Archive for September, 2013

Alternatives to Fresh

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013
 

fresh fruit alternatives

As the weather turns colder for much of the United States fresh produce becomes less available. In the NorthEast many CSAs (community supported agriculture) stop delivering shares soon and farmer’s markets will soon pack up until next year. Although the grocery store always imports produce year round much of it doesn’t taste or look the same off season. Strawberries, blackberries, zucchini etc just aren’t quite the same, at least around these parts and the prices can make them less appealing knowing they aren’t as good.

Also as the weather turns colder there is a shift in the types of food you crave. Many people move towards those richer comfort foods that “stick to your ribs” on the cold days. Let’s face it, crockpots and ovens are being turned on everywhere even as you read this post (unless your reading this next summer ha)! I mention this because often fresh produce is a huge staple for a lunch packer.

I am a big proponent that half of each meal should consist of a variety of fruits and vegetables. I miss the mark sometimes but it is something that I at least try to consider for my family’s health when preparing food. If fresh produce is less available you may have less in your refrigerator and therefore question what do I pack? So let’s consider some options that are easy to have on hand when fresh produce is less available:

 

Frozen

Frozen fruits added to the lunchbox in the morning will be defrosted to eat by lunch or bake them into some of your favorite muffins. Choose from mango, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, cherries etc. all available year round in your grocer’s freezer section! Frozen veggies can easily be tossed into egg omelets or baked egg muffins, chilis, soups, stir fries and of course be served as is. Try carrots, peas, broccoli and corn in your lunch boxes! Bonus if you go for organic selections! ;) You may want to remember to pack a fork for easy lunch time eating!

 

Canned/Bottled

Easy to have on hand and has a long shelf life, canned items are a great year round option. Consider mandarin oranges, olives, applesauces, corn, pumpkin to bake into items, tomato soup for your thermos and so on. Most of these are available in organic options. Canned veggies are just as easy to toss into meals as their frozen counterparts!

 

Dried/Dehydrated

I LOVE dehydrated fruits and veggies! Whether a softer version like the pineapple featured in today’s lunch or something crunchier like carrot, green bean or banana chips dehydrated produce is a great cold weather alternative. The shelf life is long and the drying process generally leaves a concentrated and sometimes sweet flavor. Look for pineapple, apricots, mango, prunes, raisins, carrot or green bean chips and more. Great on its own as a snack or mixed in trail mixes. These are super easy to have on hand. Consider a monthly delivery service like Naturebox which often includes a nice selection of dried fruits and veggies.

 

Pickled

Admittedly pickled veggies is not one of my favorites but I do just love seeing those beautiful and bright summer colors perfectly preserved in mason jars. What a great way to save summer’s bounty. Pickled veggies are great right out of the jar or served on sandwiches and salads. Extra extra bonus points if you pickled them yourself!

 

Cold Weather Selection

Finally consider that there are actually great fruits and veggies that are in season or continue to be easily imported in the colder weather from more moderate climates. Beets, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, kiwi, celery, clementines, grapefruits, kale, winter squashes and more all continue to be readily available through out fall and winter.

I hope one of the alternates above will inspire you to keep your lunch packing up year round!

 

Packed in a Laptop Lunches Bento Box this lunch (pictured at top) contains:

  • Peanut butter & cherry berry preserve waffle sandwich
  • Cucumbers & black olives
  • Carrot & sweet potato chips
  • Dried Pineapple from Naturebox

 

Sincerely,

Deb

Want one? Lunchbox used in this post is available here (affiliate link):

Fall Fresh Lunch

Saturday, September 21st, 2013
 

fall fresh lunch with leaf details

 

Here in the North East where I live Summer has certainly felt long gone for quite some time now! Officially however tomorrow is the first day of Autumn. Autumn is my favorite season, how about you?

Autumn means it is comfortable to be outside and the leaves are changing colors. It means sweatshirts and long pants come out again. It means the kiddos have been back to school for at least a couple of weeks if not more and parent teacher conferences are on the near horizon. It means Football and Hockey are in swing again, two of my favorite sports. For me it also means a couple of birthdays come up, my daughter will be 16 and Trevor will be 4, both next month. Oh my! Busy busy!

