. Did you know that conventional apples are one of the “dirtiest” items of produce? The amount of chemicals from pesticides that is found on them is absolutely astounding. Going organic when it comes to apples is a very good idea, even if it is one of the only fruits for which you pay the higher price. I especially like having these individual servings of applesauce on hand for days when we might be out of fresh fruit. Darah can still get a serving of something healthy and delicious when I’m overdue for a trip to the store!
I do try to keep a specific box in my pantry for lunch staples that I can easily grab to help supplement the meal with minimal effort on my part. That is really essential so that I can be confident that I can pull lunch together for her in 5 minutes every day and not find myself spending 30 minutes of my work time in the kitchen scrambling to cook something. It’s a strategy that has served me well, and I highly recommend it!
Here are some other things I keep on hand for a healthy and quick lunch for Darah:
- baby carrots and ranch dip
- whole wheat crackers
- slices or cubes of cheese
- yogurt (I usually buy plain and mix in a little organic jam to sweeten it)
- round and thin sandwich bread (it’s the perfect size for a younger child’s sandwich!)
- peanut butter and graham crackers for a dose of protein
I’d love to hear what your go-to lunch and lunch box items are. Sometimes I get in a rut and love to be inspired by what other parents are doing! Please share (and remember…comments on this post earn you extra entries in the Earth’s Best giveaway I’ll hold in a few weeks)!
Disclosure: I am a blog ambassador for Earth’s Best, and as such, I have received complimentary products as a thank you for my time. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are strictly my own.