Sacked lunch - revised!
November 16, 2007 7:52 PM   Subscribe

We need some ideas for school lunches. A few requirements within.

Ok. So my daughter's school does not provide lunches, which is actually great. This gives us a chance to monitor what and how much she gets to eat. It also gives her another opportunity to 'be a big girl' (5 yrs) and make her own lunches.

Pertinent info:

- Lunch starts about 3 hours after arriving to school. When arriving to school, the kids put their lunch boxes in the refrigerator until lunch time. If they have warm items, they are placed on top of the fridge until lunch, but will not be reheated.

- We have purchased a thermos type of bowl that will fit approx 8 - 12 oz (maybe a cup of rice). This bowl claims to keep the food warm for up to 6 hours, so this should allow us hot (warm) items as well.

- We are trying to stick with one main dish, one side, and one snack / treat (crackers, cookies, or preferably a healthy treat) per meal.

- Some of the items that she enjoys eating: rice (loves), carrots, salad, apples, oranges, cottage cheese, P & B sandwiches, P & H(oney) sandwiches, assorted meat sandwiches, pastas, fish, chicken, bacon, hot dogs, pizza... I could keep going.

- Some of the items she cannot eat: she has a hard time with 'mushy' foods and food that she cannot identify in her mouth. Items like oat meal and mashed potatoes almost always make her gag and / or puke. Another example is yogurt with fruit in it. Once she feels on of those fruit chunks, it is tough to get down.

Keep in mind that we really want her to be able to make 90% of the meal that she is going to be eating. They should take between 5 - 30 minutes to put together with help from mom and dad and should be relatively simple.
posted by B(oYo)BIES to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
i'm not 5, but i used to be. :)

for some lunches, why not make a little extra dinner and freeze it in lunch-sized portions? in the morning nuke it while you shower and pack it into the insulated bowl.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:04 PM on November 16, 2007

One favorite lunch of mine is to make some rice, then pour canned chicken broth on it to make a quick chicken rice soup. Pair that with some cottage cheese and fruit--maybe throw in some crackers.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 8:05 PM on November 16, 2007

Fruit salad is usually good good; especially try to get some FRESH pineapple - it's my single favorite fruit, but I never had it until about a year ago. I don't think it would be mushy enough to affect anything.

Also, something you can throw together in 30 seconds on a rushed morning that she can put together at school: individually wrapped cheese sticks and a package of sliced lunch meat. Wrap a couple slices of meat around the cheese and eat!
posted by Hargrimm at 8:06 PM on November 16, 2007

I love the blog Vegan Lunch Box. I am not a vegan but what this woman puts together is freakin magical. I'm sure you can get a lot of great ideas there.
posted by spec80 at 8:20 PM on November 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

Behold, the possibilities are endless.
posted by GardnerDB at 8:24 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

My five year old is still a big fan of quesadillas. Sometimes I sneak some meat or veggies in them, but mostly she just likes cheese melted on a tortilla and is perfectly content to eat it cold.

When she was smaller, her favorite was chicken, mixed veg and cheese wrapped up and baked in crescent roll dough.

She'll occasionally get on a hardboiled egg kick, but mostly because she likes to crack them.

And then there's the champion: cold pizza.
posted by jrossi4r at 8:25 PM on November 16, 2007

So people might say "yuck", and it's better warm, but bread+peanut butter+honey is pure ownage. Put the pb on the bread before school, use small packets or straws of honey, and let her do that part herself. This is one of the few ways I really like the real grainy whole grain breads.

Check out a book called "Chicken soup with rice", it's a first-grade-or-so book that has a bajillion kid poems that all have rhymes like "Inky once, inky twice, inky chicken soup with rice!" I'd totally put warm chicken broth/soup in the thermos and put the rice in a baggie and let her mix it in herself, which she can do as she says "Yummy chicken soup with rice" or whatever fun rhyme. Reading books about yum food always makes kids more willing to try new foods and eat whatever the book talks about. (Example, my introduction to tofu was a book called "Toad food and measle soup."

Salads are great, especially packed slightly separate, she can combine together and use as much or little of her dressing packet as she likes. Soup in the thermos + salad in the lunchbox = a wicked great lunch.

Items like granola bars, craisins, etc should be popular and will give her the edge when it comes to trading items with her friends...which she's totally gonna do sooner or later.

Cheese is easy too---very few cheeses actually require constant refrigeration.

Cracker pizzas are fun, a little tomato sauce, a little mozzarella, and pepperoni or whatever topping she might like, but understand that she'll likely eventually give up on making them and just eat the pepperoni and the cheese.