The first day of Autumn also means it is safe to start packing Fall themed lunches again yay! The lunch featured in this post today is a harbinger of all the Fall foods and themed lunches I hope to do during this short season to come!

Packed in a Laptop Lunches Bento Box this lunch contains (affiliate links included):

  • A simple ham and cheese sandwich. I used a large leaf cookie cutter on the bread. You could also shape the ham and cheese. I just rolled them up and inserted, I like to keep things simple most days but sometimes I’ll go the extra. Don’t forget to save the bread scraps in a freezer bag to make breadcrumbs, croutons or French toast casserole later.
  • Fresh raw sugar snap peas and carrots (you could throw a veggie dip in there).
  • Red grapes with some leaf food picks added.
  • Guacamole Bites Corn Sticks by Naturebox (not an affiliate link)

What is your favorite thing about Fall?

Sincerely,

Deb

Want one? Lunchbox used in this post is available here (affiliate link):

Ten Reasons to Pack Lunch!

Sunday, September 15th, 2013
 

 ten reasons to pack lunch

There are many reasons that I pack lunch. Believe it or not, having a lunch blog is actually not the primary reason but rather a by-product of the necessity of lunch packing. There are some general reasons that I make this choice overall but as I think about my children there is a actually a different specific reason for each one. So what exactly are they?

Well, I actually posed this very question to my Facebook readers recently, “What is the primary reason you pack lunch?”. I was quite delighted with the many responses. Many were the same reasons as my own and some answers really gave me pause to think, “wow that is a great reason!”. Do feel free to drop by and join our Facebook discussion! I would love to hear your reason!

I decided that I would take some of my own reasons and add to it some of the great responses I got to my Facebook query to see how many reasons I could list. It didn’t take me very long to group together 10 great reasons to pack lunch. I submit them here for your consideration, if you don’t already pack lunch I certainly hope to win you over to the cause!

1. Health & Nutrition

I start here because to me this is one of the most important reasons I pack lunch. I am concerned about the health and nutrition of what I feed to my family just as I know you are! I want to control what they eat and help them make a better choice! So perhaps your reason may be that you want to feed your family organic, non-GMO food or food free from artificial preservatives and colors? Maybe you want your family to eat more fresh food as opposed to processed food? Perhaps you want to control portions to fit an active lifestyle or you or someone you love is watching calories for weight control? Well your in control! These are all great reasons to pack lunch!

The lunch below features a simple spiral ham and cheese sandwich. It is served with black olives, sweet potato sticks, red grapes and carrots.

simple spiral sandwich

2. Save Money

The alternative to packing lunch is to buy lunch! Multiply out the cost of buying lunch for each family member and it won’t take you very long to figure out that it is much cheaper to pack. With 4 children and 2 adults in my home all needing lunch I know I am reaping a big cost savings when I pack!  If you utilize meal planning, couponing techniques and you buy in bulk quantities you can really ring up a savings. Not to mention the more meals you make at home the more likely you are to use up what you buy at the grocery store each week. There is never a cost savings when food ends up in the garbage. So who doesn’t want to save money?

3. Picky Eaters

My son Brendan is a picky eater and he always has been. He has sensory processing disorder (SPD) and it does limit his diet. If I were to have him purchase lunch at school I know he would eat little to none of what is served. He would spend the day hungry rather than eat what he perceives that he doesn’t like. Now that aside many people are picky eaters, kids AND adults alike! There are sometimes reasons for pickiness like SPD but sometimes people are just picky because they are. It happens! No judging! Yes, always try to work on pickiness through a process of trial and reward but in the interim packing lunch is an assurance that your loved one will eat something!

