My kid would give one of his Wii games to bring a ‘Lunchable’ to school. He’s offered to pay for one with his own money!!
How did this happen? Is it purely rebellion against the ‘healthwhack’ Mom? He actually has fairly refined taste: eats a lot of things other kids won’t even try and when he eats junk food he is satisfied fairly quickly and does not overdo it. He has been fairly well trained. For now. But there is something about the little box in a box with a little of this and a little of that. You can put stuff together from the different pockets! You can eat them in any order you want! You will be the envy of all you survey! Or at least of the pepperoni crowd.
I remember thinking TV dinners were about the coolest thing a person could eat for dinner. We never had TV dinners. They were too expensive. I had one at a friend’s house. Ahhh the pleasure of indulging in vices that are sanctioned by the parent of a friend. Adult sanctioned bad behavior is grand because you can’t get in trouble, right?
So what does this have to do with healthy, cheap lunches other than arguing with children? Well perhaps the lesson to be learned from Lunchables is that they are kind of sexy. Cool wrapper – cool separation of stuff – cool stuff to eat (if you like that sort of thing). Never mind that there are enough chemicals listed on the side of the box to mummify one of your pets. Part of the appeal of a Lunchable is that my son does not like different parts of a meal to touch each other. Being able to see it all, sample from it all, but keep it in it’s proper place would be an inspiration to eat all sorts of lovely things! There is something about this presentation that allows even an 11 year old to appreciate the sheer beauty of a strawberry, or some raisins, or red pepper, or sugar snap peas, or whatever healthy thing you can cram into the little space – I mean gently and lovingly lay in the box knowing it will nourish your most prized possession while he is being inculcated into the diet of most of his schoolmates at the local public school. E-gad! Better leave that and press on.
So I’m thinking I’m going to go the route of the Bento Box. The Bento Box is a lovely Japanese lunchbox o’ food that has little compartments in it. A little of this and a little of that! Attractive, colorful, flavorful – we’re talking a sexy lunch people! And it fits so well with the lunch ideas Little Sis and I have been sending your way over the last week like grabbing and packing a little of this and a little of that. Faster to have it all in one convenient container! I don’t have a container yet… but this could be lunch!
One section with some fresh fruit. One section with some healthy crackers (like Triscuits), one section with some cheese or nuts or leftover roasted chicken or turkey, and maybe something for dipping. Dipping is another attraction of the Lunchable. But rather than have your child dip food into processed poo (as Little Sis calls it) how about dipping into artichoke dip or orange hummus or if you’re fighting a big repatriation case with a child who has been eating processed poo (it happens… we still love you and we’re here to help) something sweet like vanilla yogurt.
Some days you may have the energy, or your child may have the inclination to include a Bountiful Bowl of healthy leftovers / or a Grandwich in one section with a healthy snack that will ameliorate the lack of Doritos or candy in his lunch in another section.
One such snack is the Honey Milk Ball – Adapted from Ruth Yaron’s Super Baby Food:
- 1/3 cup honey
- 2/3 cup peanut butter (we prefer crunchy, but either will do)
- 1 cup nonfat dry milk powder (I used powder, not instant)
- 1 cup oat flour (or oats ground in your blender)
Mix honey and peanut butter. Mix milk powder and oats. Mix mix the 2 mixes.
Form balls or snakes or letters. Do not cook.
Here is a recipe Little Sis sent me – excellent little apple/oat muffins that can be baked in cupcake papers to make them more portable and they can be frozen to make the batch last longer. They also happen to taste really good. You can’t beat that – not even with a loaded Lunchables box : )
Apple Oat Muffins – Adapted from Average Betty’s Oatmeal Apple Muffins
- 1 cup oats
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour (that’s what I used – haven’t tried whole wheat)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2/3 cup nuts
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup canola (or other oil you like)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla (I always go a little heavy on the vanilla)
- 1 large apple, chopped and seeded (I always leave the skin on)
Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients except apple. Mix mix the 2 mixes then fold in the apples!
Pour into cupcake paper lined muffin pans and bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.
Another favorite snack in the lunch box is a combo of dried fruit and nuts and maybe a little healthy cereal thrown in for good measure. We often do Kashi Heart to Heart, raisins and peanuts. Dried apricots purchased on sale were a big hit for awhile as well.
As far as the actual box, here are a few container options I found:
Lots of choices in the plastic category:
Plastic with 3 sections: Stay-Fit Lunch 2 Go Container, EZ Freeze
Plastic with 3 sections: MICROWAVE DIVIDED PLATES WITH VENTED LIDS – (SET OF 4 IN ASSORTED COLORS) (Don’t use these in the microwave. Nuked plastic gives off hormone mimicing chemicals into the food.)
And for a stainless steel version: LunchBots Stainless Steel Food Container, Quad with Green Lid.
And if you have a little extra money and want something actually called a Bento Box: Vivo Small Round Bento Box, Black, Red, Tan, Brown
Hope you find joy in all the little sections of your life! Please share your own adventures is sending healthy lunches off to school or work!