Ants on a log---celery, pb, raisins--prefill the celery and let her add the raisins.

Food art---we used to do this all the time as a way to get kids to try new fruits and veggies. Totally cut stuff into fun shapes. An apple wedge + a toothpick + a triangle of cheese becomes a sailboat! A peach slice, a couple pieces of pineapple, and a grape tomato become a face! There are great (easy) healthy fruit dips too (yogurt+creamcheese+orange juice comes to mind) for dipping whatever into. For wee ones, we'd let them sort of pick from a spread, then encourage them to use their imaginations to make whatever fun shapes or surprizes they could, and then we'd say "AWESOME!", and they'd eat it up.

All right, that's enough. Someone else's turn. Let me know if you want more items like that though---I've got some experience with this.
posted by TomMelee at 8:29 PM on November 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

You might want to check out My Lunch Can Beat Up Your Lunch! for some fun things you can do food. Small jello molds can be used to mold rice into fun shapes.

Hot dogs are precooked and safe to eat, but as she's only 5, I don't know if you'd want to do the boy scout trick of putting thawed hot dogs into her thermos cup and pouring hot water over them - they heat up by lunch time for a hot treat but we don't want her getting burned. But she might like Hot Dog Octopuses.
posted by Kioki-Silver at 8:29 PM on November 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Here's something rather long I posted to my LiveJournal a few years ago, when my son was 6 or 7. These days, he brings a Mr. Bento to school most days, filled with a variety of exotic things, and on other days, he brings a caesar salad kit. However, this is how things went a while back:

Well, here's the situation. The kid brings his school to lunch each day, since he and I both agree that the ones provided by the school suck. He's not a picky eater, but he does have definite preferences. A few are:

* He'll eat just about anything you can put in a sandwich, and he'll eat bread, but he won't eat sandwiches. He can't explain this one, either.

* He enjoys a variety of fruits and vegetables, and for that, I count my blessings.

* He doesn't mind opening a Thermos and eating with a spoon.

* The only cheese he really likes is cheddar. He doesn't get that cream cheese is a cheese, so he'll eat it.

The kids get one snacktime and one lunchtime. Every day, I pack two drinks, two sources of protein, one source of some kind of starchy something, one fruit, and one vegetable. Sometimes, I'll toss in some extra something. For my purposes, yogurt is a protein and olives are a vegetable. Aidan himself chooses what he eats for which meal time, but he knows that it's best for his body if he doesn't just eat fruit and starch all day. I'm big on protein. I also like to mix up the tastes a bit.

So, ideas!


* Juice boxes. I know, I know. He gets them only at school.

* Green tea in a Thermos, diluted with rice or skim milk, sweetened with honey.

* Rice or almond milk in a Thermos, sometimes flavored with a bit of vanilla.

* Chamomile tea in a Thermos, sweetened with honey.

* Quick lemonade in a Thermos: spoon some sugar or the sweetener of your choice into the Thermos, add some water, and heat it up a bit in the microwave to dissolve the sugar. Squeeze in a lemon or some lemon juice. Add a bunch of ice. Toss in a spearmint leaf. By the next day, it'll be lemonade.

* Little tiny plastic bottles of water. BONUS! If you freeze these, they keep the rest of the lunch cool as they thaw. Same is true for juice boxes, actually.

Protein things:

* Cubed or or sliced-and-rolled ham, salami, turkey, or chicken breast.

* Slices of turkey pepperoni.

* Hummus, sent in one of those Gladware snack cups, for dipping.

* Hard-boiled eggs, whole or stuffed.

* Turkey bacon. Get it?! Bacon and eggs!

* Chili from a can, sent in the Thermos.

* Soy nut butter (no peanut -- his best friend's allergic), for dipping.

* Cream cheese, for dipping or spreading.

* Cheddar cheese, cubed.

* Lentil soup with or without ham, sent in the Thermos. I make this every couple of weeks.

* Beef/barley soup from a can, sent in the Thermos.

* Baked beans with some kind of meat mixed in, sent in the Thermos.

* Whatever we had for dinner the nite before and he enjoyed, sent in the Thermos.

* Yogurt.

* Mac 'n cheese with ground turkey (cooked!) mixed in, sent in the Thermos.

* Soy nuts (basically, roasted and salted soybeans).

* Faux sausage patties made from ground turkey and a bunch of spices, cooked in 2 minutes on the Foreman grill.

* Cooked chicken or lamb on blunted skewers.

Starchy somethings (tho there are no end of these):

* Cereal bars.

* Granola bars.

* Bagels. Note -- if the kid likes them plain, you can put a frozen Lender's one in the lunchbox, and it'll thaw in plenty of time.

