Real Food School Lunches II

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I have to admit that the holiday break from school gave me a much-needed break from preparing tree nut/peanut-free, real food, budget-friendly school lunches for my kindergartner every night. I truly don’t know why I feel that packing a lunch is such a pain when I would at some point be making lunch for my daughter regardless if she were at school or not! I guess it’s just the transportability and nut-free aspects that really put me over the edge sometimes.

So, as promised, here is a follow up to the school lunch post I did awhile back with some new ideas and pictures. Coming up with these ideas feels like a struggle on most nights, but I of course eventually (have to) think of something to pack for her!

Here it goes starting with my favorite…

  • Homemade pizza lunchables with fruit! I got this idea from a blog reader and love it. I basically bake whole-wheat pizza crust plain, cut it into triangles and freeze them in a big bag. I also freeze seasoned tomato sauce (or pizza sauce) in ice cube trays. Once the cubes are frozen I move them out of the trays into another big freezer bag. At least once a week I pull out 2 or 3 crust triangles, 2 sauce cubes, grate some cheese and add some fruit. My daughter loves this lunch and it is one of the easier ones to put together the night before (once all the advance preparation is done of course!).

  • Chicken nuggets with ketchup, grapes, whole-wheat macaroni noodles, and peas (all served cold) – Okay, so I admit the ketchup aspect of this would not officialy be “10 Days of Real Food” approved due to the sugar in it. You could of course attempt to make your own ketchup (which I never thought was as good as the store-bought stuff) or make a different sugar-free dipping sauce like honey mustard. Regardless, this has been one of the very few “exceptions” where we’ve broken our original rules since we do believe anything in moderation is okay! If you are interested in putting chicken nuggets in your child’s lunch too just make a few extra the next time you have this for dinner or pull some out of the freezer if you were already good enough to make some in advance.
  • Fruit smoothie, grapes, egg salad and (brown rice) crackers – This little yellow apparatus that is pictured is the best way I’ve found to transport smoothies to school. I’ve mentioned these reusable freezie pop type things before in a “summer treat makeover” post, and I was originally only giving these to my girls as a dessert. But all of that changed when I was desperate for a way to easily send smoothies to school. So now anytime I make smoothies I fill up these things with the leftovers and just stick them in the freezer. If you like to use the divided Tupperware trays (and like to fit everything in it like I do!) it is easiest to fold up the end of the freezie pop holder and put a rubber band on it before it freezes. Plus even if it is not in a Tupperware container (I do at least recommend putting it in a zip lock bag) it is best to use the rubber band to avoid a big mess if/when the top comes off in their lunch bag…not that I know from personal experience or anything! By the time lunch rolls around at school the smoothie is only partially frozen and my daughter loves it (plus I think her classmates are a little jealous since it does look so fun and interesting). These always come home completely empty!
  • Sunflower butter & peach jelly (real fruit spread) sandwich, brown rice cake, mango, and yogurt with berries – The trick with this lunch is to NOT use the flavored yogurt from the store (flavor it yourself)! Both of my daughters absolutely love yogurt and when we first switched to real food I thought we’d have to give it up all together since plain yogurt is so disgusting by itself. Then one day I realized they would scarf it down just the same if I simply drizzled in some honey and frozen organic berries (which change the color of the yogurt by the way). This is now one of my daughter’s favorite things that I send in her lunch. Not to mention frozen berries are so much cheaper than fresh! One other thing about the rice cakes though…both of my daughters love these crunchy things, but you must read the ingredients to make sure they are made with brown rice (and are therefore whole grain).

In addition to these lunches let’s also discuss snacks for a moment. I don’t know about you, but I have to send both a lunch and a morning snack for my daughter everyday. For her snack I’ve tried different combinations of “trail mixes” using pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, crackers (Triscuits or brown rice crackers), raisins or other dried fruit, and whole-wheat pretzels. I’ve also sent in whole fruit like bananas and apples. But, by far, her most favorite snack (that she prefers to have every single day, which certainly makes things easy for me!) is warm oatmeal in a Thermos. So every morning I heat ½ cup plain whole-grain rolled oats and about ¾ cup milk for less than 2 minutes in the microwave. Then I drizzle in some honey and add cinnamon and raisins. I pour it right into her Thermos, which keeps things pretty warm until snack time. I am not a big fan of oatmeal myself, but it sure is a filling snack, she loves it, it’s easy to make, and it is 100% whole grain. You can’t be that!

If you have any suggestions or other ideas please leave them in the comments…I love to hear from the blog readers!

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71 comments to Real Food School Lunches II

  • Nicki Czarnecki

    How do you make the container you have for the smoothies? Also you said the ziplock containers don’t leak into other compartments? Thanks!

  • Nicki Czarnecki

    p.s. I NEVER would have thought to put oatmeal in a thermos! Great idea!

  • kelsey

    i am showing my daughter the pictures and she said “i wish my school made those lunches” i said “we are going to make these lunches”. She is so excited! You rock!

