Wednesday, July 23, 2008

waste-free lunches part 2: food

Jacob takes a lunch to work with him every day, and it's usually some sort of leftovers from dinner. We try to make a big batch of some all-in-one dish at the beginning of the week so he'll get a few days' worth of lunches out of it. But that plan wasn't going to work for Khymi--for one thing, Jacob keeps a microwaveable bowl at the office so he can heat up his leftovers (no such luck at camp), and for another thing, kids are less keen on eating the exact same thing several days in a row.

Two things seem to increase lunch appeal for kids: small tastes of many different foods, and some sort of interactive element. I don't doubt that this is what made Lunchables such a huge hit when they were first introduced. If you're my age, you remember the advent of Lunchables--little cracker sandwiches that the kids can build themselves, and a miniature dessert or drink, all in a seemingly space-age disposable tray. (And if you're anything like me, you were annoyed that your parents unjustly denied you the coolness of Lunchables and continued to send you to school with sandwiches, yogurt and fruit.) So we tried keep that in mind in order to re-create the Lunchables experience--without all the packaging and preservatives.

Here are some of the different foods we tried out:
-Pita pockets with hummus and lettuce, with sliced tomatoes in a separate container to be added on top before eating (prevents sogginess)
-Tortillas with separate containers of egg salad and fixins, to be made into roll-ups at lunchtime
-Regular sandwiches (peanut butter & jam, hummus & pesto spread with lettuce and the separate-tomato container)
-Cold leftovers from dinner (cold sesame noodles, pasta with veggies, rice and beans)
-Carrot sticks or cucumber slices with hummus or dip
-Fresh fruit
-Dried fruit or trail mix
-Granola bars

We sat down with Khymi before she started camp and asked what some of her favorite lunches and snacks are. She's homeschooled, so she's not exactly used to brown-bagging it, but she does bring lunches and snacks to swim meets, as well as on the roughly four-hour ride between here and her mom's house. I think she appreciated being involved in the planning, as well as picking out ingredients at the farmers market and the store, and helping grow vegetables in our home garden (she has unofficially given herself the job of "lettuce washer"). In my experience, you're more likely to appreciate what's put in front of you (no matter how old you are) if you had some hand in the process--growing, buying or cooking.

Tomorrow I'll talk a little about drinks and ditching the juice box. See you then!


Nora said...

My old Betty Crocker cookbook for kids nailed the fun/interactive part quite nicely. One thing I remember is taking the cookie cutter to the sandwiches to make stars and heart shaped "tea" sandwiches. Want some cookie cutters?

Mama Monster said...

I went full on non-prepackaged non-disposable for lunches last year, but this summer for camp, I have no time or energy to pack lunches. I've totally cheated and bought -horror!- small packaged items (which are more wasteful, more expensive and less healthy) I hate myself for it, but it's totally worth it because it enables the kids to MAKE THEIR OWN LUNCHES!!!

Allie said...

Oh, I totally remember other kids having Lunchables while I was stuck with my PB&J/yogurt/fruit combo. If I was annoying enough, I was allowed Caprisun.

The thought you're putting into this is awesome! Those lunches sound like so much fun.

maria said...

nora: the lunch-packing time for the summer is actually past now, but if your cookie cutters need a new job we won't say no!

MM: the blessing/curse of the noncustodial parent is that you feel like you can do lots of stuff that "regular" parents are tired of/don't have time for (although it's not like we really have that much time on our hands either), but then you feel like a failure if you falter or if the kid acts (*gasp*) ungrateful. the learning curve is kind of harsh.
anyway, this is one area where i actually sort of like the concept of "offsets." we tried to consciously challenge ourselves this summer not to buy packaging. so you buy some pre-packaged stuff. it does give the kids more autonomy, and you more than likely make up for it in other areas in the long run.

maria said...

allie: i thought lunchables were kind of grotty but still i coveted them because they seemed so fun. and i NEVER got capri sun. half pint of school chocolate milk every day. the best i ever did was talking my folks into boku (remember boku??) when i was about 10.

thanks, and thanks for the mention, too!