* MINI bagels! Cute.

* Wheat bread, with apple or pumpkin butter.

* Crackers, for dipping in something.

* Mac 'n cheese in the Thermos.

* Mac 'n sauce in the Thermos.

* Goldfish crackers.

* Pretzels.

* Croutons, for when he brings a salad.


* Whole anything -- apples, pears, plums, grapes, whatever.

* Sliced anything -- apples, pears, bananas, whatever. Sliced apples do brown, so I dust them with cinnamon before packing them. Yummy and deceptive!

* Cut-up peaches or pears mixed with a couple of maraschino cherries for fun.

* Canned pineapple chunks with a couple of maraschino cherries for fun.

* When in season, melon chunks.

* Fruit preserves spread on the bread.

* Quick fruit dip: mix some cream cheese with some marshmallow fluff. Mix, mix, mix. Gladware snack containers rule.

* Exotic fruits rule.

* Raisins.

* Dried cranberries or cherries.


* Baby carrots, either alone or for dipping into stuff. I have the tiny Tupperware containers for sending ranch dressing in.

* Celery sticks, alone or with cream cheese or soy nut butter.

* Olives -- just from a can (drained) or the stronger, more exotic ones.

* Broccoli or cauliflower florets, alone or with a dip.

* Bell peppers, sliced.

* Roasted peppers.

* Artichoke hearts.

* Build-a-salad! I take a larger plastic container and throw some romaine and whatever salad veggies I have in there. Into the larger container, I also put smaller containers of dressing and croutons. I toss the plastic fork right in there, too. Then I cover the whole thing.

* Blanched green beans are fun for dipping.

* So are blanched asparagus stalks.

Yes, I know it sounds like it takes me forever to make his lunch, but it takes me all of about 10 minutes. I've got it down to such a routine that it's nothing at all, and it makes me happy to send him to school with tasty things that do his body good. I also prepare a lot of stuff in advance (mac 'n cheese, or preparing a bunch of mac ahead of time to later toss with sauce from a jar or that I've made myself and frozen).

Anyway, I hope this helps someone, somewhere, with some ideas!
posted by houseofdanie at 10:09 PM on November 16, 2007 [10 favorites]

oi long answer

Really, here it is:

Chicken or Veg broth with heavy rice and veg content for her/him to munch on.

then, it's a cream cheese and jam (I prefer marmalade) sandwich on heavy wheat bread.

THAT'S ALL YOU NEED! JOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by parmanparman at 11:46 PM on November 16, 2007

I used to love a simple rice salad in my lunch box when I was little - and it can be eaten hot or cold.
Mine tended to comprise of rice, and any combination of the following ingredients, depending on what we had:

Cubed cucumber
Celery slices
Cherry tomatoes
Sliced green beans
Spring onions
Chopped bell pepper
Cubed cheddar/brie/whatever cheese
Chopped ham/turkey slices
Corned beef
Chopped Pepperami
Chopped chicken.

There's probably loads more you could put in it, and you could also use pasta/couscous/bulgar wheat/etc as the base for a bit of variety.
posted by schmoo at 2:19 AM on November 17, 2007

Oh I forgot to say, that should be really easy for her to help make- you will need to do the chopping, obviously, but she'll love choosing her ingredients and mixing it all together.

You could even keep a few day's worth of pots of chopped ingredients in the fridge, and each morning you'd just put them out and she can pick which ones she wants. Plus, you could use the same ingredients to make home-made pizzas, and again, she can pick her choice of ingredients.
posted by schmoo at 2:23 AM on November 17, 2007

Bento is huge on the internet, often complete with daily photos and how-tos. Many of them are not necessarily kid-oriented, or kid-production-oriented, but then again a lot of favorites are simple enough that kids can easily be involved. There are a number of good tutorials on bento staples like onigiri (rice balls), which are big fun to have in your lunch.

I always have frozen Italian meatballs from Costco on hand. You'll want to cook them ahead, and then nuke them to blazes before you pack them in the morning, but they'll stay warm for several hours after. Beans, green or otherwise, should work about the same. You can make sandwich rollups with a tortilla or flatbread, and slice to fit in a container.

I don't know if casseroles fall into the "food she cannot identify in her mouth" category. If lasagna or chicken pot pie are okay for her, those are things she can help you make ahead, portion, freeze, and then prepare for the lunchbox.

This frozen spaghetti cup tutorial looks pretty cool, and that site is one of the ones that does focus on meals for small kids. There's some cool stuff there.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:59 AM on November 18, 2007

« Older Help me relate to E8   |   I haz no quarters :( Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.