By Elizabeth from KY
My kindergartner has been begging me to let her take her lunch. I finally caved and here are a few of the things we've tried: *mini bagel sandwiches (we got mini bagels at Aldi - a great store for a good deal if you have one in your area) She likes cheese and a little lettuce or cream cheese and fruit preserves. The mini ones seem to be a good size for a younger child.
*plain yogurt (I think there's too much sugar in the flavored kinds) with frozen fruit layered it. It keeps the yogurt cold until lunch and she gets to choose the fruit of the day. I use the plastic containers with the lids that twist on so there are no spills.
*drinks - I use a reusable "juice box" that I got in the store where they sell the plastic food containers. It cost about $1.50 and can be used over and over. It has a built-in straw and folds closed so there are no spills. I like to fill it part way with milk or juice, freeze it overnight and then top it off in the morning. This is a big savings over 50 cents per carton at school.
*baby carrots/grapes are a regular favorite here and don't take any prep work from me.
My daughter likes cheese sandwiches, so those are pretty regular. I pack them in sandwich sized plastic storage containers, to cut back on plastic baggie waste. I mix it up with a thermos from time to time. I found it at Target -- reminds me of the kind that used to come with lunch boxes when I was a kid (inner stopper, and the cap can be used as a cup/bowl). She likes Beefaroni, so I'll put boiling water into the thermos for about 5 minutes to heat it up. Meanwhile I heat the Beefaroni in a bowl (substitute whatever soup/pasta/stew your kids like). I dump the water, and add the Beefaroni. It's still hot at lunchtime. She pours it into the cup to make it easier to eat with a spoon. Today I put the boiling water into the thermos, and added a hot dog. I packed a bun in a ziplock baggie. She assembled the hot dog herself (they have catsup and mustard in the cafeteria). She said she really liked it.
For something sweet, we usually do the little cups of mandarine oranges or pudding, or she also enjoys those tubes of Go-Gurt. I keep them in the freezer, and it's still cold (but not frozen) at lunchtime. Sometimes I'll put in mixed dried fruit, but she doesn't get very excited about that.
I'll put in a mini bag of chips, or the individual cups of Pringles. Sometimes I'll put in a ziplock bag of crackers (like Goldfish or Cheez-Its). If she starts leaving part of the sandwich but finishes the chips & sweet, I'll skip the chips for a while. She gets the message and starts finishing her sandwiches again.
For a drink, I pack apple juice (in boxes). She doesn't like other flavors of juice boxes, and she hates the Capri-Sun type drinks. If I'm out of juice boxes, she just buys milk in the cafeteria.
Once every week or two, I put a little note in her lunchbox. I do a lot of crafting, so I just put a pretty stamp on a scrap piece of carstock and write a little note like, "I hope you're having a great day! Love, Mom." She seems to get a kick out of that.
I buy the boxed 100% juices to send. My son is picky so it's washed grapes in a ziplock baggie with cut up cheese and Ritz crackers or a yogurt cup. He loves the big frozen pretzels. I thaw and cut it up and put it in a sandwich box. He eats it. He will not eat a sandwich no matter what so I try to get some protein in there however I can. A handful of nuts is a good substitute, also.
Make your own version of Lunchables, some crackers, cut up lunchmeat and cheese. The child can stack them up and eat. Cream cheese on mini bagels or ritz crackers. String cheese with crackers or buttered mini bagel. Make sandwiches and cut them into small pieces, American Cheese, tuna salad, turkey and swiss, whatever the child likes.
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