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      I love to hear that!! If you aren’t subscribed make sure you keep checking back b/c I’ve been posting lots of new ideas.

  • Connie

    I also like to use plain yoghurt to avoid the excess of sugar. We have huckleberries where I live, so often we have frozen huckleberries along with honey in our yoghurts. Another way I like to make it, because it’s cheap, and a nice variety, is to mix 100% juice frozen juice concentrate in the yoghurt. It really tastes like the sweet store yoghurts that way, but minus the processed sugars.

  • Thinking about school lunches…thanks for the pizza idea. My daughter loved the lunchable pizza. I think we can swing a whole school year with real food thanks to you!

  • Wendi

    I bought lunchboxes/food container set from gogreenlunchboxes.com They are bigger and hold more food than the ziploc containers if you are making lunches for older kids/teens or adults. It even has a small water bottle in it also, so everything is in one place. LEAKPROOF!! The are great, definitely worth checking out. Food container, water bottle and lunch box to carry it all are all included.

  • Dawn

    I just found you site and I’m pretty intrigued! I don’t know if we could go all out but your lunches look so much better than what is served in school!!! I’m thinking this would be a good place to start making a few changes. My son especially loved the idea od taking a smoothie to school!

    One question, how long will they keep in the freezer? Could I make several on Sunday and have them on hand for the week?

  • Emily

    Fortunately for me, my first grader’s school is not peanut free. One of her favorite things I pack her is what she calls “peanut butter banana tortilla delight” (she made up the recipe one day and called it that…..too cute). I spread PB onto a tortilla, then put banana slices on top and then add some mini chocolate chips and roll it up. She loves it. It would probably be just as good with sunflower butter or soybutter. She also loves the make-it-yourself pizzas. I use an English muffin as the “crust”. I never would have thought she would like that, but last year it was served as the snack at her kindergarten Halloween party and she loved it and asked me if we could make them at home. She takes it for lunch at least once per week. I also give her sliced black olives in a separate container as a topping. Just last night she and I were talking about making homemade lunchables too. I told her we could cut ham and cheese into little heart shapes and pack them with some crackers. She loved the idea, so I’m going to try it next week.

    My son’s daycare is a different story. His room is peanut free, so I am always looking for alternatives for his lunches. I bought him sunflower butter the other week to try and he did NOT like it. Maybe I’ll have to try again in a sandwich with jelly or something.

  • Kelly

    I am a mother of 2 children with Severe peanut and Tree nut allergies and I just want to applaud you all for taking the time to come up with safe and healthy alternatives for your children! I have heard several of you mention the sunbutter and I wanted to share a different brand with you that my family likes better (less aftertaste) it is called “I am Healthy” there are various versions of it….crunchy, honey, even chocolate. We enjoy the smooth honey flavor the best. It can be found at Kroger, Ralphs. Whole Foods and Fresh Market….I believe Trader Joes may carry it as well?? Anyway…I realize it is more work for those of you with no allergies in your family….but it makes a world of difference to the child, and family of the child with life threatening food allergies that you take the time to help keep the environment safe for them! THANK YOU!

  • Gina

    Help, help, help!!! I can’t get the lids to stay on my freeze pops (the same ones you have). Any tips???

    • 100 Days of Real Food

      Well, I mostly bend the ends of ours and fit them into my daughter’s plastic zip lock divided lunch container, which keeps everything in place. Another option is to bend the end up and secure it with a rubber band (that stretches across the top over the lid). I hope that helps!

  • chris

    It is great that schools are nut/peanut free. Poor you, my child could die from peanuts. You think you have it hard!!!!

  • Hemp seed -I mix it with everything to add some protein…oatmeal, apple sauce, pasta, soups. My 2 year old loves it. Thanks for all the great ideas!

  • Love your blog. Just wondered if you’ve seen Organicville’s ketchup? I live in Canada, so I don’t know if you can get it where you are, but it’s sweetened with agave nectar (a natural sweetener) instead of refined sugar!
    http://organicvillefoods.com/products/condiments/organic-ketchup/

  • Cecilia

    Just found your blog through Pinterest. I LOVE your stand on “real food”. Thank you for the many great ideas for nutritious meals, specially the packable kid’s lunches!

  • Lucy

    I love your lunch ideas and this blog but I can’t help noticing what a burden it seems to you that you cannot pack anything with nuts. My daughter has a tree nut allergy and for her it is life or death and when another parent makes it seem like such a burden that they can’t have peanut butter in their lunch boxes well it begs the question ‘what if it where your child’.

    I know that I never would have thought about it before I had children but now that their are many kids with these allergies I think that having this requirement is vital. I hope you understand this as your post your blogs and when you pack your kids lunches because there are parents out there that read these blogs for your great ideas not your inconveniences. Some parents are thankful that they can send their kids to school without having to worry about an allergic reaction or their child dying.