The easy pickings lunch below was packed for my picky eater who started middle school last week! This lunch is packed in a Lunchbots Quad container and includes: cucumbers, watermelon, snap pea crisps and peanut butter pretzel sandwiches (swap peanut butter for an alternative spread if packing for a nut-free person or environment).

lunchbots first day pb pretzel a

4. Food Allergies

Although peanuts often spring to mind, there are many, many types of food allergies and if you or a loved one has one then packing lunch is certainly a necessity! It is a way to assure that the lunch is safe! For many this can even be a matter of life or death. My son Evan has a gluten-intolerance and perhaps could have Celiac Disease. He will have the blood test in the near future so we can know for sure. This for me is a reason to always pack his lunch. I know that I have carefully chosen each item in his lunch box to assure that it is safe for him as each person who has or loves someone who has a food allergy would certainly do. For Evan eating unsafe food results in digestive issues, mood changes and other reactions but for some unsafe food results in anaphylaxis, a dangerous reaction that can result in death. No argument from me that this is a very good reason to pack lunch!

5. Save Time

Kiddos are able to open and eat their lunch quickly. Lunch times at many schools are very short and standing in the lunch line can cut out 5-10 minutes of time that you could be eating. This causes kids to eat very quickly or eat very little as a result. For adults packing lunch means that you don’t spend lunch hours going to get lunch. Instead you can run productive errands, you could workout or you could just have a little “me” time. Aw go ahead, eat and work through lunch so you can leave early, you deserve it! ;)

6. Show Love & Appreciation

Show your family you love them by packing their lunch. You can pack their favorite foods or write a note to include. You could put in a special treat on a special day. You could make a themed lunch that will put a smile on someone’s face. You’ll make them feel special when they are the envy of the lunch room! Maybe you pack lunch for one of the other 10 reasons listed here? Why? Because they are good reasons and you love your family!

The lunch below features turkey, cheese and tomato kabobs along with sweet potato tortilla chips and apple and celery dippers. The dip is peanut butter and greek yogurt with grated chocolate mixed in.

turkey kabob star wm

7. Variety

School lunch menus can be repetitive. Although I do believe that many school districts have done a lot to improve the quality of food that is served there is still generally a predictable pattern to the menu. Schools have to work within a budget and they have to feed a large quantity of people all at once, of course this can be limiting. You however can research Pinterest, try new recipes, mix things up, change with the seasons and have endless food combinations to choose from. You can even theme lunches for fun! Let’s face it, even us adults will eventually keep going to the same one or two restaurants near our office because it is easy and they quickly become tired choices! So pack lunch and become excited about your lunch box variety!

8. To be Eco-Friendly

OK maybe this is more of a reason to pack a container lunch but I never miss an opportunity to mention this!

I recently read that the average school age child will create 67 pounds of waste each school year by packing disposable lunches. Really that is a lot! How many students are in your child’s class? How many in their school? How many bring lunch? It’s a big problem! Really big! You can make better choices when you pack lunch. Chose to use reusable lunch containers made from BPA free plastic or stainless steel like Easylunchboxes, Lunchbots or Laptop Lunches. Buy food in bulk and stop buying individually portioned food where it isn’t necessary! Use reusable drink containers instead of juice boxes or pouches if your school allows. It makes a big difference!

9. I Have To!

My two little ones go to a private preschool and lunch is not provided nor available for purchase. If I don’t pack lunch well there is NO lunch! Yikes! So I have to pack lunch! I know that is probably true for many of you out there too! This is an undeniable reason to pack lunch!

10. Creative Outlet

For many packing lunch is a creative outlet. Some prefer to implement full themed bento boxes which really are quite impressive. Others may just add a cookie cutter sandwich or some food picks. Even others may prefer to theme the food itself such as all Italian food or Mexican food. Some like to try or create new recipes or play with the way food is arranged. Finally some like myself will photograph, edit and blog about their lunches as a creative outlet. Is that you? ;)

So we’ve arrived at the end! Although I feel my list is pretty thorough I am sure that I have missed some other great reasons to pack lunch! Leave a comment below and tell me why do you pack lunch?

Sincerely,

Deb

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