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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75 comments to Real Food School Lunches II

  • 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.

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Sheri. Yes, my kids will eat them cold. They will also eat a cold grilled cheese – I know…yuck. Jill

    • I know you posted this a long time ago, so maybe it isn’t an issue any more, but have you tried getting a thermos warm by letting it sit with hot water in it while you prep the rest of the lunch, then empty and dry it and put in the warm chicken nuggets? It couldn’t hurt to try! :)

  • 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!

  • angela

    hello, there is a lot of comments on amazon saying that the freeze pops have a chemical small. What is your opinion on this?

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