    • Melissa

      As a fellow parent of school aged children, I have to say that most of us without food allergy issues don’t actually feel inconvenienced as you describe it. I know it must be frustrating for you but please consider another side. My son is as skinny as a rail with an extremely high metabolism. Since starting kindergarten he’s not gained any weight and has slipped from his normal weight curve. He’s gone from 97th % in height and 75th % weight to 97th % height and 50th % weight (doesn’t sound that bad, but as tall as he is, 50th % weight is about like an average height kid being in the teens for weight). A big part of this is b/c he’s not given more than 20 mins to eat his lunch and the school sends them out to the playground after lunch instead of before, so he’s got way too much incentive to be done with lunch as fast as possible. The other problem is that food I send can’t require much effort or he won’t eat it. He eats a huge variety of things at home but is much pickier about it at school. So it can’t be “weird”, which seems to change from day to day and is somewhat dependent on what his friends think is weird. If I would/could send pb&j or ab&j (almond butter) everyday he’d eat every last bite. PB & AB are nearly perfect foods since they are high in calories with lots of protein and good fats. He won’t eat sunbutter (don’t blame him, I won’t eat it b/c I don’t think it tastes good and I love sunflower seeds) and he’s not crazy about cream cheese sandwiches. There are about 3 things I can send in his lunchbox that he’ll “usually” eat, nut butter and fruit spread is nearly fool proof. So it’s not just that it’s inconvenient not to be able to send nut butters, it can be health threatening for many of our kids not being able to send them with the one food we know they’ll eat. So there’s 2 sides to every coin.

      And I have to say, and I don’t say this to be mean spirited, if my child faced the risk of dying because of coming in contact with a food at school, I’d home school them to make sure they were safe. I get sending them if they might have an allergic reaction, but I don’t personally understand putting ones child’s life in the hands of those who could never love him as much as his/her parents. No amount of my child feeling “normal” would ever be worth that risk to me.

  • Melissa

    I just found your blog and so far love the idea behind it though I’ve not gotten thru too much of it. I landed on it looking for school lunch ideas and there are some good ideas here! But I’m curious how you can be so concerned with real food but seemingly unconcerned with putting your kids food in plastic containers and bags? I know Ziplock says they don’t use BPA, but there are many other disturbing chemicals in plastics. Plus, unless you wash and reuse, the plastic bags go into the garbage after a single use. I’ve switched most all our containers to stainless. There are so many great reusable bags out there and they are even really easy to make if you can sew at all. I do have some safer plastics for non-wet foods like chips/crackers b/c the reusable bags don’t keep them from breaking. Stainless and reusable bags as well as safer plastics do carry a higher initial investment, but stainless will last forever and the others will last way longer than the thin plastic used in Ziplock containers.

  • Shannon Brown

    LOVE your ideas! I have one picky eater & one who will eat everything. Your blog has helped me so much! We bought the Norpro silicone set & the Easy Lunchboxes. I am having my girls (6 & 9) use them now so they know what to expect when school starts. They love all the creations I have made! Thank you!

  • Hi! Great post. I post about similar things on my site b/c we do the Feingold Diet. One question: Your kids will eat cold chicken nuggets? I’ve been trying to think of a way to send in warm chicken nuggets. I drop off their lunch about once a week so I just do it that way. I wish they would invent something! Thanks for sharing! I definitely have to get some of those ziplock containers. I never would have thought they would keep the food in each separate compartment from leaking into the other. We did try those juice/water bottles from Thermos and they do leak for us. :( Still can’t find one that doesn’t leak and we’ve tried them all. Now we just use small plastic water bottles from Costco.

  • Karen

    Does the popcorn stay crispy in that little muffin cup?? And what’s up with the frozen peas? I love reading your lunchbox ideas — I just haven’t tried any yet! :)

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Karen. The popcorn stays crispy enough. Crunch factor can depend on the moisture level of everything else you pack with it. The peas are thawed by lunch. My kids prefer the baby sweet peas with a little sea salt. ~Amy

      • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

        Hi Karen. The popcorn stays crispy enough. Crunch factor can depend on the moisture level of everything else you pack with it. The peas are thawed by lunch. My kids prefer the baby sweet peas with a little sea salt. ~Amy

  • Karen

    Thanks Amy. I am trying to make some small changes first. Today I packed strawberries and carrots. The first time a fruit AND a veggie ever went to school together in one of my children’s lunch boxes! I’m just trained to think a bag of chips and a sandwich. Thanks for the great ideas!!

  • [...] B – homemade pizza lunchable, broccoli, C – this one, she will [...]

  • Julie Yant

    How does granola maintain crispness when places on top of the yogurt and fruit? I’ve been marginally successful with this but find it easier to send the granola separate for my boys to sprinkle on during lunch. I topped it myself yesterday morning and the whole thing came back uneaten yesterday afternoon :( I hate wasting food then feel bad that my child didn’t get to eat a “full” lunch!

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