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Friday, August 26, 2011

Thinking Outside the Lunchbox ~ Mommy Duel on the Playground

For many it’s that time of year again. The annual “What do I pack my kid for lunch?”  blah’s. I used to have this same dilemma until I came across a few blogs that feature Bento lunchboxes. For those of you unfamiliar with the art of Bento, it is a single-portion meal originating in Japan. A traditional bento consists of rice, fish or meat, and one or more pickled or cooked vegetables, packed artistically in a box-shaped container. I will stop right here and let you know I DO NOT take it to the level shown below. (smile)

Recently, I ran into another stay at home mom at school who said “I can’t BELIEVE you are still packing your kid’s lunch!” She added in an extra eye roll (not egg roll) for punch. At first it kind of made me feel like the chicken on the left.

Then a voice inside me said “She has mother guilt.” Given that I try to have lunch with Sweet Boy (accompanied by his friends) at least once a week, I knew what her kid was packing in his lunch.

Ok I’m not being exactly truthful. I forgot to add in the coke that he washes it all down with. (insert evil cackle) So instead I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “Oh I just can’t trust Sweet Boy to pack a healthy lunch, or his dad either for that matter. I pack his lunch too.” This was somewhat of a surrender flag raised on my part, but she got the message.

Given that Sweet Boy now has braces, as well as a palate expander device, this has made lunchtime all the more tricky. Everything must be soft or cut into small pieces. This bento includes ham, cheese, grapes and crackers tucked into cupcake liners. 

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A classic pb & j sandwich, pears, pretzels, raisins and chocolate chips. I used to find many of my fun food containers at Borders. Alas, they are now out of business. Sniff. But every now again the dollar store also carries fun plastic ware.

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Most of the time I assemble lunch while I am in the kitchen cooking dinner. Often dinner becomes lunch the next day. My Sloppy Joe sauce hides a multitude of goodness such as finely chopped mushrooms and zucchini. The cheese provides a bit of dairy and protein.

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The next morning I give the Joe a quick zap in the microwave and wrap it up in foil (which is later placed in the recycle bin). Going with a red theme, I added a box of juice, yogurt, teddy grahams and blueberries. A plastic red dino and cocktail sword add a bit of fun to the mix.

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The compartmentalized ziploc container can be found at any grocery store. Plastic ware from Ikea is wrapped up in a napkin. (Zoo Pal utensils are also fun.) Sweet Boy is great at bringing the containers and utensils home for me to wash and reuse again and again. (But on the rare occasion he doesn’t, it’s ok.) I save a lot of money, not to mention the world, by not using throw away plastic lunch bags.

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I then place everything into a traditional lunch bag. On the rare occasion we do a fast food run, our restaurant of choice is often Subway. They pack their kids meals into reusable lunch bags. Reuse we do!

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Sweet Boy loves to take pasta and soups for lunch too. I have a simple trick for keeping it warm. In the morning I put boiling water into the thermos and let it set for a few minutes.

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Meanwhile I warm up the pasta or stew in the microwave, empty out the hot water and spoon in the piping hot meal. It stays warm enough to be enjoyed at lunch. 

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Some sliced strawberries, ritz and seaside themed animal crackers (Trader Joe’s) complete the meal.

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I love referring to the book “Yum-Yum Bento Box” for ideas. While it will be a million years before Sweet Boy eats seaweed or tofu, it provides me with enough ideas to get my brain humming.

The fun accessories you can get for Bento’s are off the charts. Ebay has TONS of choices if you don’t have an Asian market near you. As usual, the girls have more of a selection. Given that Sweet Boy is now in 4th grade I have scaled way back in the cute arena per his request. Boo, no fun!!! I mean just look at some of the choices: 

What’s in your lunchbox today?

Linking to:

Foodie Friday


Julie Tucker-Wolek said...

How fun are all these decorative lunches!!! I loveeeeeeeeeeee how you pack your sons!! My friend was just sharing yesterday how she makes shapes out of her daughter PB&J sandwiches....she made one look like Pac-Man!! Sooooooooooo fun! :):):):):):):):):):):)

1 Funky Woman said...

I just found your blog this morning and how funny because I was totally stressing about my daughter's lunch. I have given up on school lunches and its only the 6th day of school. I feel that the only way for her to eat healthy is to pack it myself. Problem is being creative.

So loving all your ideas here and will so be going out to get these cute little containers. Love that little book too. I wish borders was gone because that was our only bookstore. Where theres a will theres a way, I can't wait to get started!

New follower of course!


♥L`Appartement♥ said...

My Daughter is sitting beside me and said"Mummy I want this Hello Kitty"OK...when my clock will wake me up 3 hours before my children go to school than (perhaps)I `m able to make this....But its so much easyer to put an apple in the school bag.Thank you for these nice ideas♥EVELYN♥

Debra @ Common Ground said...

Applause!!!! Believe me, It's things like this that our kids remember when they're 30! xoxo

April said...

You ALMOST make me wish I had lunches to pack. Maybe I can do something fun for the husband. He can't be doing well eating lunch OUT . . .and our budget might like the change too.
Hugs and happy weekend!

Teresa said...

Ok, Laura, I must say I'm disapointed with you... here I was rubbing my hands and hoping to learn Laura's Bento ways and you spoil it ;).

I'm kidding. Blame it on European upbringing but Sweet Bow lunch box looks much more appetizing. I would hate to ruin all that Bento perfection and tiny bits ahahahahah.

My kids always took lunch to school. I used thermos that I still keep for souvenir.

While I did my kids - contrary to those from great mums who sneer at us for packing - never had stomach aches or the odd food poisoning. Voilá!

Dear Son will go to University this year and he's considering packing his lunch because he's affraid he won't eat as well in Univesity or restaurants around...

