Get Stoked to Pack Lunches!
Since my husband and both kids are gluten-intolerant, packing lunches and snacks is a part of our every day life. I often look to Primal Kitchen’s site for inspiration when I’m starting to worry that my kids will revolt if I pack one more ham & cheese roll-up. I am so thrilled she was willing to post some tips and tricks for packing Whole Food lunches.
Primal Kitchen’s Family Grokumentarian is a wife and at-home mother who indulges in Green & Black’s 85% dark chocolate. She blogs about her family’s adventures in real-food living at Primal Kitchen: A Family Grokumentary, where she posts pictures and descriptions of her husband’s and her preschooler’s packed lunches.
Get Stoked to Pack Lunches!
“Stoked”? Oh, yes, my friends – packing lunches with real food can be hard work, but it doesn’t have to be drudgery. Think of it this way: starting this fall, everybody will be back into a work and school groove – no vacations or intermittent schedules. So, why not commit now to the idea of packing real food lunches for your entire family once September rolls around? Here are just a few great reasons to do it:
- You’ll have more control over what goes into your family members’ bodies on a day-to-day-basis.
- You’ll make good use of leftovers.
- You’ll save money that you would have spent on lunches eaten out during the day.
- You’ll avoid trans fats, extra sugars, and Omega-6 heavy junk industrial oils that you’d otherwise get from vending machine or restaurant foods.
But that’s so much work! Yes, I never argue with that point – as I said, it takes effort for sure. However, the good news is this: you have two months of summer to get yourself geared up. If you were to dive into it face first this fall without some practice and preparations, you might be setting yourself up for some lunchpacking burnout. But spreading out your lunchbox packing prep over a couple of months will make it seem a lot less intimidating.
So here’s the game plan to remove the drudgery from packing lunches for yourself and your loved ones:
- Shop for a lunchbox system that you enjoy. There are many, many good options out there. For my preschooler, we had a lot of luck with the Laptop Lunches Bento system, which had little square and rectangular boxes (including little dip containers!) that you could mix-and-match to fit your meal – and came with a handy insulated zip carrying case. For my husband, we currently use lidded single-serve Pyrex leftover dishes which heat well in the microwave and wash nicely in the dishwasher.I cannot emphasize this point enough – the more you involve those whose lunches you are packing, the more successful you are likely to be. Once you’ve narrowed down your selection to a few options that you are comfortable trying, run them by your spouse or kids for color or style.
- Blog shop for ideas. There are many blogs out there which offer inspiration and ideas on ways to throw together a real food lunch. Spend some time browsing these sites for ideas, and you’ll start to get a feel for food combinations that hold up well. My blog’s posts which are tagged “lunchboxes” serve as a decent starting point, since you’ll currently find pictures and descriptions of nearly 100 packed real food lunches. Need more ideas? Be sure to check out the massive list of primal and paleo blogs aggregated by Todd Dosenberry (better known as Primal Toad!).
- Talk ideas to get family buy-in. This expands on the idea of getting early feedback from those eating the packed lunches. In the next few weeks, have a family meeting with a pen and paper (or laptop, or iPad) at the ready. Explain that in general you’re going to shoot for one source of protein, one or two vegetables, and one or two fruits (with full fat dairy options if your family does them). Then, brainstorm: discuss what some options that they’d like would be. Here’s a little sample list:
- Leftover kebabs
- Leftover roast beef
- Chicken breast chunks with homemade mayo
- Lunch meats
- Boiled eggs
- Mini quiches
- Hard quality cheeses
- Pepper strips
- Mashed sweet potato
- Sweet potato fries
- Fresh broccoli with dip (like sour cream or mustard)
- Apple slices with almond butter
- Clementines (great for winter months)
- Use the summer to do trial runs. When you head out for a day trip, try packing lunches. This has a lot of benefits – you’ll be able to watch your lunch eaters test out their new lunchboxes (and determine if there are any logistical hurdles). You’ll get to try some of the food combinations you discussed at your family meeting, and you’ll get some good practice in packing.
- Don’t be afraid of occasional treats. Don’t be afraid of sometimes packing a small treat: a square of good dark chocolate, some trail mix with their favorite nuts and dried fruits, or even dip some strawberries in high quality dark chocolate for an extra special touch. What a fun surprise to finish their meal!
I hope that after you’ve found good lunchboxes, browsed for ideas, asked for your family’s input, and done some trial runs, you find yourself a lot more confident and excited in the goal of packing your family’s lunches in the fall!
What ideas do you have for packing lunches for your loved ones this year? What do you do to make lunch-packing more fun for you and your lunch eaters?