Donna said...

Love all your ideas. I sent in a sword with my child the other day and was told not to again. They consider it a weapon! Really? What have we come to?

Redhead Sadie said...

Darling girl, you continually amaze me. I love that you know (and actually DO) these kinds of things for the Boy! I wish I had a little more time to do that for mine, but I am honestly not sure how that would go over in the 6th grade crowd. Good for you for NOT GIVING A S*** for what the other parent said. You rock, sister woman! OH-I am going to call you soon and we can catch up. I miss your pretty self! Need to see you!
Much love,

French said...

Good for you; given what the schools serve nowadays I would also pack a lunch. I wish someone would pack a lunch for me every day! It makes you feel special, as long as it's not a butter sandwich, which is what we got when we were out of food!

Auntie Em said...

Ummm...could you make up some lunches for me? :D Your little guys noon time snacks look so yummy and very healthy in a 'not-in-your-face-obvious' way! While the little critters are a little OTT for most moms, even using one or two of the ideas for inspiration could make a big difference with some picky eaters.
Thanks for sharing these fun ideas! :)

Pat's Pink Apron said...

You are very talented and have a very good imagination. How cute they all are!
Love them.

Mimi said...

I have to have my daughter read this post, she will Got nuts ovder HOW fun these ideas are. MAN I am sure OUT of the LOOP as far as kids lunches are concerned!!!
Those are some great looking lunch boxes, you are MOM of the Year!!!!
WOW, great nutritional stuff.

Marianne said...

I'm overdosing on cute right now! How creative can you get?! My lunch-packing days are over (sob!), but I'm going to show this to son, who's a single dad. Having witnessed many of his getting-the-kids ready for school mornings, I'm sure he'll find it hilarious!

Linda said...

You are amazing! :O
Sarah has been buying her lunch at school since Junior High, so I haven't had to pack a lunch since then. I, on the other hand, do not eat lunch (that's my exercise time). Instead, I pack something that looks a lot like lunch but I eat it at my office at 7:00 a.m. and that's it until dinnertime.
Happy weekend,
Linda :)

Jen said...

I don't think I will show the kids the Bento lunches because they will expect it! I posted on school lunches ( and snacks) last week as we were getting ready to kick off our year. Our children are 11, 12,&14 and I still pack their lunch special for them every day. I guess I will continue until they tell me not to anymore. =)

I love all of your ideas and will definitely add them to my file.

Have a wonderful weekend,

Sixty-Fifth Avenue said...

What a cute and entertaning post!!

Danielle said...

Thanks for all the great ideas! There is nothing like a homemade lunch. Better than a cafeteria anyday. My son is starting preschool in a few weeks and I am looking for healthy options. Sometimes that's tough without being boring. I love your packaging ideas. Thanks for the inspiration!

Restyled Home said...

I love this!! What a great mum you are! :-)

Red Rose Alley said...

I think it's special that you are packing lunches still. I packed my son's lunch until middle school and sometimes in highschool when he wasn't buying lunch. Nothing as creative as what you set up, but it was always good, healthy food. The time you put into preparing all of those lunches will one day be appreciated, and one day when they turn 30, they will surely have a grateful heart.
~Sheri at Red Rose Alley

The Boston Lady said...

I packed both my kids' lunches up until they were through high school. It was the one little thing I could do to let them know I cared and was thinking of them during the day. Your soup/pasta warming idea is great - I used to do the same thing. The choices at school are not always the greatest and my kids actually didn't really like the bought lunches (admitted after many tries at buying and eating them). Kudos to you Laura - SB is a lucky boy. Ann

Liz said...

Awwwe! I miss packing lunches! I never did it this cute though... :)


CalypsoInTheCountry said...

Oh those are just adorable! The angry birds just crack me up! My soon to be 2nd grader is always wanting to buy his lunch so that has been a struggle. We usually end up going thru the menu for the month and deciding which days he will buy and which he will bring. Luckily, both boys eat pretty well at home and my kindergartener has morning session so at least he will eat home one more year! Thanks for the color advice on the room - and those are Mets colors so I am sure he would be agreeable! I will keep everyone updated as we move along!
Have a great weekend.

Ava said...

I also pack my four childrens lunch daily , i even pack my 2 year olds lunch box for home so he feels like a "big boy" Your ideas , I find inspiring :) Now following your awesome blog xx Ava

Carey said...

I so identify with you. That other mom feels quilt and jealousy. What kid would not want a lunch that you packed? I have 3 sons and the last is going into 2nd grade. I feel like I am running out of time in making my special lunches.
Enjoy your weekend.

Big D and Me said...

I am shocked by the woman's comment. I always pack my kids and husbands lunch. Why not? Saves money and yes,I get to put fruit in there. Strange. I never thought it was weird to pack lunches.

KaLi said...

your blog is lovely!! I live in Arizona :)

DREAMS ON 34th STREET ~ French Bread & Family said...

How darn cute is this? Laura, I remember when I was the first mom to make WRAPS for the lunchbox. The kids were in middle school(1997). I heard about it at the grocery store and on the sports fields..."Your the MOM...!" I love making creative lunches and believe it or not, I make Mr Dreams's lunch every week day morning at 5am! I'll surprise him with a Bento Box this week!

sabeth rose said...

you know, even though i am 22, i wouldn't object if you made me bento with all the hello kitty cuteness. i really enjoyed it the one time you made it for me on my last day of fashion school and i cried. it made me feel better along with watching modern family.

Kit said...

Wow! these were great! I loved the Angry Birds one the best....LOL Had a great chuckle over that one. Kit

Deanna said...

o 2 b so creative,

Deanna said...

o 2 b so creative,